Born between 1995 and 2015, Gen Z, or Zoomers as they are known, grew up with digital devices that work like an extension of their arms, and entered the workplace when the COVID-19 pandemic struck. Driven by values, needs, and goals vastly different from their predecessors, these digital-native employees – who will constitute about a third of the global workforce by 2025, according to the World Economic Forum – pose unique challenges in hiring, performance, and retention to Human Resources (HR) teams.

So, what does Gen Z want from the workplace? As HR leaders in professional services organizations that rely on technology for collaboration and innovation, how can you cater to this generation’s expectations? What will it take to attract Gen Z and keep them productive, engaged, and happy?

A diverse, equitable, and inclusive workplace

To the digital-native generation in your workforce, policies and practices around diversity, equity, and inclusion (DE&I) are more than just “good to have”. These folks demand that the workplace include people from diverse backgrounds – race, ethnicity, religion, age, gender, socio-economic class, or even neurodivergence. That despite the differences, you treat the individuals fairly, give them equal access to opportunities, and ensure the best possible outcomes to grow within the organization. And that, you make every employee feel welcome, respected, valued, and comfortable to be their authentic selves.

As an HR leader, you need more than footnotes of non-discriminatory practices in job postings and rainbow-hued logos used during the pride month to draw in and retain Gen Z in your talent pool. There exist myriad tech tools that can come in handy when implementing strategic DE&I efforts in your organization. For instance, AI-powered tools designed for new-age hiring can help uncover or even prevent biases that creep in during resume screening and interview processes. Chatbots built specifically for DE&I initiatives can utilize your internal communication channel to encourage open discussions on topics surrounding DE&I, conduct surveys on behalf of HR teams, and solicit feedback to improve existing policies. Compensation management software, which digs deep into organizational workforce data, can help highlight compensation disparity as well as irregularities and biases in promotions.

The freedom to choose when, where, and how to work

Gen Z’s increased desire for flexible and relaxed work settings is understandable given this generation took up their first jobs when the COVID-19 pandemic struck. Accustomed to virtual meetings and free from micromanagement by bosses, these employees value jobs that allow them to choose not just their work arrangement (remote or hybrid) but also their work spots (from home, another remote location of their choice, rotational desks, or even a co-working space) and schedules (to accommodate other needs like caregiving, health and well-being, or creative pursuits). They also seek out roles and organizations that allow them to take complete charge of their responsibilities and let them deliver their best.

The flexibility, autonomy, and independence that Gen Z demands from their jobs can be offered using online tools and software, as evident from the way organizations functioned during the pandemic. Primary among these are cloud-based solutions that allow stakeholders to communicate, collaborate, and work more efficiently irrespective of their work locations. For example, a SaaS-based project management software can offer employees an autonomous platform with access to real-time up-to-date information, helping projects move forward faster. Smart office solutions that use connected technology and analytics can enable your organization to run more productive meetings using visual collaboration software, smart meeting rooms, and other features like hot-desking and co-working spaces. Integrated workplace management software can help team members located remotely communicate quickly with IT teams and raise service requests when the need arises. The software can also help IT departments monitor their assets at all times.

A healthy body and a healthy mind too

Gen Z finds an imperative need to belong to an organization that values mental health and well-being as much as it does physical health. Alongside perks for and access to mental health services, a work culture that allows for mental health issues to be discussed freely, openly, and without stigma is what ticks the right boxes for them.

Banking on technology to fulfill these needs is easier when catering to Zoomers. Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs) that provide digital access to counseling and personalized support are a good starting point for any HR team. Alongside these, app-based self-guided programs that teach meditation, relaxation, and other tools can help Gen Z employees combat stress, anxiety, and burnout at work. Coupled with wearable devices that track vitals and monitor basic health, these tools can help promote a healthy lifestyle inside and outside of professional lives. Blogs, newsletters, and podcasts, delivered through your organization’s internal communication channel, can not only help facilitate open conversations but also equip Gen Z with the skills necessary to identify signs of poor mental health and nurture supportive communities over time.

Progression through learning, on the go

Gen Z places a great deal of emphasis on learning and development. They value a work culture where their bosses understand and nurture their inherent need for upskilling and career growth. A generation of mobile-first people accustomed to rich multimedia content with short durations, Gen Z can benefit greatly from microlearning made possible through digital devices. Employer-sponsored learning and development programs can provide Zoomers the opportunity to hone existing skills or delve into newer areas of interest seamlessly. App-based digital training software with modules, shorter lessons, quick videos, or even self-paced learning guides can help these employees meet their upskilling needs on the go.

Gen Z-ers also value mentoring and can benefit greatly from learning from their seniors at the workplace, even when connected virtually. Additionally, this young tech-savvy generation can reverse mentor those less fluent in technology, helping to propel organizations forward, especially those integrating AI and machine learning.

Work driven by purpose and societal impact

According to an EY report, nearly 2/3rd of Gen Z finds it extremely important to work for an employer who shares their values. These employees, who view work as central to their identity, also seek to make a positive impact on the world through the professions they take up. They pursue jobs that fulfill a purpose, and hence, evaluate organizations based on pillars like business ethics, sustainability, and corporate social responsibility in the real world.

Measuring social impact is a tedious task – one that can be pursued internally through survey tools and spreadsheets. However, a better means to do this is via online platforms that measure and showcase results to a diverse audience. Powered by machine learning and artificial intelligence, many software providers today offer opportunities to collect data and visualize it through dashboards, evaluate progress, and share results with those who take interest, specifically Gen Z.

Entry-level work reimagined

Gen Z’s approach to entry-level work is vastly different from that of Millennials, Gen X, and Baby Boomers. Day-to-day tasks that have a pattern or are repetitive in nature can make the digital-native crowd feel like robots, which leads to lower productivity, reduced engagement, and a feeling of dissatisfaction. However, with the right technology, Gen Z can bring innovative work methods and improved efficiency to the table.

One way to do this is using technology backed by AI. Generative AI tools can be deployed to automate monotonous tasks including admin, research, and email composition. AI-powered meeting and collaboration software with features like instant messaging and video conferencing can help Gen Z-ers stay connected, streamline projects and tasks, and work together more efficiently. Yet another means is an online performance management system. Coupled with regular monitoring and interaction with managers, these tools can be used to give Gen Z actionable feedback that helps improve their efforts on the job.

Gen Z, like all those before them, possesses distinct strengths and unique vulnerabilities, especially those shaped by their familiarity and comfort with technology. By incorporating technology into all aspects of their employee journey – from recruitment and orientation to their day-to-day work encounters, HR teams and organizations at large, can build workplaces that keep Gen Z connected, engaged, and satisfied in the long run.

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