People Management

The 4 Skills People Leaders Need For the Future of HR and the Gen Z Shift

28 November 2023

12 min read

Kelsey Breton
Kelsey Breton

Gen Z is the next wave of talent entering the global workforce and joining the ranks of HR leaders. Born between 1997 and 2012, Gen Z currently makes up 30% of the world’s population and is expected to account for 27% of the workforce by 2025.

But unlike the older generations, Gen Z People Leaders are primed for the shift we’re witnessing as industries work to future-proof their HR strategies. As young professionals take the opportunity to leverage their experiences, sitting at the center of the zeitgeist, Gen Z are bound to bring fresh perspectives and a unique approach to everything from managing the employee lifecycle to approaching work life balance.

The race for up-and-coming talent is on, and companies that encourage an environment aligned with the expectations Gen Z has will have the edge in attracting and retaining talent. This responsibility falls to HR professionals who are at the forefront of organizational culture, and need the ability to adapt to the inevitable changes a Gen Z workforce brings with them, setting the foundation for the future of HR.

Understanding Gen Z in the Workplace

future of hr

As the newest entrants to the professional arena, Gen Z brings a unique set of characteristics and traits to the workplace that are shaping the future of HR. Like the generations before them, working with and making the most of Gen Z’s generational characteristics will set your team up for success.

Who are Gen Z?

Gen Z individuals are the first true digital natives (as opposed to even Millenials—most of whom grew up in a pre-Google era). They’ve grown up in a world dominated by the internet, social media, and rapid technological advancements. Notably, Gen Z is characterized by their tech-savviness, an attribute that significantly influences their expectations and preferences in the work environment.

As the first fully-digital generation, Gen Z not only embraces technology but expects it to be seamlessly integrated into their professional lives. Their digital fluency is reshaping the future of HR practices, from recruitment strategies to embracing AI tools for employee engagement initiatives.

Besides their expectation and use of technology, Gen Z is also characterized by their entrepreneurial spirit, valuing creativity, innovation, and a collaborative work culture. Being presented with opportunities to participate collectively and share their creative side goes a long way towards engaging and motivating most of Gen Z.

Gen Z’s Impact on the Future of HR and the Workplace

With a strong desire for work-life balance, flexibility, and continuous learning, Gen Z is influencing not only how work is done but the very nature of professional development and career growth.

The Gen Z workforce-entrance is catalyzing major changes in the future of HR and workplace dynamics. Values which much of Gen Z holds dear—such as a strong emphasis on diversity, inclusion, and social responsibility—are pushing organizations to reassess and adapt their approaches, and bring extra emphasis to initiatives which support and advance these values in the workplace.

The Future of HR: Shifting Trends

future of hr

As times change, HR best practices must evolve alongside cultural shifts. And with Gen Z representing a rapidly growing contingent in most organizations, the future of HR needs to adapt to the trends this tech-savvy, culturally unique demographic brings with it. 

The Emergence of Technology

The growing ubiquity of Artificial Intelligence (AI), machine learning, and data analytics is revolutionizing the future of HR. Automation of routine tasks, predictive analytics for talent management, and the use of chatbots in recruitment processes are becoming commonplace. Understanding and harnessing these tools is essential for HR professionals aiming to streamline processes and enhance decision-making. And the embrace of technology is an important first step developing the digital-native environment Gen Z expects.

Cultural Shifts and the Rise of New Generations

Gen Z is defined by the distinct ethical expectations and values they embody. Many HR professionals are witnessing a shift towards a more inclusive, flexible, and purpose-driven environment. For companies looking to attract the best up-and-coming talent, it’s necessary to align their values with those of their employees, focusing on diversity and social responsibility. 

Globalization and Remote Work

The globalization of businesses means that the future of HR has evolved into a more globally aware and interconnected function. With the rise of remote work, accelerated by technological advancements and the pandemic, the traditional in-office model is changing. Successful HR professionals need to explore strategies that manage geographically dispersed teams and nurture a sense of belonging and collaboration among remote workers—something particularly important to Gen Z employees.

With all that in mind, here are the four skills you’ll need to consider essential to develop and maintain to make the most of Gen Z and their potential on your team.

Skill #1: Digital Fluency

As the first true digitally-native generation, Gen Z brings an inherent familiarity with technology. This is a valuable asset for companies keen on leveraging new tech and requires a team capable of understanding and maximizing its value. 

Luckily for tech-savvy HR professionals, the digital landscape has plenty of high-value HR technologies to choose from. Understanding and incorporating these tools, from applicant tracking systems to employee engagement platforms, will help your organization attract and maintain a deep and enthusiastic talent pool.

Digital tools are also transforming recruitment processes and employee engagement strategies. From social media recruitment to gamified training, technology is changing the way organizations interact with their employees and engage with their development. For Gen Z, this approach is incredibly important as it offers a more natural and familiar environment in which they can perform their best.

But developing this digital environment is about more than setting it and forgetting it. Leaders focused on the future of HR must keep up to date with industry-specific software and platforms to remain competitive. This includes understanding the latest trends in HR technology and upgrading your tech stack when new opportunities become available.

Skill #2: Data-Driven Decision Making

While data has always been important to HR professionals, understanding and leveraging it has become central to the future of HR. Called “people analytics” this approach involves using data to understand, manage, and optimize the workforce, and technology makes tracking this information easier than ever.

But it goes beyond simply looking at the data. Leveraging HR technology that can accurately track data means you can act on the information with confidence. Relevant information includes metrics like employee turnover rates, performance indicators, and engagement scores. By looking at these numbers you can take a look at the overall well-being of the workforce. 

For instance, a spike in turnover might signal dissatisfaction, prompting an investigation  to improve workplace satisfaction. Similarly, high engagement scores could indicate current strategies are having the right impact, encouraging HR to reinforce these positive behaviors. 

HR leaders need to understand how to align data insights with organizational objectives, putting HR in the position of strategic partner in business planning. When you make recommendations for organizational improvements, pointing to data-backed research will carry more water with leadership and have a higher chance of affecting positive change.

How to Leverage AI Tools for Employee Engagement

Skill #3: Inclusivity and Diversity Advocacy

Gen Z are defining themselves as champions of diversity and inclusion. Crafting a workplace that genuinely embraces diversity requires more than just meeting quotas. It’s up to HR professionals and organizational leadership to encourage a culture of inclusivity, going beyond mere compliance and genuinely fostering a sense of belonging for every employee.

Recruitment serves as the gateway to diversity. You should pursue strategies that resonate with a diverse pool of candidates, from crafting inclusive job descriptions to leveraging diverse sourcing channels. By elevating your recruitment practices with the cultural shift in mind, you’ll stand to attract talent from varied backgrounds, ensuring a richer tapestry of skills and perspectives.

How Company Values Shape Your Corporate Culture

That said, unconscious bias can unknowingly seep into HR processes. These biases can impact recruitment, performance evaluations, and overall workplace dynamics. For Gen Z recruitment, unchecked biases can lead to missed opportunities and hinder diversity, which is particularly important for innovation and adaptability. Just like the importance of staying up to date on technology trends, overcoming unconscious bias requires regular awareness training and frequent refining to ensure fairness and equal opportunities in the future of HR.

Skill #4: Agility and Adaptability

Workplace expectations change fast and frequently, which means successful People Leaders must prioritize flexibility. This involves the ability to adapt strategies, policies, and approaches in response to evolving needs, industry trends, and the expectations of a diverse workforce. Flexible HR leadership helps to maintain an organization that remains agile when responding to emerging challenges and opportunities.

A growth mindset is a fundamental trait for successful HR leaders, helping them view challenges as opportunities for learning and development. Embracing a growth mindset involves promoting a culture where mistakes are seen as valuable lessons, fostering innovation, and encouraging continuous improvement in HR processes, strategies and the technology that facilitates them.

If you want your practices to remain relevant and successful, you have to proactively anticipate and prepare for these changes. Prioritize staying informed about industry shifts, leveraging emerging technology, and developing a forward-looking approach to address the future of HR and the trends and challenges that can be expected down the road.

Nurturing These Skills in the Next Generation of HR Leaders

HR Training and Development Programs

Establishing robust training and development programs is fundamental for nurturing these skills for the future of HR. Your organization should embrace targeted programs that address digital fluency, data-driven decision-making, inclusivity, diversity advocacy, agility, and adaptability—all skills directly tied to a Gen Z friendly environment, with a forward-thinking approach that will set up leaders for success in the future of HR.

Mentoring and Coaching Opportunities

The next generation of HR Leaders can benefit from the wisdom of the leaders who came before them, and mentorship is a huge part of this. Your organization can create or leverage existing mentorship programs, connecting experienced HR professionals with those looking to enhance their skills. Coaching opportunities, whether formal or informal, should be encouraged for personalized skill development, and targeted learning opportunities. This approach also helps establish the interconnected culture which is embraced by Gen Z.

Encouraging Continuous Learning and Skill-Building

Continuous learning is a cornerstone for HR professionals. It’s difficult to overstate the importance of creating a culture that encourages ongoing education. If there’s one takeaway from this piece, it’s that HR success is dependent on a culture of adaptability and flexibility, and continuous learning helps you stay ahead of the rapid changes that are defining the future of HR. 

Recognizing that each HR professional has unique areas for growth, it’s essential to incorporate tailored development plans. Taking a personalized approach that aligns with individual career goals and the specific skill sets each HR leader seeks to enhance will have a greater impact and encourage deeper engagement than a one-size-fits-all approach.

Professional SMART Goal Examples and Techniques

The Impact of Gen Z-Focused HR Leadership

How Gen Z Skills Benefit Organizations

From increased efficiency through digital fluency to more informed decision-making via data-driven practices, organizations stand to gain a competitive edge in talent management, employee engagement, and overall business strategy. And with an increased focus on social welfare and collective values, companies have the opportunity to contribute to a global good in alignment with the beliefs of their growing workforce.

Attracting and Retaining Gen Z Talent

Gen Z talent is attracted to workplaces that align with their values and offer opportunities for growth. Organizations that exhibit digital fluency, inclusivity, and agility in their HR leadership are better positioned to not only attract, but retain Gen Z talent. Implementing flexible work arrangements, providing opportunities for continuous learning, and emphasizing social responsibility are some of the ways your organization can appeal to Gen Z.

Fostering Innovation and Agility in HR

Innovation and agility are critical in today’s fast-paced business environment. Successful HR professionals are leveraging the latest digital tools, data-driven insights, diversity advocacy, and are supported by HR Leaders that encourage an agile mindset focused on innovation. This kind of approach doesn’t just happen randomly—it requires champions that evangelize the importance of a forward-thinking approach. You can be this champion in your own organization, and encourage best-practices that will benefit your workforce now and into the future.

How Omni Equips People Leaders for the Future of HR

Modern HR automation tools like Omni free HR teams from administrative cycles by automating the entire end-to-end employee lifecycle—from recruitment and onboarding to employee engagement and payroll—allowing HR to redirect their time to the strategic elements that attract and suit the Gen Z workforce.

With Omni, you gain access to data-driven insights that empower informed decision-making, as well as seamless integrations that effortlessly connect with your existing employee favored systems, making your entire engagement process more efficient and modern.

Powering Asia’s fastest-growing, modern companies, Omni scales alongside your company so you can customize and leverage the system to meet your business exactly where you are—as well as where you’re going. 

With a full suite of modules to support every aspect of your business, Omni’s platform offers an intuitive and fully customizable platform that integrates with your team’s favorite tools for a seamless and timely adoption, meeting the needs and expectations of your Gen Z workforce and beyond.

To learn more on how Omni can help you meet the future of HR, access a customized free demo for your team!

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