How Gen Z’s influence is shaking up the workplace

Generation Z has officially entered the workplace. And with them, they’ve brought a whole new set of priorities, values, and expectations. How is this fresh perspective forcing companies to rethink traditional workplace structures? And what can companies do to attract and retain this emerging workforce?

Also known as ‘Zoomers’, Generation Z is made up of individuals born between 1996 and 2010. Having grown up in an era shaped by rapid technological advancements, climate anxiety, COVID-19, and an ever-changing financial landscape, their professional priorities and expectations are markedly different to the generations that preceded them. This fast-growing population will make up 27% of the workforce by 2025, pushing companies to reflect on and challenge the status quo. Failure to do so could affect employers’ ability to retain and attract top talent in a competitive labour market.

Young generation taking a stand in protest

Flexibility & work-life balance is key

Flexible hours, working from home, 4-day workweeks, workcations – it’s no secret that work looks a little different in a post-covid world. And Gen Z is leading the charge. In fact, a study by Nintex found that work flexibility, such as the ability to work remotely and set your own hours, is the single biggest draw to an entry-level job for Gen Z, ahead of salary.

The desire for flexibility isn’t limited to 9-5 office-based roles, either. Gen Zs in industries such as construction and mining are also seeking less traditional models of work. A report by The Australian Mines and Metals Association (AMMA) highlights the role that flexibility plays in attracting and retaining younger and more diverse employees, as well as its positive impact on productivity and profit. Despite the proven appeal of work flexibility, only 49% of Gen Zs say they currently have the option to work remotely at least some of this time – representing a significant gap that employers have the opportunity to leverage.

Young boy working on his laptop outside his house

Values alignment and purpose-driven work

Having grown up in a world characterised by climate change, financial crises, and political instability, Gen Zs care deeply about the state of the world – and they want their employers to care, too. This sentiment is reflected by Deloitte’s Global Gen Z & Millennial Survey – a 2022 study that collected and analysed the opinions of 23,220 respondents across 46 countries. The survey found that 49% of Gen Zs have made choices about the types of work they would do – and the organisations they’d be willing to work for – based on their personal values. In other words, companies driving social change are more likely to attract and retain Gen Z talent.

Similarly, Gen Zs want to spend their time doing purpose-driven work. Their preference for open dialogue extends to the workplace, and they want to understand how their individual contributions support their company’s mission and long-term organisational goals. To accommodate this, it’s important for employers to establish and maintain open lines of communication – a practice that will undoubtedly have a positive cross-generational impact. 

Gen Z colleagues having a conversation

Diversity, equity & inclusion are expected 

For Gen Zs, diversity, equity, and inclusion aren’t considered a preference – they’re expected. Despite this, over half of Gen Zs report being dissatisfied with their employer’s dedication to creating a diverse and inclusive environment – an indication that organisations still have some work to do in this space. CEO of The Equality Project, Jason Tuazon-McCheyne, echoes this sentiment. He speaks to the importance of having a clearly defined diversity and inclusion (D&I) strategy, stating “without clear guidelines and internal champions inside the business to encourage their implementation and adoption, no systemic change will occur.”

But simply having a diverse workforce isn't enough. Gen Zs want to see that companies are taking concrete steps to address issues of inequality and discrimination. While this can look different depending on the organisation, it can include everything from implementing anti-discrimination policies to ensuring all employees have equal access to career growth and development. One thing is for sure: companies that prioritise creating and implementing a strong D&I strategy will enhance their ability to attract a generation increasingly concerned with social justice issues.

With their unique perspective and priorities, Gen Z is challenging traditional structures and pushing for more flexible, purpose-driven, and inclusive workplaces. As the way we work continues to evolve, organisations will need to consider how they can meet the needs of Gen Z – and those that follow. One thing is for sure: the only constant is change, and the companies that embrace it will be the ones that thrive.

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