Today’s workforce spans five generations, each with unique characteristics and expectations. While generational stereotypes may get overblown, cross-generational friction is real and it can present serious management challenges.
From baby boomers to the emerging class of Gen Z workers, employees hold varying beliefs about loyalty, engagement, collaboration, salary and work/life balance — which means employers can no longer take a “one-size-fits-all” approach to management if they want to keep their best employees around.
Many employers admit they weren’t prepared for the shift that occurred when millennials entered the workforce. Companies struggled to respond to the generation’s self-confidence and technological awareness, eventually offering innovative benefits like flexible work-from-home policies and gym memberships. As millennials gained footing in the working world, they revolutionised both employer/employee relations and the way we work.
Now, employers must adapt as the status quo is under threat once again, this time from Generation Z. In the past few years, Gen Z began to move into the workplace and this year will become the largest generational population in the world. If the tech sector is to attract and retain this new working generation, employers must make it a priority to understand their youngest workers’ views on work, corporate culture and technology.
Why the millennial tactics won’t work for Gen Z
Policies that appeal to millennials may not have the same impact on Gen Z. A recent study to understand Gen Z’s impact on workplaces in the U.K. identified several of Gen Z’s key needs, including:
- Wanting to work in a values-driven environment. If millennials prioritised company culture, Gen Zers focus on values. Above culture, Gen Zers want to work at companies whose values align with their own beliefs. That means corporate policies surrounding investments, the environment and other hot-button issues might surface during interviews.
- Gen Z wants the opportunity to shape the role of AI, and you should let them. The study found 77 per cent of decision-makers have already taken the new generation of digital natives’ tech suggestions into account when creating plans for AI and automation. Including Gen Z in conversations about the implementation of automation will be important to these employees’ growth and happiness.
- Face time, not Facetime. Despite their technical aptitude, Gen Zers prefer face-to-face meetings with supervisors rather than virtual ones. This may differ from past generations, whose independence and need for flexibility won out over a desire for more regular check-ins and feedback.
- Gen Zers plan to be loyal as long as they see growth opportunities. Most young employees want to stick around at their jobs — over half say they expect to remain at their job past the one-year mark — provided they see a path forward. They expect to receive promotions and raises within their first year, as well as plenty of learning and development opportunities.
More than other generations, Gen Zers are motivated by personal values and growth opportunities. These preferences lend themselves to intelligent, conscientious working styles. Gen Zers are quick to offer tech help and are keen to improve their companies through changes to technology, communication and collaboration.
But if you’re not reflecting these values back to them and motivating them through strong company ethics and hands-on engagement, they’ll likely leave your organisation for places that do. It’s time to rethink your millennial playbook and engage Gen Z employees in new ways.
Three ways to build a workplace that empowers your youngest workers
You don’t need to upend your company culture or make major business changes to create a worthwhile working environment. Use the rise of Gen Z as an opportunity to foster a new class of engaged workers ready to take digital transformation to the next level. Here are three best practices for making the most of the next generation:
- You don’t need to upend your company culture or make major business changes to create a worthwhile working environment. Use the rise of Gen Z as an opportunity to foster a new class of engaged workers ready to take digital transformation to the next level. Here are three best practices for making the most of the next generation:
- Invest in career growth. Though Gen Z doesn’t want to job hop, they’ll leave if growth opportunities are lacking. This means you need to look closely at Gen Z career paths and how they can advance financially and take on more responsibilities. Opportunities for further training as well as participation in company activities and decision-making will also keep Gen Zers feeling happy and valued.
- Embrace new tech and create an empowering narrative surrounding it. Gen Zers are tech-fluent, and likely have suggestions for how to advance your organisation. Take their advice or risk the possibility of Gen Z employees using unsanctioned tech. They’re also interested in the role of AI, and research shows those most familiar with it are the least likely to worry about their job security. So, it’s important to educate Gen Z about AI and position it as a tool to help workers, not replace them.
U.K. Gen Zers aren’t as concerned about perks like in-office ping pong tables or the increased flexibility you may be accustomed to offering older workers. Though these benefits may help boost loyalty, Gen Z arrives with a fresh set of needs and values. But responding to these new preferences shouldn’t mean ditching the knowledge you’ve accumulated about other generations of employees. Instead, by adding Gen Z’s considerations to the ones you’ve already developed for other generations you can ensure an inclusive and collaborative work environment for everyone.
Florian Haarhaus, GM & VP of Sales, Nintex