How Generation Z will Change the Workplace

By: Jim Jenkins
Mar 24, 2017 12:15 PM ET

Members of Generation Z, the youngest generational cohort, are beginning to enter the workforce. Raised in the era of constant communication and instant gratification, these individuals pave the way for a restructuring of our current workforce. As thought leaders, our job not only calls upon us to monitor workplace trends, but to recognize who influences these changes and the challenges and opportunities they present in the workplace.

Born between the years 1994 and 2010, members of Gen Z are the most technologically advanced generation. Unlike their predecessors, these individuals didn’t learn social media through experimentation or trial and error; they grew up using these platforms and understand that the choices they make on social media shape their personal brand – a concept foreign to Generation X and Baby Boomers who’ve taken to social media much later in life. Knowing that their personal brand is derived from their presence on social media — and that it holds the potential to jumpstart or sideline their careers, these individuals are more likely to use platforms such as Snapchat where the content they post isn’t permanent.

Perhaps one of the most socially and politically progressive generations, members of Generation Z see many recent American milestones as nothing out of the ordinary. This was best said by the New York Times: “For today’s 14-year-olds, the nation’s first African-American president is less a historic breakthrough than a fact of life.” Generation Z’s combination of progressiveness, pragmatism and willingness to protect their virtual image makes them a unique and unpredictable generations for marketers studying generational differences.

Of the oldest Generation Zers, who’ve entered the workplace, 84 percent aspire to be leaders. Their drive to succeed in the workplace is evident in their desire for feedback after each work-related assignment and close relationships with mentors and bosses. Another workplace attribute ranked highly among Gen Zers is flexibility. In a society driven by virtual communications these individuals don’t believe that the traditional office structure – i.e. 9-5 in the office – suits their needs. In fact, they feel so strongly about workplace flexibility that it ranked 5 percent higher than receiving healthcare coverage in a survey describing the most important attributes of a job. These results are directly related to Generation Z’s preference to have an excellent work experience above all else – even salary.

Generation Z will bring a heightened sense of drive into the office, which will make mentorship even more important. . Our goal should be to foster relationships with these young working professionals to ensure a fulfilling workplace experience for them. It’s retaining these employees and helping them to grow as professionals that’ll keep them climbing to the top of our corporate ladders.

Share in the comments section some ways you think business leaders can modify the work culture to strengthen the next generation of professionals.

Jim Jenkins is CEO of Universities East for Sodexo North America where he oversees more than 400 college and university partnerships. With $9.3 billion in annual revenues in the U.S. and Canada, Sodexo’s 133,000 employees provide more than 100 unique services that increase performance at 9,000 client sites and improve Quality of Life for 15 million consumers every day.