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Gen Z in the Workplace: Expectations of the Future Workforce

Mar 10, 2022


  • EDITORIAL TEAM Talent Management Institute
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Gen Z in the Workplace: Expectations of the Future Workforce

If you ever Google "Millennials", you should expect an avalanche of results from the search engine because they're the most talked-about generation ever. Their moment in the spotlight isn't likely to end anytime soon either. However, a larger group is beginning to claw its way into the stage. This group is poised to have a major impact on the workplace - Generation Z.

Who are the Gen Z's?

A Gen Z is a term used to describe people born between 1996 to the early 2000s. Therefore, a substantial portion of them today are college students or are just beginning to enter the workforce. So, you'll be seeing them shortly as colleagues or employees. But beware! They're a different breed from their predecessors - "Millennials".

Gen Z cares most about work-life balance and personal wellbeing. Reputation and income is the least important thing for them.

Gen Z is different! Benefits like paid leave, mental health days, or any other activity that creates a sense of community are vital for Gen Z. To retain and attract employees, employers must consider what they can offer Gen Zers to encourage a healthy lifestyle and improve wellbeing. Does your business think beyond the traditional benefits offered to employees? Do you have an environment that values the entire person, not only what an employee can accomplish in 8 hours a day?

Gen Z Vs Millennials in the Workplace

Generation Z is renowned for being more fiscally responsible than millennials. As a result, they have a better credit score. Generation Z grew up during the recession and was required to master managing their finances at a young age. This has led them to become financially independent and no longer dependent on others. Although Gen Z would rather be independent than rich, it does not mean they aren't looking for stability in their finances or opportunities for advancement in their jobs. They are adamant about freedom and security in working, and employers must provide both to draw the attention of this generation.

Expectations of Gen Z from their employers?

"It's extremely difficult to find good people. However, keeping them motivated is even more difficult because Gen Z and the younger generation tend to be more selective in their choices of employers," says Lisa Trenchard. She is the senior compensation manager for Paylocity, a payroll software firm. "They're not afraid to walk away from the job when they aren't receiving sufficient support, fair compensation or do not align with company values outside of the office, or don't have the option of choosing between remote and in-office work."

How can employers win this highly discerning generation?

1. Diversity, equality, and inclusion are important.

The rumors are real: Gen Z does take a keen interest in diversity initiatives, equality and inclusion and is ready to walk away if their employer does not meet their expectations. Although only a tiny fraction of Gen Z is in the workforce at full time, 44% of people who have had jobs said they felt discriminated at the workplace because of their race or ethnicity, gender identity or orientation to sexuality, as per an analysis conducted by Tallo in 2020. Between June and July 2021, this number has jumped to 48 percent.

"Despite the increased media attention and social interest in civil rights issues in the last year, the experience of Gen Z in their jobs don't appear to be getting better," says Casey Welch, co-founder and CEO of workforce talent solution, Tallo. "It seems they're becoming worse. This is the reason DEI is so crucial to Gen Z."

A recent study found that 87 percent of Gen Zers said they thought workplace DEI strategies were crucial, and 86 percent of Gen Z workers would be keen to contribute to an organization's DEI strategy. However, after joining a company, they realized that their employer did not have or did not prioritize these plans and resources.

"If businesses don't respond to the demands of Gen Z for the effective application of DEI strategies at work eventually, they will be unable to draw and keep a significant portion of young talent," Welch says "Which will negatively impact the future development of their workforce".

However, Gen Z employees remain confident that their employers can improve their work environment with their help. When asked how well-prepared Gen Z feels their current or prospective employers are to talk about the issue of DEI, just 20% of them feel negative, as per Tallo. 55% of respondents believe that their future employers are prepared, while 25% think that their future employers are well-equipped to address DEI issues.

"As the most recent Gen Z graduates continue to make waves in the workforce, employers are presented with an exciting chance to revisit their strategies to align them with future employees' needs”. Listening to potential and current Gen Z potential candidates on ways to improve DEI at work is a great place to begin."

2. They want their pay to be fair, transparent -- and speedy.

About one-third percent of Gen Z are content with the amount they make, according to an analysis conducted by the job search site GoodHire. According to the American Psychological Association, 81 percent of Gen Z adults stated that money was their top stressor and followed by stress associated with getting work in the current economic environment.

"Gen Z has more access to information on pay which was not available in the past; Trenchard says “This unhappiness has been caused because the transparency of pay along with social media and other platforms are helping workers understand their worth in the market. The older generations did not have access to online data like Glassdoor pay rates. As a result, getting to know your value in the marketplace being an employee was much more challenging just 10 years back."

Furthermore, more workers are moving from a 9-5 working schedule to a gig economy that focuses on pay for the short-term duration in contrast to traditional total compensation programs, which encourage long-term rewards and benefits, as per Trenchard as the workforce changes as do strategies to draw and keep those. For instance, younger generations have demonstrated that they prefer compensation methods, such as on-demand pay or instant payments from employers.

Flexible pay isn't only for employees. HR professionals have discovered it's the best way to recruit the best talent and remove administrative hurdles associated with traditional payroll models.

"The biggest concept is freedom," Trenchard says. "Whether it's the flexibility of the way of benefits and compensation or the ability to work flexible hours. Gen Z is quite confident about their preferences and the things they expect from their employers."

3. The long term priority is Mental Health.

Only 45 per cent of Gen Zers declare that their health and mental wellbeing is satisfactory or exceptional, as per a 2020 report from the American Psychological Association. The other generations performed better in this regard are - Millennials (56 per cent), Generation Xers (51 per cent), Boomers (70 percent). While there are many factors to consider as to why young people struggle most in their mental health, the pandemic remains among the most significant causes.

One in four 18-24-year aged people reported that they considered self-harm during the pandemic. In addition, over half of them reported at least one mental health issue, such as anxiety or depression, as per the research carried out by the Center for Disease Control. "More as well, employees are expecting employers to think about their full self and the roles they perform outside of the office," says Sammy Courtright, the founder of Ten Spot, a platform for engagement in the workplace. "The blurred lines between work and personal life have made it nearly impossible to separate the two, and the younger generation is no longer attempting to compartmentalize their lives."

According to Courtright, employers are likely to need to provide more extensive wellness programs that cover physical, mental, financial, and social wellbeing. Also, employers should take advantage of flexible work hours and adjust expectations now because so many employees work from home for the majority time.

To achieve this, a lot of businesses are including telehealth benefits within their benefits packages because Gen Z is most likely to seek out and utilize apps for mental health -- and also are considering market methods and offering some form of stipend to ensure employees are reimbursed for any wellness services they decide to utilize for themselves.

"Mental wellbeing has long been an important issue to be addressed," Courtright says. "But now, due to the outbreak, it's receiving the attention its due. We can have our younger employees to thank for this because they've experienced - and may have had the experience of fatigue, stress, and anxiety associated with managing life, work and health amid a global epidemic."

In addition to the benefits, employers will need to ensure an online, connected and supportive workplace for the new generation of young people. Younger workers are dependent on their workplaces to offer them opportunities to socialize. 60 percent of Gen Z workers are enthusiastic about the positive effect virtual events had on the company culture (and their mental wellbeing) amid the pandemic, as per a Ten Spot research.

Growing up in the age of social networks and networking, Gen Z feels empowered to express their feelings, perhaps greater than the generations before.

"It's likely that before the outbreak of mental illness, mental health was likely to be more important to Gen Z considering they've grown up in a world in which everything from meditation to therapy is accepted as a fact," Courtright says. "This is in line with that mental wellness becoming something businesses aren't just talking about, but investing in. This isn't just a trend, and there's no quick solution. It's a long-term commitment that changes how employees feel about their work."

4. A company's culture should be flexible and supportive.

What kind of corporate environment does Gen Z want as they begin their careers? Unfortunately, the answer is a bit ambiguous at most.

A recent survey by Slack revealed that as low as 12 percent of employees are keen to return to the office full-time. However, a different survey by the workplace engagement platform Ten Spot showed that only 30 percent of Gen Z wanted to stay completely remote, and 34% of them said they are "more active and productive" while working from the workplace. These contradictory results have made employers scramble to determine how to improve the office culture of the next generation.

As confusing as it might appear, Debi Yadegari, founder and CEO of b2b solutions Village, believes the solution is easy: Gen Z wants the freedom to pick.

"To attract top talent, employers today will need to be flexible and be able to meet employees where they'd like to be, whether they work asynchronously, or completely allowing a hybrid or remote choice," Yadegari says. "Today's manager must be able to change and swiftly learn how to assist the worker of today in a manner that helps retain employees and improve productivity."

With the transition to remote work, it was thought that Gen Z and younger workers were the first generation of all-digital people who were raised with technology and would do well in the new workplace. However, Gen Z is a generation that seeks to be part of a community to a purpose, meaning, and identity. This could be why most of them want to get back to physical offices.

In many businesses, hybrid cultures provide the ideal of both worlds and are a great fit for many employees. For companies that choose to work remotely and have a communal workspace, stipends for accessibility are becoming more popular because younger workers seek an escape from noisy roommates or socializing away from the solitude of a single life.

"Younger employees must believe that their managers are caring, and this will lead to a complete change in how businesses think about support for employees," she says. "To enable their teams to thrive, managers need to create a kinder manner of leadership that allows employees to grow professionally and also personally."

5. Ethical businesses are the only option.

Finally, Gen Z doesn't just expect companies to meet their desires but expects them to strive for the greater good.

72 percent of Gen Z applicants are looking for an ethical and fair boss, according to the Tallo research. 60 percent want to be heard, and 47% want the job that will impact society and the economy. Shortly, the desire of employees to stay with the company will be based on the ethics of a company's motivation and determination to create the feeling of belonging, according to a newly released report by the ethics and compliance solutions firm LRN.

"Employers have to establish their goals and values", states Emily Miner, senior adviser at LRN. "There are more employers and choices for how employees can work, therefore when you have the option between working at a firm with a strong ethical culture or with no culture, the vast majority of people will choose the former."

In a study conducted by ESG-focused employee-engagement solution WeSpire, It was discovered that Gen Z is the first generation that prioritizes purpose over pay. But, most importantly, they are likely to leave the organizations they are employed by if they feel they're concealing poor business practices, not recognizing their negative social or environmental effects or encouraging negative workplace culture.

Gen Z doesn't have to be tied to a specific job, and they don't believe that they are confined to one place for the duration of their careers. Gen Z is adamant about being content in their work environment, and if they're not then, they'll go elsewhere.

The Bottom Line on Generation Z

Each generation has its way of communicating. Businesses must devise internal strategies for communication that appeal to the diverse generations in the workforce so that everyone gets what they require. One size doesn't fit all. It's crucial to communicate information to people and what they like about it.

Gen Z will have very different expectations from older generations about employee communication. Gen Z employees are expected to demand information delivered directly to their smartphones. More importantly, is the realization by employers of the fact that Gen Z wants work to be relevant. Generation Z employees are more likely to put their energy into worthy projects and feel confident that their efforts make a difference.

The time to start thinking about it is now.

There are a few challenges to managing Gen Z in the workplace. However, with a small amount of patience and understanding, employers can create a working atmosphere that promotes efficiency. If they have the proper tools and the right support, this generation could be destined to be extremely productive.

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