One Gen Z’s Perspective On His Own Generation
By David Milo, Community Manager at Future Workplace
“The workplace is constantly changing.” These words are thrown around more than many can count as we reflect on 2016, but that doesn’t make them erroneous. Millennials became the largest generation of workers globally back in 2015, while the first group of Gen Z’s entered the workforce last year. In our recent global study, in partnership with Randstad, we found that both generations expressed their related yet divergent needs.
Millennials set a precedent years ago when they motioned for more flexible working environments and rapid growth up the corporate ladder that led many companies redefine their corporate culture and hiring strategies. These changes brought about dramatic transformations in HR policies and programs that have impacted all generations. For instance, companies have embraced more online, and mobile, collaboration tools and promoted telecommuting. Millennials are often stereotyped as lazy, entitled, unreliable, job-hoppers. Now that many of them have been in the workforce for years, why should they have to continue to be criticized and ridiculed for their past?
A millennial is not just a term, it’s a group of individuals, of which live their lives based on what they know and the resources around them. Between college and their first job, social media had completely taken over the entire Internet, at the same time that telecommuting had revolutionized the idea of work-life balance and the art of in-person commutation.
It’s not fair to compare a twenty-two-year-old millennial with a thirty-five year old one. As millennials aged, their thought processes and decisions evolved as well. What we thought about millennials when they first entered the business scene should not be what we think of them as today. Some of those lazy, entitled, job-hopping punks have redefined what it means to be a successful company across all spectrums from monetary and cultural growth to employee values and benefits.
Younger millennials and Gen Z are seeing the consequences of changes that older workers implemented and are trying to level out the extremes of flexibility and communication. Our research shows that both millennials and Gen Z’s prefer communicating with co-workers and managers in-person in lieu of email and phone. This year, Gen Z and millennials both said “communication” was the most important quality of a leader, compared to “honesty” in 2014. Why the yearning to be back in the office and in person? A company is made of individuals and their insights, feelings, and ability to collaborate. The strong desire for flexibility years ago pulled these elements ever-so-slightly too far apart, leaving an ever-growing gap in interpersonal skills, collaboration and, satisfaction. Individual recognize this fraction and see a need to redesign, blatantly expressed in their recruitment desires.
Even more so than millennials, Gen Z’s have an even greater desire to have interpersonal relationships. Despite popular belief, 41 percent of Gen Z’s say corporate offices are their workplace preference. We believe they have this preference because they desire human interaction since technology has actually created more emotional distance between workers. Globally, the technologies that Gen Z and millennials want their employers to incorporate into the workplace include: social media (41 percent), wearables (27 percent) and virtual reality (26 percent). While they want to embrace social media, 46 percent of both generations also agree it is their biggest distraction from getting work done, with text messaging (39 percent) and email (31 percent) following closely.
Most corporate spaces have a combination of cubicles and offices to support the nine-to-five worker. Today, companies have redefined office space by focusing on the complete employee experience, which includes workspace and the various interactions they have with their co-workers. Companies like Fidelity, and the University of Phoenix, are breaking down corporate barriers and implementing dedicated spaces for innovation and collaboration, helping Gen Z’s get the necessary face-time required for their career growth.
What does all this mean for you? You, your company, your workplace is forever changing. What you know as the ways of today will only be the ways for tomorrow for so long. If you are hiring Gen Z like you hired millennials, you are already falling behind. Folding Gen Z’s needs into outdated recruiting practices is like trying to fit a square peg into a round hole. Companies need to focus on the most important workplace preferences, and benefits, of the new workforce to remain competitive.
Here are my suggestions for on how companies who are looking for Gen Z and Millennial workers can stay relevant in the fight for emerging talent:
- Provide increased flexibility so employees can balance their personal and professional lives while reducing lost time and commuting costs. Workplace flexibility programs built into a company’s strategy can produce cost savings, talented worker pools, increased efficiency, and boost employee satisfaction.
- Have managers support team members with more fluid and constructive feedback through continual and conversational performance reviews. Continual feedback creates real-time situational awareness of one’s progress within a company and reduces personal stress brought about by the traditional lack of employee performance transparency among older generations.Create a more collaborative workplace experience that instills confidence in idea sharing. The art of in-person communication is falling by the wayside as technology creates conduits, circumventing traditional in-person meetings and idea scrums. Although these conduits have become widely accepted, they leave a desire to collaborate and feed off the energy and spontaneity only available through in-person interactions.
- Create a more collaborative workplace experience that instills confidence in idea sharing. The art of in-person communication is falling by the wayside as technology creates conduits, circumventing traditional in-person meetings and idea scrums. Although these conduits have become widely accepted, they leave a desire to collaborate and feed off the energy and spontaneity only available through in-person interactions.