As more of Gen-Z graduates from college and prepares to enter the workforce, workplaces will experience a shift in working styles and preferences.
It’s the responsibility of company leaders to make sure they adapt to Gen-Z while respecting current employees who may be more seasoned in their careers and less familiar with the tech-savvy ways of their new coworkers.
According to a recent survey by Gen-Z expert and speaker, Ryan Jenkins, 72 percent of Gen-Z respondents want to communicate face-to-face at work. With the misconception that Gen-Z is glued to their screens and can’t hold a conversation, this finding may surprise employers and older generations.
In an exclusive interview with Ryan, who also leads Gen-Z learning and development (L&D) company, 21Mill, we explore how the Gen-Z workforce will transform the workplace and how companies can grow alongside them.
How will Gen-Z workforce impact employers?
Ryan Jenkins: Employers will find themselves needing to provide a deeper blend of high-tech and high-touch to appeal to Gen-Z’s priorities. While having next-gen tools is important to this workforce demographic, more than 90 percent of them also stress the importance of having a human element at work.
Although they may not define face-to-face the same way older generations do, they are eager for genuine human communication — whether it happens over video or in person. Companies need to blend these preferences to create an environment where technology is leveraged, but not used as a replacement for human connection.
What’s the biggest change workplaces will see?
At the crux of it, it’s a seismic shift. It’s the first time ever that we’re having an emerging generation that has skills and knowledge that others don’t have. When you think about it, Gen-Z acted as the CTOs of the home. From helping mom and dad troubleshoot challenges with the laptop or teaching them how to download apps, they were able to contribute in a different way than generations before them.
With tech playing a central role in their lives from early on, Gen-Z feels training is outdated. Overall, it’s just not aligned with how they want to consume L&D.
Organizations must remember Gen-Z grew up with tools like YouTube and language apps as learning resources that were a simple click away. With this in mind, they want L&D whenever, wherever.
When employers don’t provide that, they can come across as irrelevant or antiquated to Gen-Z workers. These employees have grown accustomed to an on-demand style of learning and when it comes to recruitment and retention, paying attention to these learning modalities is very important.
Gen-Z wants to pull information up on a mobile device, or listen to a podcast on the way to work. They value things like videos that provide quick bursts of information and this should be considered as organizations structure L&D programs.
Is there a skills gap within the Gen-Z workforce employers should prepare for?
Yes, because even though they lean into digital, Gen-Z generally lacks the interpersonal skills that come naturally to older members of the workforce. While Gen-Z can be helpful in teaching more senior employees to use technology, mentoring is a two-way street. Seasoned professionals can help Gen-Z hone their active listening skills, like handshakes and eye contact.
Additionally, Gen-Z should look to older colleagues to help them engage in critical thinking. In a world where we choose the media we consume, it’s easy for younger workers to create an echo chamber of viewpoints. Social networks like Instagram and Facebook enable Gen-Z to be exposed to only the people and ideas they identify with, and older generations can help familiarize them with other perspectives, topics and ideas.
What’s one of the main ways Gen-Z differs from earlier generations?
Today’s advances in technology blend work and life much more than ever before. With an “always on” digital environment, there are no clear boundaries between work and life for Gen-Z. As more of this generation enters the workforce, they’ll need to carefully designate where work stops for them and where life picks up. This invisible line will vary from person to person, but it’s critical to find this division to ensure they don’t get burnt out.
Employee experience management is the next competitive frontier. Make employee experiences matter for all generations from the very first interaction. Learn more here.