- Gen Z is starting to transform the workplace, according to two McKinsey executives at Davos.
- They told Insider how Gen Zers are more open to collaborate than millenials, but still have strong values.
- And at McKinsey, older colleagues are learning new digital skills from the tech-native generation.
Generation Z, the name given to people born between 1997 and 2012, are helping to fundamentally reshape the workplace in three key ways, two senior executives from consulting giant McKinsey told Insider.
Speaking to Insider at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, Tracy Francis, McKinsey’s chief marketing officer, and Katy George, the company’s chief people officer, argued that among other things, Gen Z employees are more willing to compromise than workers from the preceding millennial generation, which sought to revolutionize the social climate.
Gen Z will work within systems to create change
“Perhaps the defining characteristic of Gen Z is that, instead of wanting to revolutionize, Gen Z is comfortable with the idea of change through structure,” Francis, who is a senior partner at McKinsey’s office in São Paulo, Brazil, told Insider.
“The millennial generation was like ‘Let’s blow up all the institutions and start from scratch’,” she said, noting that Gen Z takes a more “pragmatic” approach.
Francis pointed out that Gen Z witnessed how “their parents suffered various crises around the world” – the eldest would have been 12-years-old during the 2009 recession.
“So it’s like, okay, yes, I want change. But I am prepared to work that through existing structures,” she adds.
Applying this to a work environment, Francis says companies should admit when they get things wrong and work to fix them.
“You have a dialogue with people who want to improve, and are keen to help the organization improve, and you are comfortable with the idea of when you get it wrong.”
They want the organization to have the same values internally and externally
Francis’ second point of change is what she calls “inside-outside,” the notion that a company should maintain the same values internally that it presents on the outside.
“That influences everything from how you think about talent structure, to your public reputation of the institution,” she says.
George told Insider how the company has changed its talent model to accommodate this. Instead of telling new hires what McKinsey’s values are, they ask: “Who do you want to be as a professional? And what is your plan? And how can we help?”
One McKinsey report from 2018 points out that while millennials are “more confrontational and less willing to accept diverse points of view,” Gen Zers are more fluid. 76% of the survey’s respondents were religious, but also more supportive of same-sex marriage and adoption than millennials.
“It just goes back to saying that this is a generation who wants to collaborate,” Francis said.
McKinsey is working hard to be “more open about who we are, and what we do, because that’s how Gen Z sees the world,” she added.
They’re turning the traditional apprenticeship on its head
George said that one of the biggest differences with Gen Z is their ability to subvert the traditional apprentice-master relationship that new employees tend to have with older staff members.
Younger workers, she said, are “the most-digitally capable and savvy,” meaning they can help more established colleagues adapt to new technologies.
More senior people might teach new hires on how to do the job, but “the young people are apprenticing the old on how to embed digital tools in doing that job.”
“We’re seeing an increasing kind of really interesting joint-coaching programs,” she said.
In other words, “the old view of apprenticeship as an old person showing the skills to the young person” has been turned on its head.