Nearly two thirds (63 per cent) of older employees in the UK and Ireland expect workplace tensions to increase with the arrival of a new generation of workers into their companies.
According to new research commissioned by Ricoh and conducted by Coleman Parkes Research in July 2015, the stark findings point to a corporate collision course, as for the first time in history a fourth generation - Generation Z - enters the working population.
But what exactly does Generation Z - those currently aged 19 years and younger - want and expect from their careers? Do they deserve the crude label given by some as overly demanding screen-swipers in search of instant gratification? A survey of UK and Irish workers and students - spanning all four generations - answers this with an emphatic 'no'.
'Generation Zers' are unique. They have been strongly shaped by their individualistic Generation X parents, heard stories from their Baby Boomer grandparents and witnessed the errors and successes of Millennials. Combining this with their appetite for all things digital means they have a more solid grounding to achieve and educate others in an ever-evolving and demanding business world.
The good news is that the majority of workers in the UK and Ireland (89 per cent) surveyed from all generations believe that having a workforce of different ages is an asset to a company. However, the survey unearthed a key challenge that managers must overcome. Nearly two thirds (63 per cent) of older employees expect workplace tensions to increase with the arrival of Generation Z into their companies.
Over half (58 per cent) of Generation Zers have also accepted that they will need to develop their face-to-face communication skills to be effective in the workplace. With this new generation accepting that there is much work to be done before they even enter the world of work - and the next wave of technology-led change sure to soon hit and disrupt the workplace further - the need to establish environments that enable and encourage truly harmonious and productive working across the generations is paramount.
Phil Keoghan, CEO of Ricoh UK & Ireland, said: "These findings indicate that there is much work to be done to accommodate such varied experiences and skill-sets in the workplace. The arrival of Gen Zers only emphasises this challenge, while also presenting a huge opportunity to all businesses. As Irish organisations grow, technology will become ever more important as an enabler of innovation and change, and Gen Z will place a critical role in this movement in the future."
The research also revealed that 64 per cent of respondents agree there are fundamental differences in how employees from each generation work. The clearest contrasts emerged in their respective attitudes, expectations and styles of working. Face-to-face communication at work, while still the most preferred method across every group, is in generational decline. Preference for it drops from 75 per cent among Baby Boomers to 56 per cent among Generation Z.
Keoghan added: "All employees are different - and generational variations only compound these differences. By forcing them to work in the same styles and with the same tools will always lead to problems. Enterprises should look for ways in which they can empower people to work in the manner they feel most comfortable - across all generations - to boost collaboration and creativity across the company."