21 May 2024
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Young people in the workplace are surprising recruiters and employers

Peter Switzer
9 April 2024

Please don’t shoot the messenger but the recruitment industry say Gen Z young people are reportedly asking for big pay rises and when do they want them? Now, or they are “out of here!”

Of course, this does not apply to all Gen Zers or Zoomers as they have been nicknamed, but as we have learnt with surveys, if the sample size is 1000 it’s seen as acceptable but for a reliable guide it should be 10% of the population being surveyed.

Before going further, let’s make sure we know what Gen Z actually is. This is Wikipedia’s definition: “Generation Z is the demographic cohort succeeding Millennials and preceding Generation Alpha. Researchers and popular media use the mid-to-late 1990s as starting birth years and the early 2010s as ending birth years.” And if you need me to do the maths, they are aged from 11 years of age to around 26.”

So, the more mature Zoomer has been in the full-time workforce for eight years, if he or she did not go to university but if they did they might have four to five years experience.

And now Mary Madigan reporting on news.com.au tells us that this group of workers want $70,000 as a starting salary and are looking for a pay hike after a year in the job.

Roxanne Calder of recruitment business EST10 was the source for this story and is giving an insight of what can be demanded in a tight labour market.

“People have asked me at three months, six months and 12 months, and sometimes they’ll quit if they don’t get that pay rise,” she said. “They have no fear in asking for what they want. Their thinking is, why not?”

And they are not alone in wanting better wages.

 “I’ve had many candidates Millennial-aged and above who quit their jobs because they couldn’t ask for more money,” she said. “If you’re new to the workforce and expecting to be promoted or on a higher salary in under two years, that isn’t reasonable.”

Calder, a 20-year veteran of the recruitment industry and author of the book, Employable, reveals some of the odd reasons young recruits refuse to take a job.

One said they’d got a new puppy and that would be the priority for the next three months! Another quit because work got in the way of footie training, while another had a four-week holiday planned and didn’t want to ruin it worrying about starting a new job.

Calder thinks demands for higher pay is not greed-generated but a consequence of the transparency that prevails for these younger generations with their social media preoccupation. It means if they know an equivalent person on $75,000, they think their entitled to a similar pay.

These sorts of stories remind me of a war cry that has been around for at least two decades and which started as a consequence of Gen Y or millennials.

These guys and gals were born between 1981 and 1996 and even today I use a great line I first heard CommSec’s Craig James say, when we were doing a small business roadshow for the CBA. He’d say to an audience: “If you had a Gen Y worker who’d been with you for a long time, you know for two or three weeks…” It always brough the house down with an audience of frustrated small business owners who really were perplexed about this new breed of employees.

Of course, baby boomers were not always seen as the ideal employees either with our long hair, a will to overseas for years and we did pioneer social drugs. But that said, we didn’t demand money nor work conditions that were greatly at odds with previous generations.

Gen Y and Z have had big exposures to internet, the online and social media world and have often had broken families, which has made friends and the ‘tribe’ connected to them digitally, which means they often act similarly. You know, they take pictures of food, of themselves and are really interested in their projected image, which can be both a good and damaging influence, depending on their confidence levels.

For at least two decades older people have looked at the unusual actions of younger people in the workforce, and have said what is needed is “a good recession” so they would appreciate having a job. However from 1991 to 2020, when the Coronavirus hit, the Oz economy defied recessions, which was a modern economy record, so Gen Y and Gen Z have never lived through the 10% unemployment of the early 1990s, though the pandemic did lock them up but of course JobKeeper came along and so it wasn’t like really being out of work and being forced to accept any job and any pay to make ends meet.

Personally, I don’t want them to face a recession but I do think employers need to lead better to help younger employees understand the reality and the economics of running a business, which cannot pay unrealistic wages to under-qualified employees.

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