Employee Experience for Gen Z

This time 15 years ago, companies were mainly talking about one thing: Millennials — and more specifically, how to deal with them in the workplace.

There are a lot of words that have been used when it comes to describing Millennials in the workplace. ‘Entitled’, ‘job hoppers’, ‘lazy’; all of which have given them a bad rap and made companies view them less forgivingly. This, in turn, has led to less-than-ideal employee experiences, which in many cases has led to less revenue, lower overall performance, a damaged employee culture and a poor employer brand.

Why am I telling you this?

Well, the reason for all the ups and downs when it came to Millennials entering the workforce was that companies weren’t prepared. And why should they have been? We had no idea that their expectations would be so different and that companies would be expected to offer more than just a place of work. Companies had to scramble and act reactively to give their talent what they needed as well as to create robust talent pipelines for the future. Don’t get me wrong, some companies did this very well, but for most, it was a mess. And now we’re about to go through it again. The good news, though, is that you have time to prepare.

This is where Gen Z comes in. Typically defined as those born between 1997 and 2012, Gen Z are now starting to enter the workforce and, due to growing up in a truly digital age, their expectations and ideas of what is ‘the norm’ are different from those who have gone before.

In order for an organisation to embrace future talent they need to start making changes now so that they are ready, rather than the aforementioned reactive approach 15 years ago. However, change can be tough, especially as the changes that need to be made are to benefit a future generation rather than the one currently in place. For an established company, this will be tricky as there will be legacies, hoops to jump through, and leadership teams who may be stuck in their ways. But, if you’re lucky enough to be a start-up or a scale-up, this is an opportunity to create the future of work and get it right from the start. 

As a consultant, I’ve worked with a lot of start-ups/scale-ups when it comes to mapping out and fixing their employee experience (EX) and what I love most is the innovation and bravery that underlines their approach to, well, everything. I’m able to make those ‘go big or go home’ suggestions, and they listen rather than dismiss them for being too forward-thinking. And it is this mindset that will ensure they are set up for success when it comes to their Gen Z employees. 

But what will Gen Z actually want?

I could talk for hours on this topic, but what I’ve laid out below are the key trends that we need to start paying attention to when it comes to Gen Z. This list is a generalisation, and each company will be different, but if you start bearing these in mind when it comes to your EX, then you will have a head start.

  • Communicating a clear purpose and values: Gen Z is often motivated by a desire to make a positive impact and may be drawn to companies that align with their values and have a clear sense of purpose.
  • Flexible work options: Work-life balance is extremely valuable to Gen Z  and they will expect options such as remote work, flexible hours, and job sharing.
  • Professional development opportunities: Gen Z is eager to learn and grow, and may shun the traditional education routes such as college or uni. Instead, they will expect employers to provide professional development opportunities, such as training programs, mentoring, and clear career advancement paths.
  • Social and environmental responsibility: Gen Z is often motivated by a desire to make a positive impact, and may appreciate employers that are socially and environmentally responsible whether that be through the brand itself or through robust CSR programs.
  • Technology: Gen Z is tech-savvy and will expect companies to use tech to make their lives easier such as digital tools for communication and collaboration, and the use of artificial intelligence.
  • Transparent communication: Gen Z values transparency and open communication in a more frequent manner, with access to all the news, all the time in their personal lives we need to try and reflect this in their work lives as well. 
  • Employee benefits: Gen Z values traditional benefits, such as health insurance and retirement plans, but also may appreciate unconventional perks, such as student loan repayment assistance or mental health resources.
  • Inclusion and diversity: Diversity for Gen Z is the norm. It’s a must have — not a ‘nice to have’. Employers must reflect that in how they hire and the environment they provide.
  • Personalisation: Almost everything Gen Z receives on social media, emails, etc is personalised and this has become the norm. For companies to really shine, they need to be offering a personalised EX for their people. Companies such as valuebeat.io are making this easier for companies to do by creating personalised roadmaps based on data.

As I said, this is a generalised list, and to do it properly, you will need a more personalised plan (get in an EX or Gen Z expert if you can), but this will give you a start in creating your EX for the future so that you’re not left behind.

One final piece of advice from me is to start immediately. A good EX is not only great for your people, but it also makes you more money and helps your company perform better. It’s win, win, win.