Five workplace strategy tips to meet the needs of generation Z

4 min read

Just when we were all getting to grips with how the workplace can support millennials (born 1981 – 1995), a new generation is arriving. Generation Z or ‘iGen’ (born 1996 – 2015) is starting to enter the workforce, and they’re more sure of what they want and what they need to succeed than any generation before.

While company culture should not be underestimated, there is a huge opportunity for the workplace to communicate how a company values its people and for its design and layout to enhance the capabilities of its workforce.

When millennials started entering the workplace it was the technology companies that responded in dramatic fashion. The psychology behind attracting and investing in people had never before been so scrutinised. It took a long time for other industries to follow suit – finally seeing beyond what, on the surface, seemed to be little more than gimmicky design additions.

The influx of a generation that had grown up during the dot com boom years paved the way for collaborative, open plan offices, flexible working patterns and creative design that offered something far beyond a stifling corporate environment.

Now, Gen Z is arriving and though still a young generation, they will make up 20% of the workforce by 2020.  Having grown up during the recession, and with social media and technology at their fingertips since birth, early observations suggest they are driven by different motivations.

1. Diversity and inclusivity 

Gen Z is the most ethnically diverse population in both UK and US history, and 76% rank diversity and inclusivity in a company as important. It makes sense. As diverse people, they want to work for diverse companies. And individuality should be encouraged – after all, when did sheep ever come up with ground-breaking solutions.

2. Social responsibility 

The majority of Gen Z want to make a difference to the world. Twenty-six per cent of 16 to 19-year-olds currently volunteer, and 76% are concerned about humanity's impact on the planet. When it comes to their careers, 60% want their jobs to have a positive impact. They want careers that allow them to do good, improve the lives of communities and benefit the planet. With 62% of Gen Z saying they trust companies that demonstrate social responsibility, versus just 56% of millennials, establishing how your company is making a difference to people’s lives, and enabling the workforce to be part of it, will catch the interest of young workers.

3. Recognition 

Having grown up during the recession Gen Z are acutely more aware of smart spending, saving and planning for their future than millennials. Because of this, Gen Z are ambitious and highly competitive – do not get in their way! They will work hard to progress and they won’t hang around if they aren’t getting noticed and rewarded. Just over two-thirds of Gen Z regard salary as the most important aspect of a job, alongside job security, advancement in the company and opportunities for a work-life balance. Millennials, on the other hand, value selectable benefits, paid leave, and remote and flexible working.

4. Communication 

Growing up with the Internet, and in particular, social media, Gen Z are used to getting real-time feedback—and lots of it. Annual reviews won’t cut it if you want to keep your new employees engaged and help them develop.Spending an average of three hours on cellphones/mobiles each day, they are more comfortable with technology and are adept at working on several devices at once. What they are not comfortable with is not having a voice. They have grown up in a world where they are free to express their opinion and they want platforms that allow them to speak out.

5. Environment 

Gen Z are more health conscious than any other generation. They expect their working environments to provide some, if not all, of today’s advancements in health and well-being. Ergonomic furniture with sit-to-stand desks, outdoor spaces and live plants to improve indoor air quality are some of the staples. Gen Z also expects access to healthy foods, and support of their physical activities, i.e. bike racks and showers.

One size is not going to fit all, and with millennials and Generation X (born 1965-1980) still dominating the workplace for years to come, any workplace strategy needs to get the balance right and positively bring different generations together.

Creating workplace solutions that offer greater face-to-face collaboration, voices to be heard, and communication to be instant, direct and two way, will ensure you get the most out of your latest recruits without alienating employees that have remained loyal to your company for decades.

Recognising the importance of encouraging individuality, for zones or areas to cater for different needs and for different generations to collaborate and communicate, will ultimately benefit your business now and in the future.