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Guest Blogger

By Joyce Maroney, Executive Director of the Workforce Institute at Kronos and Dan Schawbel, best-selling author and Research Director, Future Workplace

For some time, the topic of Millennials (those born between 1981-1995) and their desires in the workplace dominated conversations concerning the workforce and workplace trends. This conversation has now been played to death, and since Gen Z (those born between 1995 and 2010) is the biggest cohort in the world population right now, according to Bloomberg, it’s crucial that employers and managers turn their attention to the newest generation entering the world of work.

Organisations who want to employ their fair share of the self-professed ‘hardest working’ generation, will need to invest in understanding them and supporting them accordingly. Those that fail to do so will risk being left as an unattractive option to the younger generation making the transition into the world of work.

Our recent global study of over 3,000 Gen Zers discovered new details about how they view themselves, how their education has prepared them for the working world, their perceptions about the gig economy and their views on what employers need to offer in order to attract and retain them.

Work your way

The perception commonly amongst older generations is that their younger counterparts do not work as hard as they do, or have. However, our research found that one third (32%) of Gen Zers say they are the hardest-working generation ever. Interestingly enough, it became apparent in our research that Gen Zers have a desire to work in a way that suits them and their lifestyles. So, while they believe they already work the hardest, one in four (26%) say they would work harder and stay longer at a company that supports flexible working schedules, with flexibility desired most in Canada (33%), the UK (31%), and the US (31%).

Gen Zers’ relationships with their employers and managers exerts critical influence on how long they want to stay at a company, how much they enjoy their jobs, and also their desire to progress in a company. With that thought in mind, Gen Zers preference for flexibility comes with a few actions they would never tolerate from their employer. These include being forced to work when they don’t want to (35%), inability to use holiday days when they want to (34%) and working back-to-back shifts (30%). Additionally, 32% of respondents in our research stated they would be motivated to work harder and stay longer at a company if they have a supportive manager. The top three attributes they value in a manager are: “they trust me” (47%), “they support me” (40%), and “they care about me” (35%).

The digitalised generation

Our survey found that Gen Zers deem themselves the ‘digital generation’. They were born into the technology revolution that has changed society forever, marking them as the first generation to be born digital. Over 98% of Gen Zers own a smartphone, and they spend over four hours a day looking at it. As a result, they view landline phones as fossils.

While one may assume that the generation oriented in the digital world would expect all communication in the workplace to be carried out through digital platforms, our research found that three out of four Gen Zers actually prefer face-to-face interaction at work. Without that in-person human connection, employees are left feeling lonely, isolated and less engaged with their teammates – and less inclined to stay at an organisation. It is therefore important that employers take this consideration seriously, because like all other generations, Gen Z has a deep-rooted need to form relationships with others.

Highly optimistic, yet fairly anxious

Our research found that Gen Zers are mostly optimistic about their prospects. Across the globe, more than half (56%) are “very” or “extremely” optimistic about their professional future. However, for us, the most surprising finding was the high level of anxiety expressed by our respondents when it comes to what they believe are their biggest barriers to professional achievement. In fact, “my anxiety” was the top answer they gave, ahead of family, finances, location and educational reasons.

Even though Gen Zers are optimistic about the future, they are still anxious about the various challenges they face as young employees. As a result, it is increasingly important that managers are doing all that they can to support their employees’ mental health (even beyond working hours), to ensure their anxieties aren’t holding them back from achieving their ambitions.

The manager of choice

With Millennials – who are also digitally-minded – moving into management roles, we have reached a turning point in the employee-manager relationship which will change the dynamic of the workforce forever. While the two generations are accustomed to the same modern technology, their expectations and attitudes differ. It is therefore critical that leaders familiarise themselves with the different preferences of the newest generation in the workplace in order to manage and support them in the most effective way possible.

Gen Z is bringing new expectations to the workplace, driven by their digital upbringing as well as their self-identified barriers to success. In comparison to older generations, the digital generation expect much more flexibility when it comes to how and when they want to work. Companies that want to motivate Gen Z will need to collaborate more and dictate less when it comes to their schedules. They will work harder and stay at a company for a longer period of time if they are in a culture that supports a flexible working philosophy.

Tackling the anxieties of Gen Z is also crucial if we want to make the most of this digital generation. Gen Zers value leaders who are trusting, support their needs, and help them flourish at work. Savvy leaders who attend to their Gen Z workers well-being will be most successful in attracting and retaining them.