Why your tech capability should be on a job spec

Generation Z – those born after 1995 –are starting to enter the workforce at pace. Growing up with ubiquitous connectivity and evolving mobile technology has shaped Gen Z’s priorities for the workplace. 91% of this group say that technological sophistication impacts their interest in working at a company. This is hardly surprising, as they are now often described as the “ultimate technology natives”. Businesses need to not only deploy the technology that this new generation craves, but shout that capability from the rooftops, if they are to recruit the talent they need to succeed.

SMEs in particular – accounting for 99.9% of businesses and 60% of the workforce in the UK private sector – will become increasingly dependant on this demographic to drive growth. They are the latest group to enter the workforce, but also hold many skills and qualities – creativity and innovation the most highly prized – that will be important to these agile organizations. But competition for this new talent pool is fierce and this highly skilled younger generation places huge demands on their prospective employers.

Agile tech and working practices

Much of the discussion when millennials joined the workforce, positioned them as being “tech-savvy”. With Gen Z, this goes much further. We now have the first generation born into a world of social media, online gaming, and a smartphone in every pocket. Snapchat; Instagram; WhatsApp; even more so than the millennial generation (who’s key influences included Myspace and Facebook), Gen Z expect, receive and digest information instantly.

This demand doesn’t change when they walk into their place of work. Gen Z employees want the latest technology at their fingertips and to be just as connected – in the technology sense – at work as they are in their day-to-day lives. This manifests itself in several guises. Gen Z have always had access to any information or contact, from any location in the world – provided there is 4G or wireless. Increasingly, the same can be said for work – younger generations want the flexibility to be able to work from anywhere in a connected and agile way. Businesses need to make sure that they have the technology in place to facilitate this, as well as exploring more cultural initiatives, like the design of “third spaces” that encourage interactions outside of any rigid departmental boundaries or formalised meeting rooms.

Harnessing the potential of Gen Z

Their highly networked and tech-driven upbringing has fostered a more entrepreneurial generation in Gen Z. In fact, 72% want to start a business of their own in the future. SMEs can harness that motivated and strategic outlook within their organization if they give them a chance. Where possible, promote the freedom to be autonomous while still having the appropriate checks and balances needed. Flattening organizational charts and concepts of hierarchy – as well as providing constant opportunities to learn and develop – will all be important to attracting Gen Z. Many organizations are looking into concepts like “scrums” – agile breakout groups and teams – rather than rigid hierarchies.

This equally feeds into the work itself. When it comes to Gen Z, it’s not just about how they work, but what the work actually is. Using technology has placed a premium on their key skills like creativity, innovative thinking and the ability to understand and process information quickly. Organizations that can use technology effectively, automating laborious tasks like data entry, will better attract and unleash the potential of this new generation in the workforce.

Learning and development

Having grown up during the 2008 recessionGen Z are also naturally more pragmatic than their millennial predecessors, particularly appreciating the value and efficiencies that technology brings to the workplace. The influence of these more risk-averse times and familiarity with the rise of new technologies, has also made Gen Z much more conscious of the need to learn new skills to stay relevant and compete.

Gen Z have grown up with the world’s largest ever on-demand how-to video library – YouTube. With that bank of learning just a few clicks away in their personal lives, this new section of the labour force wants equally innovative solutions to appease that thirst for knowledge and development. Organizations are responding. The NHS, for example, has begun to train their doctors and nurses with the help of virtual realities. Instead of learning their trade in real-life operations and emergencies, VR technology enables them to acquire and train their skills safely. While not applicable to every business, it does highlight the need for organizations to better embrace new technologies and change workforce practices, when looking to attract and engage younger generations.

SME leaders must ensure that they have the technology and organizational flexibility that this new Gen Z workforce craves – and it’s not just about having an iPad on every desk. They want to be able to work from anywhere with agility and access to instant information, while being given the freedom to think creatively, learn and have a real impact on the organization. Having the right business technology in place sits at the heart of delivering on this and organizations need to take heed of those demands if they are to attract and retain Gen Z talent. In fact, that technology capability is so important, it should sit on top of every job spec.

The fight for equality now – not in 2047

The fight for equality in the UK approached a turning point on 4th April 2018 when companies were forced to reveal their gender pay gap. The results were as expected – almost eight in ten companies and public-sector bodies pay men more than women. But what did these results actually reveal? The figures and the quality of the data are far from perfect. For example, high-level executives including partners and non-employed, low-paid workers are not included. We cannot therefore confidently say that the results are representative of the reality of the gender pay gap within companies – or equality in general. It could be much wider or indeed narrower than we think.

We’re now three months on and despite the promise of change, official forecasts predict that the gender pay gap will persist until at least 2047. Which begs the questions – is it going to be worth the wait? And will it lead to fairer pay within companies?

The truth is that equality within business, particularly around pay, is so much more than the pure gender debate. We need to consider what it means in terms of ethnicity, age and ability as well. In October 2017, the Parker Review published its first report on ethnic diversity in the boardrooms of UK companies. The report revealed that only 8% of 1,050 director positions are directors of colour and more than half of FTSE 100 companies have no ethnic minorities on their board. It’s clear that the problem of equality is much more than the pay gap between genders.

That said, the gender pay gap reporting is starting to increase the visibility and importance of all equal pay legislation with employees and wider stakeholders. This greater attention is starting to shine the spotlight on pay inequity and raises significant financial and reputational risks for companies who are not in compliance with the regulations. Birmingham City Council is one of the more famous cases of the financial risk associated with equal pay. Losing its fight against thousands of women it underpaid for years cost the Council an estimated £1.1 billion. That’s not the sort of bill any company wants to foot.

So how do they go about putting in practical steps to start making progress towards greater equality now? Firstly, companies must take a good look at how they currently fair from an equality perspective. Having an understanding of the problem will make finding a solution much easier. From there, they can then develop a plan of action for the next three to five years because, let’s face it, it’s impossible to change everyone’s pay overnight.

Typically, these types of pay and diversity analyses are done in Excel. There are also some HR platforms that can do elements of this; they can help develop a hiring plan but won’t provide a long term overview and model different scenarios showing how the hiring plan will help address the balance of equality over time. For example, what if you find a group that’s sitting outside of the pay structure? You need to get them back in and track the progress on a rolling basis.

The only way to do this is by using a more modern, connected approach to planning. By using a joined up platform to capture, monitor and analyse how your company is performing against any equality goals you set, you can make changes much more quickly. You’ll also have real-time updates easily accessible. We’ve recently launched a new app, based on connected planning. It helps businesses analyse their current equal pay gaps based on previously defined pay components (salary, bonus etc.) and forecast what those pay gaps could look like in the future, if certain changes are implemented. The app will then create a report which shows how a business’ current pay gap differs from the forecast, demonstrating the impact of the changes you are introducing in real time.

Most companies do this type of analysis on an ad hoc basis, particularly those with large, complex workforces. That’s where more modern planning comes into its own. Local councils are a good candidate for example; they have complicated terms and conditions around hiring and contracts and within one pay grade could have multiple different roles, some of which might be unionised, or they’ve been transferred from a different organization.

Businesses need to start getting a handle on what equality within their organization looks like and plan to bring about change now. The momentum around equality is gaining and businesses that don’t show that they’re making steps in the right direction to address the balance could face massive financial and reputation risk. It’s impractical to suggest we can solve all pay gaps tomorrow, but surely we can do better than 2047?

For more information on Vuealta’s equal pay app, contact us.