What Makes For A Good Workplace For Gen Z?

October 3, 2023 thehrobserver-hrobserver-nick-morrison

One of the most helpful things you can do is ask your Generation Z employees what is important to them!

They will appreciate the consultation and may provide some helpful information that the organisation can use to prioritise different activities.

This doesn’t need to be a separate staff survey or project if the answers from organisation-wide questionnaires allow the answers to be segmented by generation bands. Technology platforms could also be used to give further opportunities for their voices to be heard.

Gen Z may be able to offer unique perspectives to the organisation and might have an opportunity to shine by taking part in a reverse mentoring scheme which gives them access to senior colleagues and is beneficial for both parties.

They may also benefit from seeing the interplay and connections between Departments and are likely to enjoy the chance to work on projects with specialists from different teams.

Whilst Gen Z are likely to have good IT skills, having come through the education system at a time when working with digital media and technology is the norm, this isn’t necessarily the case for all. Organisations should continue to provide appropriate equipment and support.

This group of workers may value working away from the office and therefore will expect appropriate equipment to be made available.

Flexibility is seen as being particularly important to Generation Z – this can be in a variety of forms, from working hours to location of work and the ability to work remotely. Organisations are increasingly exploring flexible benefit options so that all employees can select what will be most valuable to them; for example, having the ability to buy or sell more annual leave. 

Gen Z and Equity

Equity is important to Gen Z alongside transparency of decision making. Organisations should review their processes around employee reward, performance management and learning and development to ensure that they are fair and transparent.

The HR team should co-ordinate a detailed induction where they can understand how their role contributes to the success of the Departments and overall organisation. Articulating the culture and how decisions are made is also helpful as well as including practical information. 

Continuing professional development (CPD) is seen as particularly important by this group as they build their profiles and plan for the next steps in their career. This could be through a mix of formal and informal development opportunities – organisations should keep clear records to demonstrate their commitment. 

Having a greater focus on personal values, Gen Z employees often look for organisations where the two sets of values align, or at least are not contradictory. If anything changes in this regard, it may be a trigger for employees to seek alternative employment. 

It can also be argued that Gen Z employees are more educated about issues such as sustainability and celebrating diversity. It is therefore important for employers to be transparent about their approaches, and potentially offer opportunities for employees to be involved in new initiatives.

Their expectations of promoting diversity may go beyond the traditional groups of employees that were underrepresented i.e., gender, age and ethnicity. Furthermore, it is also likely that Gen Z will be more mindful of issues related to mental health and wellbeing, as it may have been focused upon as part of their education and they will have seen the extensive media coverage and campaigns. They may therefore expect their organisations to take a proactive and visible approach. 

How to avoid brain drain?

Gen Z employees may have quite a different idea of what their career might look like, and in some industries this won’t be the norm. To avoid brain drain, organisations could consider promoting horizontal moves across the organisation and consider multi-department project teams. To retain talent, organisations may consider how they can map and promote career paths for Generation Z employees to open their eyes to different opportunities. 

One size does not fit all, it is still important to recognise the needs of individuals and provide a platform for them to share their voice if they wish to do so. The size of the organisation will have a big impact upon the types of initiatives that could be tailored or adapted for Gen Z.

It would be recommended to share some of the information discussed in this article (for example, offering flexibility and opportunities for career development) with prospective as well as current employees as Gen Z are more likely to undertake online research about the organisation. Organisations will also need to weigh up any unintended consequences of changing approaches to suit one generation of their workforce and reflect on how they can be positioned for the benefit of all their employees.

Professor Fiona Robson

Head of Edinburgh Business School and Social Sciences, Heriot-Watt University Dubai

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