"I am looking for someone who is willing to teach me the ropes and help me achieve my goals while also working towards achieving company goals.” GenZ learner.

Employers ‘be woke’ Generation Z has arrived!

According to Forbes, the generation after Millennials, Generation Z, which they defined as people born from the mid-1990s to the early 2000s, made up 25% of the U.S. population, making them a larger age cohort than the Baby Boomers (born between 1946 and 1964) or Millennials (born between 1981 and 1996). 

In South Africa, young people between the ages of 15 to 34 years old make up 20.6 million people – 35.7% of the total population.   Our GenZ’ers are the “Born Frees”, arriving a couple of years after South Africa’s transition into democracy.  This generation is now entering the workplace bringing with them expectations and social behaviours, and a cultural milieu, that would behove would be employers to ‘wake up’ and listen to.

According to figures quoted by Getsmarter, Genz’ers are the most tech competent of any generation, able to pick up on developments quicker than other employees; they are natural entrepreneurs with 72% wanting to start their own business and hire people; and are described as the “always on” generation, able to multi-task unlike any other generation using up to five screens at once.

South African GenZ’ers have had particular challenges to overcome.  Most come from marginalised communities with high unemployment, resulting in an absence of role models, business networks and a connection to the workplace.  In addition, they are likely to have endured a poor schooling system making workplace transition doubly difficult.  For their part, employers expect learners to be ready to run, while learners rely on employers to show them the ropes, the result of which is an ever-widening expectation gap.

Yet, our experience as RelatED Education, where we have trained over 8 700 young learners over the past eight years, has shown us that with the right support and encouragement, and the appropriate training, our young people are able to excel in the work place.  We have many success stories to back this claim.  Our own GenZ’er Cassandra Kamogelo recently surveyed a number of young learners – their responses about wanting to be mentored and cared for by their employers, were particularly insightful. For his part, RelatED’s Derick Gideons, a Baby Boomer himself, provided his perspectives on this new generation.

  • GetSmarter’s article states that Millennials aspire to be financially stable, whereas 32% of Gen Z surveyed said their greatest aspiration is to be working in their dream job within the next ten years.  What do you as a GenX aspire to be most in the workplace?

Generation Z

  • R1 “ I want to be successful and achieve all my tasks set out for me in the workplace”
  • R2 “ I aspire to be in a management position. Although I understand that experience is a prerequisite, to be in management is my ultimatum goal“
  • R3 “ I aspire to be someone’s role model”
  • R4 “ To be the best in my profession and to be able to collaborate with others”
  • R5 “I want to see myself successful”
  • R6 “I see myself as an independent woman who owns her own retail business”
  • R7 “Success! I aspire to be able to do what I love the most and prosper in my career.”
  • R8 “To bring change and new ideas and to inspire other people”

Baby boomer 

Dream jobs are possible.  The challenge for the GenZ is whether they can buy into the dream job within a corporate culture.  Can they be supportive of the corporate culture, which is focused on operational issues - deadlines, processes and procedures etc., and which may be appear boring and unnecessary?  For employers, I would say GenZ is a reality.  This is a generation that is looking to be nurtured and employers should look at plugging into the needs of this generation, over and above a monthly salary.

  • What exactly is a GenZ looking for in an employer?


  • R1 “ I want my employer to guide me an train me to provide me with all the company information. This will ensure that we achieve company goals together as a team”
  • R2 “ An employer that supports growth and is patient with the nurturing of employee skills in the workplace. The employer should also be a leader that is willing to share skills and instil discipline”
  • R3 “ I’m looking for an employer who will instil positivity in me and ensure that I’m confident with the work I put in so I can do better, and so I can work my way up”
  • R4 “ An employer who is willing to guide me on how to be successful in my job and the one who shows appreciation for my work.”
  • R5 “ I’m looking for an employer who will train me well so I can do better and work my way up”
  • R6 “ I want my employer to lead and teach us more.”
  • R7 “ I am looking for someone who is willing to teach me the ropes and help me achieve my goals while also working towards achieving company goals.”
  • R8 “ An employer who will help me gain more experience and bring out the best of my abilities”


This is the “Why Generation” – always wanting to know “Why?” For example, they want to see how their job impacts on everything else around them.  What is the relevance of packing boxes and cleaning shelves in terms of the bigger picture? So as employers we have to shift our management style and give them a bigger perspective, bring them into decision making to a greater extent. We also have to work at closing the gap between what the business wants from employees and getting these young entrants to buy into the business.

“Our mission is to develop young South African leaders who in turn can develop their country into an ambitious economic contributor.   It is on us as managers to nurture and lead these young people. Let’s start by asking them for their input and see how we can accommodate their ideas!” Leigh Blochlinger, CEO, RelatED Education.

What do you believe GenXers bring to the table as potential employees?  


  • R1 “To deliver the best service at work”
  • R2 “Vibrant energy, which cultivates creativity efficiency and progress. Especially through the use of technology”
  • R3 “Fresh ideas”
  • R4 “They make a big impact in organisations since they perceive new technologies. They also make the workplace increasingly mobile and connected. “
  • R5 “GenZ’s normally bring fresh tailored ideas”
  • R6 “I think they should provide us with more opportunities in terms of doing more in the workplace, rather than doing selective things.”
  • R7 “Fresh and new ideas. Positive energy and light spirits.”
  • R8 “They bring new ideas”

Baby boomer

We are looking for the basic skill set, which can be nurtured and developed in the workplace.  Most of all, we are looking for the willingness to be moulded.  This makes the working relationship so much easier.  First question we ask ourselves in the decision to hire a potential employee is: “Is this person employable i.e. does he or she have the relevant skill set?” and second: “Will they be an asset to my business?”

How do you think companies can be structured differently to accommodate GenZ?

Gen Z

  • R1 “To improve technology and provide us training”
  • R2 “Experience requirement could be a bit lenient with the introduction of more learnerships and internships/ work readiness programmes”
  • R3 “By meeting their needs”
  • R4 “Instead of prescribing, organisations should encourage employees to bring their creativity to the table and rethink the way they execute tasks to keep improving processes”
  • R5 “They must venture into current technology”
  • R6 “I think that there are a lot of unemployed people out there and limited opportunities”
  • R7 “By giving them a platform to showcase their talents”
  • R8 “To do things differently every year and not be stagnant minded”

Baby boomer

There are founding principles in any company, which are constant.  However, many processes can be opened up to technology and innovation.  Take our business for example.  We have traditionally been a ‘bricks & mortar” training provider.  However, a lot of what we do could be done on an online platform, which could be managed by a GenZ.   I believe much of the gap between the generations could be closed through more effective and inclusive communication – whether it is in meetings or on chat groups.

What are your thoughts about the world around you?


  • R1 “Condoning creativity”
  • R2 “The work environment is hard to break into. Companies and institutions find it hard and costly to hire someone with no experience and to train them”
  • R3 “The world is very fickle, but I believe that it would be a better place if everyone would work together”
  • R4 “Older generations feel often compelled they need to impose their wisdom and knowledge on younger generations”
  • R5 “Things are developing and constantly changing”
  • R6 “The world around me is full of new technical innovations.”
  • R7 “It is challenging but designed to make me strong”
  • R8 “Everything is developing from time to time”


Africa provides a wealth of opportunity for investment and growth.  South Africa has a large youth population and we should harness their passion and ease with technology to stimulate that growth. We can also help grow the next generation of entrepreneurs.

How do you think you as a GenXer can make a difference?


  • R1 “ Condoning creativity”
  • R2 “Generation Z’ers have an advantage of youth, which means that we have the willingness to learn and the energy to take on new challenges. Innovation and technological advancements are also assets in our possessions
  • R3 “ By elevating each other.”
  • R4 “ They must provide an environment where promotions will be based on competence and not only on rank, age or seniority”
  • R5 “I think I will make a difference by taking my experience out there and sharing with other people out there.”
  • R6 “I believe the exposure of my new ideas would make a huge difference in the world”
  • R7 “By turning my dreams into a reality and also helping others to do so as well”
  • R8 “I think we can bring change and make the world a better place”


Generation Z is the next generation of managers and business owners.  We need to be actively identifying their talent and harnessing it.  Even though, this has been labelled an “I” generation, a structured encouraging approach, I believe can bring out the best in our young people. Most young people who enter the workplace have never had a mentor.  We can change this by providing mentors in the workplace.