Future of work: Learning about Generation Z at the workplace

Cassettes, floppy disks, dial-up telephones, waiting for the internet to start up, phone directories, using a map printed on paper, and (un)smartphones. These are just some of the nostalgic things about the good old days that Generation Z will unfortunately never know. However, credit is certainly due to them. They have witnessed some turbulent times – global terrorism, the Great Recession, and the Pandemic. And they have learned some hard lessons here which have shaped the way they behave.

Generation Z or Gen Z, as more commonly known, are the next big thing. We were just about understanding millennials and how they behaved at the workplace when Gen Z lined up, looking to get a foothold on corporate floors. Who are the GenZers and why must we take cognizance of this cohort of people? A lot of research has already been put in place and a lot more is underway to try and prepare us for what this set of people want from their workplaces and how we can respond to them. After all, GenZers are slated to make up 1/3rd of the almost 8 billion world population today.

Who are the GenZers?

Generation Z are the successors of millennials typically born between the years 1997 to 2012 – an age range of between 8 to 25 years. Gen Z are mostly the children of Generation X. They are also called as Zoomers or Digital Natives or NetGen. They were born in the era when the internet already existed, and they saw rapid uptake of digital devices and accessibility. They were born into technology.

Why are Gen Z so fascinating for us?

Currently the average age at Godrej Capital is 32 years. As our organization grows and expands, we are beginning to see a steady decline in the average. Put in place our active campus hiring efforts and our belief in “hiring for potential” over “years of experience”, we predict that this average will fall further. This only means that Generation Z is increasingly going to fill the ranks in our organization and pretty much every other organization out there.

Just like every generation before it, the GenZ’ers can also be identified by some clear characteristics which define their minds and behaviours. It is important that organisations understand and respond to these by way of creating policies, norms, and processes which cater to their needs not just to help them succeed but also for the organization to survive and thrive in the new world order. After all, this generation utilises internet to obtain information and therefore, are harder to convince or lead.

But just what is Generation Z looking for?

To understand how they behave at the workplace, we ran a survey amongst our Gen Z population to learn more about their likes, choices, and preferences. The results, while not surprising, did shake up some of our assumptions.

The most important decision – who to work with

One of the most important choices that GenZ’ers are faced with is which organization to work for. Influenced by world events like the pandemic and the many underlying lessons that came with it, we know that the youngest workers are preferring jobs that offer them a meaningful & satisfying career, and the ability to have a personal life beyond work (Read my blog on Quiet Quitting) and an organization which gives back to society/ world beyond just profit concerns.

Our survey of Generation Z said something similar. Pay & benefits did not come at the top of the list when it came to what excited them most about their work. They valued their role, the flexibility provided by the organization, and the people they worked with more.

Ways of working

While work from home may have been the utopia that the millennials were dreaming about, for generation Z this is a reality. Egged on by remote working brought on by the pandemic and the ability provided by technology such as virtual modes of working, cloud computing, etc; work from anywhere is an obvious necessity. Generation Z loves that their organization can offer them flexibility in working from locations other than the office. Possibly a location where they further their personal passions or find meaning.

However, don’t mistake them for being anti-social or introverted. Generation Z seeks personal connections and working collaboratively with other people. What’s important, perhaps, is that the choice of how to perform their work must be in their hands. This is what we read from our survey. An equal number of people preferred working from office with people around as they did in hybrid work options.

And while we are on the topic of ways of working – 70% of our respondents also said that they like working in an environment which has a “cool vibe” with an informal atmosphere, where they don’t just work but also have fun. They also cared for aspects like having a diverse set of people to work with and being part of an organization that invested in giving back to society.

Clarity about how they can succeed

The Gallup survey asks 12 key questions about engagement at the workplace which cover clarity of expectations, the manager, tools, recognition, and opportunities to learn and grow. In their latest survey (according to Gallup’s State of the American Workforce study) only 6 in 10 people agree they know what’s expected of them at work. But only 4 in 10 people felt like their job was important, had a manager who cared about them, or had the opportunity to do their best each day. These elements are clear indicators of how people succeed at work. Along the same lines, we asked our Generation Z’ers what they think they needed to do their job well. Topping that list was their manager, who they felt could help them succeed and this was followed by flexibility and opportunities to learn.

We drilled further down into an important element here – the boss (or manager) and dared to ask them the qualities which they felt defined a good boss. These were some of their thoughts – competence, being a good leader, teamwork, and concern for mental health.

When it comes to feeling appreciated and valued at work – the surveyed set of GenZ’ers were unified in their choice for a robust rewards and recognition program with monetary benefits. They also wished for spot awards job accomplishments.

Stressors at work

Ruhie Pande,
Godrej Capital

In an open-ended question, we also attempted to understand what made Generation Z unhappy or stressed at work. The responses ranged from –

  • Delays in response from other teams/processing
  • Working on weekends/ day-offs/ after hours
  • Lack of fun at work
  • Their skills not being utilised to the fullest
  • Overload of work/ deadlines

To conclude, companies that want to continue to succeed in the new age post the pandemic, must ramp up their efforts to attract, retain, and engage the future workforce which is going to be Generation Z. We can see that Gen Z, while demanding new ways of doing things are not unreasonable in their need for flexibility, priority towards mental health, seeking diversity, and career growth opportunities. Overall, it would mean that they receive the just dues for what they will bring to their employers – creativity & innovation, technologically forward solutions that will benefit the organization, society, and above all, themselves.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ET Edge Insights, its management, or its members

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