Generation Z in the Workplace: Meeting Them Where They Are

Generation Z in the Workplace: Meeting Them Where They Are

Generation Z is going to shake up the way we work. Some organizations are dreading this change (perhaps “reckoning” is the better word). But I personally think having Generation Z in the workplace is going to be a catalyst for really positive change. And organizations who prepare to meet the needs of all their employees—not just Gen Z—will reap the benefits.

Get To Know Generation Z

Put your stereotypes aside, and let’s focus on some facts about Gen Z from Deloitte:

  • Gen Z will soon surpass Millennials as the largest generation. More than one third of the world’s population belongs to this generation.
  • This generation “values salary less than every other generation” but don’t get this wrong…salary is still the most important factor for them when deciding where to work.
  • Edelman has been preparing us for this for years with their annual Trust Barometer, but it’s happening, folks. To win over Gen Zers, you need to have purpose and focus on social issues.

Like with any generation, there are countless studies you can find to determine what motivates Gen Z, what they want, how they want to work, and so on. But if you really want to support Generation Z in the workplace, we recommend actually asking them what they want. And this is best practice for all your employees and employee groups. While a generation can be studied at a high-level, there are so many factors that can impact the wants and needs of an individual. Your Gen Z employees might have vastly different needs than those who work at another organization.

So, really make an effort to get the feedback of Generation Z as they join the workplace. And see their feedback as an opportunity and not an obstacle or a disturbance to the “way things are.” Are there better ways to onboard them? Has your digital transformation been lagging, and now you have no choice? Is it time to rethink your purpose and who you are as a company?

Key Sticking Points

Like we’ve mentioned, your stance on key social issues is going to become a sticking point for Generation Z. And, frankly, you should thank them for their persistence on these issues. One of the big ones is going to be diversity, equity, and inclusion. And if you don’t already care about DEI because it’s the right thing to do, just remember that companies that are more diverse and inclusive actually do better.

Another huge sticking point for this generation is going to be workplace technology. The reality is that these employees grew up with technology and want to use it at work for a good reason: it’s easy! 81% of PEOPLE own a smartphone, so it’s really not a generational thing anymore. But it will be something younger generations expect at work. And, really, replacing paper systems and difficult to use Intranets will increase efficiency at your company. If you haven’t yet, it’s time to embrace the digital revolution!

Embracing Generation Z in the Workplace

To really meet this new generation where they are, there are a few key things you can do:

  1. Ask them what they need and want. The worst thing you can do is make assumptions about generations or groups of employees. Start by getting the facts right about your specific employees. And asking employees for regular feedback has an added benefit: it helps employees feel cared for and valued.
  2. Take that intel and reflect on your current systems, processes, and ways of communicating. An internal communications audit might be in order here. Do you have the channels this group said they’d prefer? Are your communications shared in multiple formats to accommodate different learning styles? What do your other employees think about potential new ways of working? 
  3. Get creative. There is nothing wrong with trying something new, so long as you’re testing and tracking your success with data. 
  4. Keep advocating for your employees. Internal communications teams have always had a good finger on the pulse of the needs of employees. It might be up to you to start the internal conversation about new ways of working, the importance of DEI, and realigning on purpose. Use your expertise to help your company evolve as your workforce changes. 

Remember all people, regardless of the generation they belong to, just want to be valued, respected, and feel like they have a voice. So, don’t just focus on surveying and starting focus groups with Generation Z because they’re the new kids. Did you ever really understand the needs of your other employee groups? Have you focused on the needs of frontline workers versus deskbound teams? Of different departments? Of people in different geographical locations? And even if you surveyed these other groups and generations before, remember that things change. Keep asking.

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