How Gen Z are redefining the world of work

Flamingo was recently invited to speak at an event run by Bespoke Careers, a recruitment agency specialising in architecture and design. We presented our Gen Z: Redefining Authority work  – which explores how this young generation and their relationship with authority is a fascinating heuristic for how the world is changing – and discussed the implications of this for the world of work. This article summarises the key points from the presentation.

Gen Z have grown up more empowered by media and technology than any other generation. As the first generation of true digital natives, their near-boundless access to information has allowed them to critique, debate and question power, and to share ideas and solutions online. But this hyper-connectedness has also resulted in intimate exposure to the failings of authority figures. Consequently, Gen Z are experiencing a breakdown in their trust of traditional political and civic institutions; something that is disrupting long adhered-to social structures. With conventional forms of authority being thrown into question, Gen Z are challenging, reshaping and reforming it.

This has significant implications for businesses on multiple levels. Compared with older generations, Gen Z have different expectations of brands as product or service providers but, on top of this, their relationships with businesses as potential places of employment are also evolving. Below are three key ways that Gen Z are responding differently to the workplace.

1.    They have new expectations of working relationships and leadership

Gen Z actively seek out jobs that provide them with opportunities to learn and grow; they want to be mentored, with recent research revealing that 75% aspire to having a boss that will coach them. Alongside this, the research shows, Gen Z employees value leaders that can effectively and clearly communicate the vision of the company, who give feedback frequently and who are consistent in their means and style of management. However, this doesn’t mean that members of the new workforce want non-reciprocal relationships with their bosses, or one-sided instruction. What Gen Z are really interested in is collaboration; they’re looking for rapport and interactions that allow for idea exchange and mutual learning. This highlights Gen Z’s want – and need – for open dialogue with authority figures, fuelled by the feeling of power to participate and debate that comes from growing up with social media.

2.    They are changing the meaning of ‘experience’

Career paths used to be linear and a job was for life, but this is no longer the case. This means that employers need to recognise transferable skills and ‘lived’ experience. They should allow Gen Z to prove themselves through innovative recruitment processes – such as CV-free tasks - and avoiding pigeonholing, instead facilitating learning through upskilling or reskilling. Further to this, the type of skills that are needed is evolving. According to the World Economic Forum’s Future of Jobs report, as automation and computerisation advance, the importance of ‘soft’ human skills such as emotional intelligence and creativity is increasing. Consequently, employers looking to recruit members of Gen Z need to acknowledge the value of non-measurable skills such as empathy.

This need for understanding works both ways, however: Gen Z are keen to gain ‘real world’ insights from authority figures. They see first-hand, honestly communicated knowledge as far more relevant and useful than lessons learned through traditional academic institutions. Empathy and openness workshops can be used to facilitate valuable knowledge exchange, helping to bridge gaps and improve understanding between generations in the workplace. 

3.    They have different attitudes to compensation

Gen Z employees are increasingly viewing non-monetary benefits as key to a good job. In an ‘emotional economy’ where work-life balance is a priority, a pleasant working environment and perks such as wellbeing programmes or on-site gyms are valued as much as a reasonable salary. With the boundaries between money and socialising being blurred – particularly for Gen Zers who are natives of platforms such as Patreon and Kickstarter – the need for fair, meaningful compensation is growing. Furthermore, Gen Z value pragmatic leaders that facilitate self-improvement and give them the tools they need to be active learners.

Businesses like Google are leading the charge with their ‘20%’ programme, which encourages employees to use 20% of their working time pursuing projects that they personally believe to be beneficial. Allowing independent-minded Gen Z to take time away from normal constraints allows them to feed their desire to innovate; providing creative satisfaction and potentially leading to business breakthroughs (Google’s 20% hatched assets such as Gmail). 

To read more about the ways that Gen Z’s relationship with authority is changing and to find out what this means for your business – both as a recruiter and as a product or service provider – download the full Gen Z: Redefining Authority report free of charge.

Siobhan Collman, Flamingo