HomeThe GenZ LabGen Z knows how to say no to toxic management and infantilizing working conditions

Gen Z knows how to say no to toxic management and infantilizing working conditions

  • Wednesday, August 2, 2023
  • Edmée Citroën

Quest for meaning, AI, and flexibility: Kevin Bouchareb, Director of HR Strategy and Future of Work at Ubisoft, shares his sharp perspective on the key challenges of organizations in 2023.

Employer advocacy is a key concern for many HR professionals. We’ve seen a great trend towards HR referral programmes these past years, which is an impressive move in the right direction.

Ubisoft boasts a workforce of 21,000 employees, spread across approximately forty countries worldwide. As a global organization, what specific challenges do you encounter in your recruitment process?

"In the ultra-tech and specialized profiles, we compete with tech giants like Google, Apple, Facebook, who have resources that we don't. These roles represent niche job pools, sometimes comprising only 300 to 400 professionals globally. It's extremely challenging to secure such talents, especially for positions in artistic or creative leadership and those related to Artificial Intelligence. However, for junior developers, programmers, and roles in communication and marketing, recruitment is relatively smoother.

Furthermore, in the renewal of our more traditional professions, such as IT asset managers and workplace managers, we struggle to recruit due to a lack of the same level of flexibility compared to other positions."

"You often say that what is new with young collaborators is that they leave when they disagree. What do you mean by that?"

"It's a new behavior that we didn't see even 10 years ago. Employees find themselves in a conflict of values between their actions, the company's approach to their profession, and how it resonates with the public or clients.

If there is too strong of a misalignment, exacerbated by managerial issues, people leave. This is a new phenomenon, not unique to Ubisoft, and it is quite prevalent among Generation Z.

There is a somewhat exaggerated but true example of a young person joining us and saying after 3 weeks, 'I don't like the project, nor the team, I'm leaving.'

This phenomenon also occurs in the hospitality industry; I observed it when I was at Accor."

How would you describe Gen Z? 

They are characterized greatly by the question of authenticity. They have a more direct approach to things. It's a bit like "come as you are." There is also impatience and, above all, a unique ability to express themselves, clearly inherent to Gen Z.

Is Gen Z the first to speak and act? 

Yes, I see older individuals and even millennials who all share concerns about flexibility and purpose. They all want to telecommute and find meaning in their work. The only difference is that Gen Z is a generation of indignation, and they express themselves. That's the novelty. They have decided to say no to toxic managers, infantilizing working conditions, and the subordination they don't resonate with.

Remuneration remains the number one criterion of attractiveness for employees. However, young candidates no longer aspire solely to material wealth. What does that mean?

They no longer aspire to be rich, meaning accumulating more than what is necessary. This was the culture of the 90s, where the measure of success was having four cars and three TVs. It can be summed up in Jacques Séguéla's quote: "If you don't have a Rolex at 50, you've failed in life!"

That's no longer the model today. It doesn't mean they are no longer interested in salary, but they don't need to earn exorbitant amounts to feel fulfilled.

However, they want a salary that corresponds to their level of commitment: if they invest a lot, they want to be rewarded accordingly in terms of salary. Also, they want to ensure their salary is fair compared to their colleagues. They don't want their salary to depend on their negotiation skills, but rather on the pursuit of their goals. That is important and is a new perspective.

What is your view on young graduates who drop out or change direction and boycott companies deemed climate-destructive, or those who want to join them to bring about change from within?

We are clearly facing a democratic crisis, and we have young people who are reappropriating public matters in a different way and saying: "We will change the system from within, be it through activism or their professional activities." We see more and more young individuals who engage in activism through their social networks and assert their convictions. This is the reconfiguration of democratic relationships that is undergoing change.

"You have implemented the telecommuting policy of Work from Anywhere. Has this measure been successful among your collaborators?"

Yes, and it's an intergenerational measure. Many families are requesting it, contrary to common beliefs. It also appeals to "slashers," individuals who have multiple professional activities such as being a DJ, sports coach, teacher, painter, alongside their work with us.

Often, these two professional lives don't align well, especially for assignments abroad. Instead of restricting them, we offer something that allows these employees to balance their lives. They can telecommute from abroad. At Ubisoft, we have a DJ who can occasionally mix on Thursday nights in Germany or Italy if he wishes; it happens three times a year, but it allows me to retain him!

Some companies are revising their telecommuting policies and tightening restrictions, three years after the start of the pandemic. What is your perspective on this?

It's a very bad bet, I believe it will drive away talents. I can understand if some companies question whether they went a bit too far in allowing full remote work. However, to arbitrarily and without reason say "we all return to the office three days a week" makes no sense. These companies will pay a high price in 2024-2025 when growth returns, and the job market becomes very favorable for employees again.

At that point, companies will want to reintroduce flexibility, but candidates won't believe them anymore! It's the organizations that have been consistent and intentional in their telecommuting management that will stand out, not those playing with neo-paternalism.

Can you define "the meaning of work"?

We tend to limit the definition of meaning to the social or societal calling of our profession. This is incorrect. Finding meaning in one's work depends on several factors.

Social and societal usefulness, but also the capacity for individual actions: "Do I have the means to make a difference?"

Lastly, there is the ability to belong to a virtuous system that is dynamic: if I am the only one advocating for improvement but people around me are conservative and resistant to change, it won't work. These three factors need to be combined.

The skills of the future will revolve around empathy, the capacity for reasoned thinking, and critical analysis of the outcomes produced by AI.

Do degrees still have value according to you? 

A doctor, a NASA researcher, and a civil engineer – I obviously prefer them to have a degree. However, for service-oriented professions that rely on soft skills, I believe that the significance of diplomas is diminishing. What truly matters is professional and, above all, human experience. The investment a collaborator makes outside of work – in sports, philosophy, arts, unions, culture, politics, or other areas – holds immense value and should hold even more.

This would enable employers to embrace the individual's human richness as a whole, and allow the collaborator to present themselves not merely as a worker. In this regard, the recognition of diplomas alone is too limiting, and this holds increasingly true in a work environment confronted with AI and technology. The skills of tomorrow will be based on empathy, the ability to reason, and critical analysis of the outcomes produced by AI. And that, a degree alone cannot provide!

What do you mean by "employee value proposition"?

In HR, it refers to the entirety of things we offer to candidates to differentiate ourselves from our competitors.

First, there is the salary, then the brand, purpose, culture, and management, followed by flexibility and work-life balance, and finally, career and learning opportunities.

Employers must genuinely provide clear and concrete measures in response to all these themes. Vague propositions like "very attractive salary package" or companies claiming to be flexible and agile or offering meaningful missions must back it up with specific examples and concrete measures.