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Key Strategies for Effectively Working with Youth



3 min



As a new generation enters the workplace new norms and values will emerge, to challenge established ones, and create tension. Fresh insights and novel thinking must be integrated to foster innovation.


Organisations are shaped by the people within them. As generations transition in and out of the workforce, the cultures and practices within organisations naturally evolve. Research finds that attitude and preferences can be unique to each generation, shaped by defining experiences and shared memories. For example, Gen Z, the youngest cohort entering the workforce, has been influenced by events like covid-19, ongoing global conflicts, and natural disasters during their formative years.



In the South African context, understanding these generational dynamics can provide valuable insights:

  • Traditionalists / Apartheid Generation (1938-1964): Experienced economic hardship, described as hard working and loyal, yet can be conflict avoidant.
  • Baby Boomers / Struggle Generation (1965-1980): Challenged the status quo, confident and career oriented, they may feel threatened by uniform treatment from younger generations.
  • Gen X / Transition Generation (1981-1994): Educated and self-sufficient, they embrace technology but may struggle with engaging on issues of racism.
  • Gen Y / Born Free (1995-2000s): Communicates predominantly via digital devices, values flexibility, and seeks positive reinforcement.

(Source: Actuarial Society Convention, 2018)

As a new generation enters the workplace new norms and values will emerge, to challenge established ones, and create tension. Youth, with their unique perspectives and their detachment from the status quo, are known to drive social change. Their fresh insights and novel thinking must be integrated to foster innovation. To do this effectively, organisations working with youth must:



Gen Z are digital natives. Having grown up with technology, they approach problem-solving differently. They rely less on traditional authority figures (such as parents and managers) and more on information accessed online to solve problems and approach tasks. This approach has enabled their lateral and unconventional thinking and has encouraged a sense of DIY. But devices and online networks are unable to provide personalised mentorship, which is crucial for Gen Zs professional and personal development. An environment where Gen Z feels safe to try new approaches, express new ideas, and make mistakes can be valuable for their growth. Psychological safety represents a culture of tolerance and respect for different work styles, and it encourages continuous adaptability, which will ultimately enhance contributions across the organisation.



Gen Zs exposure to diverse viewpoints, and knowledge of various societal issues, has heightened their desire for ethical honesty from organisations. Today, many businesses acknowledge technology’s role in enhancing operational efficiency. Not yet widely adopted is technology’s role in upholding and reinforcing ethical standards. Technology can enable feedback mechanisms to provide a direct line of sight to how employees contribute to the organisation’s objectives, as well as how the organisation is ensuring broader stakeholder mutuality. Organisations that adopt innovative practices, utilising technology to enhance transparency and ethical competence, will align closely with Gen Z values for integrity, rewards and innovation.



Despite their individualist priorities for self-expression and personal identity, Gen Zs are more likely to embrace difference and value inclusion. Their experiences with social isolation, due to excessive screentime and the COVID-19 pandemic, has also shaped their preference for contributing towards meaningful collective goals. Awareness of social issues, combined with their scepticism of institutions, makes them favour purposeful work. Positioning their work within a broader organisational vision that emphasises social impact can inspire their engagement and tap into their personal sense of duty.


In recent years, the workplace has evolved significantly to place greater importance on well-being, balance, and corporate responsibility. These shifts were driven by intergenerational dynamics. Embracing these changes rather than resisting them is crucial for organisational sustainability. Particularly amid high youth unemployment in South Africa, a shift towards meaningful work, transparency, and intergenerational relationships can foster a culture of innovation and inclusivity, which is beneficial to everyone.