The Future of Work — According to Gen Z

We heard from the source about Gen Z’s ideal work environments and so much more.

Generation Z is entering the workforce in troves, and bringing along with them new preferences for ideal work environments in which they can thrive and grow.

To better understand what Gen Z wants in the workplace, we sat down with some of its members last month in a new series of panels we are hosting called, “Gen Z Speaks.” In August’s panel, “Meeting Us Where We’re At: Connecting with Gen Z in a Hybrid World,” we invited a handful of students to share what they are looking for in an employer. 

View the full recording here

Our panelists included a diverse group of students attending different schools around the country. Their areas of study include  psychology, organizational management, business, and finance. Here are some of the main takeaways from our discussion.

Gen Z values a genuine workplace culture, flexibility, and a commitment to D&I efforts

When it comes to how members of Gen Z work best, our panelists shared that among their top priorities is an inviting work culture that fosters strong communication.

“[When it comes to] what I’m looking for entering the workforce is that ability to be creative and making sure that my voice and my peers voices are being heard. I think that’s really important to create a collaborative community within the workforce,” Lauren Schneider from Arizona State University said.

Additionally, multiple panelists shared that they prefer flexible work arrangements, including Cherlyn Gan from University of Southern California.

“After COVID, the use of … technology has kind of changed the field in terms of communication, so I feel that remote flexibility would seem really attractive for many Gen Z candidates, including myself,” she said.

But that doesn’t mean everyone wants to work on a fully remote basis. Kasun Navaratna from the University of Florida, for example, prefers a hybrid environment because “there are certain parts of the work environment that just can’t be replicated at home.”

Aligning with that narrative, in a recent survey of more than 2,600 Gen Z internship and job seekers we also found that a majority of early career professionals today prefer hybrid work arrangements where they get a taste for both office life and work from home. 

When it comes to why candidates would choose one company over another, panelist Chanel Aboua of Metro State University said that an organization’s Diversity and Inclusion (D&I) efforts are extremely important to her, adding that transparency here is key. If your company is newer to embracing D&I in the workplace, she added, you should be honest about the steps you have and will take, and explain why diversity has recently become a priority. Chanel’s comments confirm what we found in our recent survey of Gen Z job seekers — that 75% of candidates would reconsider applying to a role at a company if they were not satisfied with its D&I efforts. 

Professional development and clear career paths for growth are key when recruiting Gen Z

In addition to diversity commitments, our Gen Z panelists also shared that they value opportunities for professional development at work and a clear path for growth. Kasun said that his three main priorities when deciding between employers are (1) positive interview interactions, (2) career acceleration opportunities, and (3) mentorship programs. 

“What I care most about in [a] job is learning,” he said. “Having a particular boss or mentor that I can look up to will help me grow in my desired field.”

Similarly, Cherlyn said that the most important aspects of a company for her include innovation, work-life balance, career advancement or development, and culture.

“Personally, I would love to work for a company that’s innovative and always looking for new opportunities to expand,” she said. “Companies with a positive and active culture are also high priorities for me because a supportive and trusting environment is one that I really thrive in.” 

The jury is still out on whether Gen Z prefers virtual or in-person recruitment, so hybrid models are the key to success

Another topic that surfaced many times during the panel was the best way to reach Gen Z students when recruiting, such as whether they prefer virtual or in-person events. While some panelists said they value being able to form connections with recruiters online, others said they prefer to hear about new companies and roles in person. Kasun, for example, said that he thinks that companies will find success reaching out to college students through personalized, targeted emails, (in addition to other efforts such as forming connections with campus clubs.) But it has to feel genuine.

If companies are sending out emails, even just attaching a name or a semi-personal message regarding their major or a year makes candidates feel more inclined to apply for potential internship,” he explained.

Lauren, however, emphasized that meeting recruiters face-to-face at in-person events is extremely important as we move away from a fully virtual world. 

“There’s something different about interacting face-to-face that you can really tell who a person is,” she said. “You can see body language. You can interact on a more personal level than through anything that’s virtual. It would make me feel like I’m not just one of thousands of applicants applying for a job.”

Chanel agreed, adding that with in-person events, “you can sense the other person’s energy. You know how they feel based on their gestures, the way they talk, [and] their tone. Their body language says it all.” She also added that in addition to meeting in-person, LinkedIn is a great way to reach out to Gen Z students about open opportunities.

So what does the future of work look like? According to our panelists, it should consist of transparent and personalized interactions from recruitment to employment. That includes a culture that fosters open communication in the workplace, supportive work environments and growth opportunities, and genuine efforts to make the workforce a more inclusive place. In other words, Gen Z desires workplaces that are fair, communicative, and balanced. And if you want to successfully recruit the next generation of workers, you’ll want to keep these things in mind. 

To learn more, you can view the recording of the panel here.


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