The modern workplace has been constantly evolving and changing throughout the years - both in response to the adoption of new technologies, as well as the shifting values and work-styles from generation to generation.
Recently, Millennials shaped the modern office space with their collaborative, team-oriented mindset, but Generation Z is poised to bring even more change.
Known as the Digital Native generation because they have never known a world without computers and smartphones, this group of young adults expects constant access to technology and new experiences — both in and out of the office. In fact, Gen Z are so much less excited about 9-to-5 work than millennials that many predict their desire for a more flexible environment will drive future employment trends
As millennials begin to take leadership roles at work, we’re starting to see how their values are influencing Gen Z.
So, if you are curious to learn how Gen Z is changing the workplace, in this article we will explore the different ways this generation is altering the way we work.
Here are eight ways Gen Z is changing the workplace.
Gen Z Wants More Flexible Working Hours and Locations
In what seems to have happened overnight, the old norms of "9 to 5" working hours and everyone physically working in the office have become passé. The way we work is no longer a one-size-fits all proposition, and the newest crop of talent puts a great deal of value on "flex culture."
Most new hires prefer a great work-life balance over a higher salary. Millennials, Gen Z's predecessor, were the first generation to latch onto this trend, but Gen Z's desire for flexible working hours is even more pronounced.
This generation has grown up with technology that enables flexible working, and they expect to be able to work when and where they want. According to a survey by the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), 63% of Gen Z want to work at least some of the time remotely.
Unlike the office-bound millennials, Gen Z also expects more flexibility around hours and locations. Employers can expect to see Gen Zers working from beaches, parks, and backyards as they seek creative places to set up shop.
The desire for a flexible, remote-first lifestyle is so strong that it's even seeping into Gen Zers' educational goals. In fact, one-third of college students hope to work remotely one day.
In the end, they believe it's about rewarding performance over face time. Gen Z feels strongly that delivering the expected results should be independent of where the work was done, and how many hours it took to produce.
Gen Zers are Intensely Interested in Digital Skills Development
For the first time in history, Gen Z is now the largest generation in the workforce. This group, which is currently in its late teens and 20s, is already making its mark on the workplace, and it’s clear they’re after companies who can help them grow and develop new skills. In fact, a whopping 90% of Gen Z wants employers to offer opportunities to learn new skills and advance their career.
More than any previous generation, Gen Zers are interested in mastering the technical side of their jobs. This is reflected in the fact that Gen Zers are more likely to want to work at start-ups or in STEM fields.
Gen Zers are also more likely to pursue a degree in computer sciences than any previous generation. This interest could be driven by the fact that Gen Zers were children when social media first came into existence.
As children, Gen Zers were the first to grow up under the constant gaze of an audience. They were also the first to be raised with the expectation that each post and picture should be perfect. This could be why many Gen Zers have expressed a desire to learn technical skills that don’t depend on their looks.
Gen Zers will Increase the Demand for Remote Work
Millennials have been credited with changing the American office space by bringing in open offices and encouraging collaborative work environments. But Gen Zers are even more drawn to remote work, which millennials have long been willing to consider.
Gen Z is even more open to remote work than millennials, and many companies are already responding. According to data scientists at Ladders, 25% of all professional jobs in North America will be remote by the end of 2022, and remote opportunities will continue to increase through 2023.
While this new generation has shown a distinct desire to work remotely, that doesn’t mean they’re totally uninterested in face-to-face work. In fact, Gen Zers are the most globally connected generation, and they report that they prefer to work remotely with co-workers they can see in person.
Now, while many companies are rushing to implement flexible working policies, it’s not clear how prepared they are to support remote work. Many companies have created flexible work policies, but it’s unclear whether employees use them.
In one study, only about 28% of companies that offer flexible work actually track how employees use that policy. Only about 36% of workers say they’ve ever asked to work remotely. This could be because many employees don’t feel comfortable asking for flexible working arrangements.
Gen Zers will Require a Different Type of Leadership
Hierarchal, commanding, and micromanaging leadership styles won’t be effective with Gen Zers. These young workers are accustomed to horizontal collaboration and will expect the same in the workplace.
Gen Z prefers a democratic leadership approach focused on reaching consensus before taking decisions. This generation is also very goal-oriented and thrive when their managers take on the role of coach, providing actionable feedback and advice.
Because Generation Z grew up in the aftermath of The Great Recession, they’re likely to be hesitant about putting their trust in traditional leadership. Instead, Gen Zers prefer to work in teams, and place a lot of value on the emotional wellbeing of their colleagues and are committed to treating everyone on the team as equals.
This approach could rub some of their older co-workers the wrong way, as they want their point of view respected and heard regardless of their amount of experience.
While some might interpret their perspective as unrealistic expectations of workplace culture, Generation Z represents 25% of today's workforce and that number will continue to grow. Based on these numbers, company leaders would be wise to take this generation and their views on management seriously.
Gen Zers Have Very Different Expectations Around Pay and Benefits
Pay and benefits are two areas that are sure to get a makeover as Gen Z enters the workforce. The first thing Gen Zers will likely do is shake up the pay scale — and that means pay raises and bonuses are going to be on the decline.
Gen Zers are expected to be the first generation to earn less than the generation before them. That’s because this generation is starting out with lower pay than previous generations did at the same age.
One factor driving down Gen Z pay is the increase in remote work, as employers are less likely to offer a full-time salary to someone who works from home.
Gen Z is pushing for a daily wage payment and immediate access to their wages. On-demand pay helps workers access funds on a daily basis in order to pay off loans and bill on time and avoid late payments, bank overdraft fees, and high loan interest rates.
Beyond pay, benefits are also expected to change as Gen Zers enter the workforce. This generation wants employers to offer the same benefits that millennials care about, plus more. According to one survey, Gen Zers are after more vacation time, extra paid time off, and more flextime.
Gen Zer Job Satisfaction is Also Changing Workplace Conditions
OK, this is a big one. We’ve all heard a lot of talk lately about The Great Resignation, but many might be shocked to learn that Gen Z that is leading the charge. Today workers under the age of 30 are leaving jobs in record numbers, reportedly wanting higher pay, more flexibility, and remote options.
So what does this mean?
It means that Gen Z is willing to put their money where their mouth is when it comes to overall job satisfaction.
When push comes to shove, many Gen Zers are willing to opt for lower paying “gig work” that offers them both flexibility and an opportunity to build new skills, over an unsatisfying or overly demanding workplace.
As more and more Gen Zers enter the workforce, this leverage gives them an advantage, and companies are taking notice. In the hopes of attracting Gen Z talent, many employers are focused on offering positions with clear paths for growth, flexible hours, remote or hybrid work environments, competitive compensation packages, and creative benefits – like free lunches, tuition reimbursement, and on-demand/daily pay.
Gen Zers will Shake Up Traditional Workplace Norms With Their Own Ideas About What’s Fair
The modern workplace has evolved over a relatively short period of time. But Gen Zers have grown up in this modern office space, and they’ve had an opportunity to observe how the world’s changing workplaces function. As a result, they have their own ideas about what’s fair and what they expect from their employers.
- Value Diversity, Equity and Inclusion: While organizational DEI initiatives have been on the rise for several years, Gen Z is more racially diverse, and includes more of the LGBTQ community than any prior generation. This means Gen Z demands more diverse and inclusive workplaces.
- Fair Pay: Although Gen Zers are expected to be the first generation to earn less than the generation before them, recent studies show that Gen Z employees want jobs that offer fair wages. In fact, less Gen Zers believe they are receiving a fair salary as compared to their Millennial counterparts.
While Millennials shaped the modern office space with their collaborative, team-oriented mindset, as Gen Z enters the workforce, they are bringing even more change.
It’s clear that Gen Zers have very different values and expectations from the workplace than millennials. And they are readily willing to walk away from positions when their level of job satisfaction is not being met – and are the leading force behind The Great Resignation.
This is challenging employers to compete for high potential Gen Z talent by getting creative with their compensation and benefits packages.
Ultimately, Gen Z is more interested in building a fulfilling career than a high-paying job. This is reflected in their desire to gain skills that will allow them to move from career to career, while working for a flexible and inclusive organization.
We don’t know how much of these tendencies are due to being Gen Z and how much of it is due to being raised in a different era. But what we do know is that it’s likely Gen Z will continue to change the workplace as they grow up and enter the workforce.