Ready or Not, Gen Z is Transforming the Workplace
In This Article
Generation Z (also dubbed "Gen Z," "iGen," "postmillennial" or "zoomers") is the generation born between 1995 and 2012. They are also now the largest demographic, with 2.6 billion members strong, and by 2025, they'll make up roughly 27 percent of the global labor force. This new band of workers is steadily marching their way into your organization, and with them comes a whole new bag of expectations.
First, let's look at the gap. A simple google search will show that 60 is average age of a CEO in a global financial organization. Meaning, when these folks were entering the workforce it was the mid-eighties – a time when cigarette smoke filled the office, files were stored in actual cabinets, an inbox was a tray on someone's desk and people left work when the clock struck 5. Soon, these very same people will be overseeing a majority workforce of digital natives who've never known life without the internet.
Who are Gen Z?
At face value, this is a group of screen-loving technocrats; they are avid gamers, speed-texters, immediate communicators, and they obviously love to influence and be influenced by influencers. Technology is at the very core of everything they do, but beneath their surface is a lot of substance.
While they view their devices as extensions of themselves, and they sometimes experience anxiety without them, turns out, this group is also highly independent, compassionate, financially responsible and ecologically sound. They value diversity, community and authenticity, and are seekers of enrichment and philanthropies.
Roberta Katz, a senior research scholar in behavioral sciences at Stanford University, conducted a multiyear research project on this generation; she finds:
Despite growing up in an era of selfies, texting, and virtual reality, they still favor interpersonal communication and seek to experience a balance of onsite work. In a recent study, more than 74 percent of Gen Z respondents prefer interacting with colleagues face-to-face, followed by Baby Boomers (68%), and Gen Xers (66%).
What makes this statistic tricky, however, is that most Gen Zers count FaceTime and other video conferencing services as a means of face-to-face communication. Their highly intimate relationship with technology is blurring the lines between virtual and actual realities, breeding an existence that older generations may find incomprehensible. But that doesn't make it any less meaningful or valuable, particularly in the workplace.
Technology has shaped Gen Z and now Gen Z is shaping technology, which will soon shape the way we all work. To be productive and happy, this growing lot of employees requires fast, seamless access to highly innovative platforms from any device in any location. But isn't that better than ping pong tables and nap pods? There's more. Unlike the generation before them (sorry to keep calling you out, Millennials), Gen Z seeks more traditional (dare I say sensible) accommodations from an employer. On the top of their "must-have" list are health insurance, a competitive salary, an environment that fosters diversity and inclusion, a manager they respect, and, of course, access to cutting-edge technology.
Preparing the workplace for Gen Z
We are at a brink where work is no longer a place but a fluid, self-governed process for accomplishing an always-on stream of tasks. What's made this possible is the digital workspace transformation movement – a movement that is powered by the same technology Gen-Z has used to communicate 24/7 with their friends since birth.
What this means for business leaders is that young employees are entering the workplace with a full grasp of the digital marketplace and all of its available functions. Is it not warranted for them to expect a sufficient digital experience at work? In a recent study conducted by Dell Technologies, 91 percent of Gen Zers say the technology offered by an employer would influence their job choice.
Certainly, your organization has its digital transformation strategy well underway. The question remains, is your organization factoring Gen Z into this strategy? Setting the cultural and operational adjustments you'll need to make aside, satisfying a Gen Z workforce will require an IT infrastructure capable of supporting a fluid, agile, secure, highly connected and available workplace.
Fortunately, there are actions you can take now to gear up the workplace before the Gen Z headcount tips the balance. Read on…
Factor Gen Z into your hybrid work strategy
If there was even a glimmer of a silver lining of the pandemic it was that many of us found a healthier work/life balance through remote working. This has caused a major shift in how and where we prefer to work. According to Gartner, 74 percent of U.S. companies either are currently using or plan to implement a permanent hybrid work model.
For most of us, this way of working is awesome; but the research shows that for Gen Z, not so much. Let's explore their perspective.
Remember being a young and hungry 20-something, excited to arrive as an adult in the workforce, only to find that the workdays are longer and harder than college ever was? How would you have ever gotten through such an exhausting and sometimes scary time without the coffee breaks and happy hours with your office buddies? Knowing there were people going through it alongside you made this transition so much easier, if not fun.
We humans are social beings, and the office is a place where real human connections exist, reliably on a daily basis. In fact, a recent study found that due to working remotely during the pandemic, 49 percent of Gen Zers reported an increase of anxiety and depression ascribed to remote work, and 69 percent reported feelings of loneliness during the workday.
Another study concluded that only 14 percent of Gen Zers are in favor of a completely remote work environment, and a whopping 61 percent of them favor face-to-face interactions, with virtual meetings coming in second.
Taking this all into consideration, your organization's hybrid work strategy will need to account for a new generation that mostly prefers having an in-office experience. Sitting down with WWT's hybrid work experts for a Briefing or Envisioning Workshop is a great way to prioritize your needs, understand your options, and build a roadmap for an optimal balance of hybrid work that serves all employees, Gen Z included.
Make digital employee experience (DEX) a priority
While most of them believe the office is where the heart is, don't expect the Gen Zers to favor a personal desktop inside an assigned cubical much.
They are a highly mobile group of multi-tasking technology-jugglers, who want the ability to work wherever, whenever and however. On average, this generation is adept at using five screens simultaneously (that's right, FIVE!), including smartphones, TVs, laptops, desktops and tablets. They've also grown highly accustomed to beckoning the assistance of Siri, Alexa and the like. How archaic it must seem for them to have to sacrifice any of this at work.
While the new digital platforms that make working more fluid and efficient are incredibly compelling to the current workforce, they are commonplace for Gen Z. A workplace without cutting-edge tools and services would mean having to teach this new generation of employees how to function without them. Providing an optimal digital employee experience (DEX) is not only critical to attracting and retaining Gen Z talent it is essential to their productivity.
One way to build and sustain an effective DEX strategy is to meet with WWT's digital experts for a DEX Briefing. Some DEX considerations you may want to discuss include:
- Offering employees an equally slick, engaging and secure digital experience on any device whether they are at home, mobile or in the office.
- Implementing the right kind of advanced technology and tools.
- Bridging collaboration between a distributed workforce with products like Cisco WebEx Board , Neat Board and Poly Room Solutions to deliver meeting equity.
- Identifying opportunities for video conferencing interoperability to provide a streamlined, frictionless meeting experience.
- Exploring emerging metaverse-style platforms, like Gather and WWT's custom virtual workplace software, Nipper, that blend virtual and physical meeting aspects to mimic the real thing.
- Developing a virtual culture that facilitates deeper human connections and sense of community.
- Providing personalized and digitally assisted experiences based on role, location and preferences.
Think seriously about expediting AI integration
WWT's expert research on Artificial Intelligence (AI) shows that, while these technologies are of major interest within the enterprise, adoption is in its early stages. For Gen Z, however, this technology is nothing new. They are coming into the office as experienced users, so the mere presence of AI isn't enough to impress them.
Let's take voice assistants for example. Talking to Alexa, Siri or Google is a standard function for this generation. This is nothing novel or exciting in their personal lives, so it won't make much of an impression in the office. Gen Z knows there's much more where that came from, and therefore expects their workplace services to be fully functional, not just intelligent.
They're coming into the workplace well aware of the conveniences AI can provide, with confidence that AI technologies can and will help them do their jobs better. This thirst for broader functionality will eventually push your organization's AI agenda faster and farther along than you're currently anticipating.
WWT's Analytics & AI team can lend real world insight on AI, and help your organization understand its capabilities, functionalities and boundless potential for continual workplace innovation.
Before more Gen Zers infiltrate the workplace and start pushing for AI to go beyond your organization's current limits, see how prepared you really are by attending a WWT Briefing and talk to AI experts about strategies, research, testing and practical roadmaps for successful AI integration.
Start to adopt an evergreen model (if you haven't already)
We know Gen Z's digital prowess will be shaking things up, but regardless of what your future workplace will require, a successful digital workspace strategy must be reevaluated often and executed scrupulously. That is what makes the evergreen model so befitting.
An evergreen IT environment means there are perpetual, iterative updates, upgrades, and management of the IT landscape, including desktop hardware, operating systems, products, applications, and server infrastructure. So, instead of three- to five-year cycles and big bang migrations, there are small, continuous updates and improvements being made as they are needed.
Deploying small, iterative updates to end-user technology on an ongoing basis, means IT can quickly respond to employees' evolving requirements by consistently delivering new features, capabilities and improvements. This way, employees are satisfied and the organization is more agile, competitive, and secure, as the IT estate is always up-to-date and compliant.
Like any digital transformation, becoming evergreen doesn't happen overnight. It's a process that involves tighter lifecycle management, executive buy-in, continuous budget, and a realigning of internal processes, people and technology. That's a lot of moving parts, but the competitive advantages way outweigh the struggle, and you don't have to go at it alone. WWT can support your organization every step of the way.
Accelerate Gen Z preparedness with WWT
Go confidently into the future with a digital workspace roadmap
A key driver of a strong digital workspace strategy is fully understanding your end-users' needs and requirements. These requirements will evolve incrementally as more Gen Zers take residency in the workplace and should be factored into your strategy accordingly.
WWT's Digital Workspace Strategy team can help your organization understand the changing workplace and build a comprehensive technology roadmap to confidently transform the workplace and satisfy digital requirements of today and beyond.
Here's how WWT can help your organization refine its digital workspace strategy to prepare the workplace for Gen Z:
- Our experts can start by hosting a briefing or assessment on employee experience, covering topics like collaboration, end-user computing, or the overall digital workspace.
- WWT's dynamic persona assessment is another common starting point for identifying and aligning end-user needs, technology requirements and business objectives to develop a recommended roadmap.
- Customers can use our Advanced Technology Center (ATC) for demonstrations of multi-vendor workplace architectures, labs for mission-critical technology designs and tech briefings on emerging and competing workplace technologies.
- WWT Adoption Services team can help familiarize your technology administrators and end users on existing or newly implemented workplace technologies.
Gen Z has already arrived and will continue to file into the workplace. If you haven't already, now would be a good time to factor them in to your organization's digital workspace strategy. Because soon, Gen Z will be the drivers of that very strategy.