Generation Z: Does ground handling meet their expectations?

Written by: James Muir |
Image credit: NTL studio@stock.adobe.com
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Generation Z have entered the workplace, and they want to feel that they are getting something out of work more than previous generations.

If they don’t feel satisfied with their work, they are a finger swipe away from looking elsewhere, and they won't wait to start looking, says Ryan Jenkins, President of Sync Learning Experiences.

Jenkins was speaking at the 34th IATA Ground Handling Conference during the session: “Gen Z and the ground operations industry; is this a match?” when he shared a story with attendees to explain his point.

He explained to the audience that during a previous talk that he was giving, he said that if employers do not work to keep their next-gen employee, they will use a LinkedIn post to find a new job by lunchtime.

Thinking he was being over dramatic at first, he was quickly shot down by a Gen Z professional sitting at the back of the room of 500 people, who shouted, “why wait until lunch?”

He told the IATA audience: “Access leads us away from the average. If there are better employers, superior service or products out there, they will be found. For emerging generations, they will not wait to swipe that finger to find another employer."

Generations are clues, not absolutes, Jenkins stressed, but they are very big clues, saying that the better understanding you have of each generation, the easier they are to work with. Generations are formed by significant events, and spans typically 15-20 years but are shrinking due to heightened exposure as global events happen in real-time due to the hyper-connected world that we live in, possibly to as little as five years. By 2030, Millennials and Gen Z-ers will be the dominant force in the workplace, so if you understand them, your company will be in a strong position in the future.

Gen Z-ers were born from 1998 to 2015, they are younger than Google and have no memory of 9/11, joking that as an older Millennial, his hips start to hurt every time he says that. They were succeeded by Generation Alpha, who either were not born or not old enough to emotionally process the pandemic.

Older generations have always criticised the young, so using online polling, Jenkins asked the audience what word best described Gen Z. Quickly words like lazy and entitled appeared, TikTok got namechecked, and it did not take long for woke to pop up.

In research, Gen Z-ers describe themselves much more positively using terms such as independent, socially conscious, and hard-working, which Jenkins commented may take many by surprise.

Meaningful work
Gen Z want a better boss, a brighter future, and a bigger vision, connecting work with impact. Admitting that everyone wants these things, they were nice to have for previous generations but they are conditions of employment for the young.

“If they do not think they are getting these things, they are a finger-swipe away from going somewhere else and as we now know, they won’t wait until lunch,” Jenkins said.

To hire Gen Z-ers, job applications better be quick and you need to make clear your culture and values, perks and benefits, and they want to hear it from the employees. YouTube is vital to connect with them, but when Jenkins raised this with the audience, who were predominantly Generation X, it took them a little while to work that one out.

The top obstacle to joining an organisation is not knowing what it is like, and this is why they are going to YouTube, they want to see what it looks like to work there. If you want the young to work at your organisation, use visuals so they can visualise themselves there.

Progress has the strongest impact on employee engagement, which, when Jenkins did a live poll asking what has the strongest impact, it was picked by the fewest people. Using the example of video games, progress is what makes them engaging, telling gamers where they started, what progress they have made, and what is left to achieve.

Jenkins shared the mind-boggling stats that more Millennials in the US pay for gaming services than cable TV, and over 900 million hours of streamed gaming content is watched per month … and it is all done at work! (OK, not that last bit, Jenkins admitted).

On a serious note, when playing video games, if you feel like you are making progress and will get a meaningful reward at the end, you will persevere, something that can be applied to the work place.

“Often, we are so busy that we overlook these subtle opportunities to reflect on progress but if our goal is to retain talent, particularly the emerging generation, this is a huge lever to pull,” commented Jenkins.

Emerging generations also want, expect, more feedback; Jenkins cited a study of seventh-graders who were asked to write an essay. Divided into two groups, one had very general feedback but the other had feedback adding that the teachers had very high expectations and they knew the student could reach that. Of the first group, about 40% revised and resubmitted their work, but 80% of the second group chose to do so with twice as many corrections.

Jenkins admitted that most employees are more complex than seventh-graders, though the reaction from the audience suggested they were not so sure, the point is that feedback encouraging high expectations plus reassurance can result in significant improvements in performance.

“If we are to follow this feedback formula, you say I have high expectations and know you can meet them, so try this new challenge or objective, and if you fail or stumble, I will help you recover. What is so impactful about a formula like this is to have it in your back pocket so you can deliver it on the spot as the emerging generation have much higher appetite for feedback,” Jenkins said.


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