There are several generations on the job market right now – the upcoming Zoomers, the established professional Y, the experienced X, and the Baby Boomers heading into retirement. While we often use these names, do we really know whom they represent?
Y rules! 79% of our team comprises people born in 1981-1996, i.e., the so-called Y/millennials – with most representatives from 1990 and 1993. This does not mean that there are no Xs and BBs among us – they are represented by almost 10% of our employees. We are also seeing a rise in the employment of Zoomers; several percent of our workforce are representatives of the youngest generation in the job market. Our youngest employee is 20-years-old!
For a proper perspective, one must start at the beginning, i.e., when certain generations entered the job market. Baby boomers, born during the communist era and often brought up conservatively, have mainly experienced vertical structures of promotion, climbing the ladder, and building success through hard work. The slightly younger generation X, now 40-50-year-olds, grew up during the communist era. X, like an unknown in mathematics, reflects the uncertainty caused by a series of events: the change of regime, strikes, and, for instance, the Chernobyl disaster. This generation was intensely focused on accumulating resources, but also on stability. It has been primarily through the memories of its parents that today’s generation Y, which happens to dominate the market, has heard about the PRL (People’s Republic of Poland). They’ve been raised in a world of free markets and globalization. Then we have the youngest but already present on the job market; the “Zoomers,” meaning those born after 1997 – the first generation that has grown up in a fully digitalized society.
Some truths are timeless – irrespective of when we entered the labor market, solid remuneration is still the basis of employee satisfaction, according to all employee satisfaction surveys. Here at Solwit, we follow a meritocracy approach. This essentially means that the most significant thing to Solwit is the daily utilization of one’s competencies, i.e., the results of what one does. Through such a concrete approach, we have been able to build development paths that point to both specialist and managerial directions.
Having said all this, the perception of stability, flexibility, or organizational culture in the workplace is shifting. A holiday or company picnic, where work meets personal space, is familiar and appreciated by mature generations – we have no shortage of such events both online and offline. Independence and flexibility are more appealing to Ys and Zoomers. Unlike employees in their 40s, they prefer to work remotely or at their own pace instead of adhering to fixed hours.
Work often becomes the center of life for representatives of BB and X, leaving little room for balance. This also ensures stability and a reasonable standard of living, both of which are crucial to them. For Y and Z, finding the golden mean between private and professional life appears to be vital. This does not mean a lesser commitment to work, but often a bit more distance and readiness to change it if it does not meet their expectations. Hence the preference for flexible working hours and remote or hybrid working. Such options offer the opportunity to combine these two realms. Most of us at Solwit work remotely or hybridly. Work is done whenever possible during preferred hours (attendance at so-called core hours, i.e., project meetings, is crucial, though).
Obviously, one must take into account the fact that we are all different and have different preferences. The younger generations (Y and Z) are firmly entrenched in the virtual world, building communities, often preferring to work remotely and to be in touch precisely via computer or phone. They are often drawn to creative tasks in which they can express themselves. Those of the older generation, on the other hand, tend to be more comfortable with face-to-face contact and the completion of specific, measurable tasks. However, the most critical thing for maximizing efficiency and employee satisfaction is to know your employees’ preferences and adjust your working environment and tasks accordingly. Hence why it is extremely critical to survey employee satisfaction and ask them for their opinions – something we strive to do here on a regular basis.
BBs and Xs may take it personally at times, as if it was some sort of failure. Keep in mind that feedback should be specific, action-oriented, and concrete in nature. It might be a tad different for the Y and Z generations, who have spent much of their lives immersed in virtual reality. Regular, immediate feedback is a part of their daily routine. The constant evaluation they are used to can influence the desire to perform constant evaluations of their work – when an annual evaluation is not sufficient, a quarter-by-quarter evaluation may suffice, but in reality, it is daily appreciation and pointing out areas for improvement that is crucial. Especially for generation Z. As a matter of fact, giving feedback is one of the biggest challenges for leaders. Thus, we hold special workshops and share moments of experience exchange as part of our support for them. There is, of course, a large human resources department providing assistance on a day-to-day basis.
An atypical generation C has also been talked about for some time (C stands for Connected, Content-centric, Computerized, Community-oriented, and Changing). The term is atypical because it is not defined in terms of time but is closely linked to certain attitudes and traits. We are talking about those born during the 1990s with “Wi-Fi” in their veins. This refers to technology lovers (and Solwit has no shortage of them!) who cherish their off- and online lives and value independence and freedom above anything else.
The primary factor that binds almost all candidates happens to be development – their desire to learn, acquire knowledge, and enhance skills, thus adapting to changing circumstances. However, this often comes hand in hand with a lack of self-confidence, so support, recognition, and frequent feedback are expected from employers. As an employer, we don’t just give you a job; we create a friendly environment where you can thrive.
The way companies care about the environment, whether they support local communities, as well as the work tools they offer, is also playing an increasingly significant role. What will the labor market look like in five years’ time? We will find out soon enough.
Paulina Hinz has been part of our HR team for four years. She is currently mainly involved in the organization of training and events. Her previous responsibilities also included the recruitment of IT professionals. The areas of human relations and communication are of primary interest to her.
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