The Future of the Workplace: Meeting the Demands of the Next Generation

Every new generation entering the workplace have their own set of values and expectations. But, the emergence of Generation Z will turn the workplace as we know it on its head.

Expect nomadic, hard working individuals that never switch off, care about culture, and are determined to make a difference.

What makes Gen Z different?

Although we’re all accustomed to the digital world, Gen Z are the first fully digital generation. They haven’t known life without the internet, and many identify with being ‘constantly connected’ on multiple devices.

It’s said that Millennials have an average attention span of 12 seconds. Gen Z are averaging only 8. When you consider this split across as many as 5 screens at once, you start to understand why the workplace will need to adapt.

Gen Z combine a focus on workplace culture with a much stronger interest in financial solvency and stability than Millennials. They want to make money, and they’re willing to work for it. Many are of the mindset that they’ll need to work harder than previous generations to get what they want.

Getting Gen Z’s attention – and keeping it.

In the private sector, this could mean a ruthless headhunting strategy designed to hook emerging talent. It could also mean offering significant monetary incentives to secure the best and brightest. For the public sector, it’s always going to be a challenge to compete with private sector salaries, bonuses and perks.

But, much like the Millennials, Gen Z are very cause-orientated, which gives the public sector an advantage – the opportunity to genuinely improve the lives of citizens. This could be an attractive offer to a new generation of ethically-motivated, politically-astute workers. Combine this with the established graduate programmes and various fast tracking opportunities, and the competition is on.

Rethinking the workplace.

We’ve already seen this approach succeed with digitally-focused departments like GDS, and digital projects across the public sector in general. Young, bright ‘outsiders’ are already enthusiastically signing up to become civil servants, with a clear mission to help make life better for citizens. You just need to keep them coming … and staying.

The ‘gig economy’ and the culture of being ‘always on’ means Gen Z don’t see career paths in the same way as previous generations. They’re more entrepreneurial and see work more vocationally. They prefer objective-led approaches and knowledge-intensive roles.

Taking a project-based approach and being willing to apply a contractor mindset even to full-time employees will help to entice Gen Z to join your workforce. The public sector is no stranger to the world of contractors. Even though IR35 may have rattled a few cages, there’s still a lot to be said for embracing the objectives-led, flexible ways of working.

What this means for the workplace.

Despite being a screen-obsessed generation with a short attention span, you can actually expect Gen Z to be more focused on getting the job done – as long as you clear the path and set defined objectives.

Gen Z aren’t interested in getting bogged down in the mundane admin tasks the older generations are more familiar with. It’s vital you find ways to automate these if you want to keep your nomadic Gen Z employees happy. Automation should support, not replace, these expertise-focused individuals. This will leave them free to hone their skills through continuous learning.

Culture matters.

Gen Z understand the limitations of technology more than any previous generation. They value soft skills. They prefer flat hierarchy structures. They favour flexibility over rigid working hours (or locations).

Taking an objectives-led approach, embracing multitasking and making their working environment more like their tech environment will help Gen Z feel at home in the workplace. If you’re thinking of ways to be more ‘swipe and tap’ than ‘9 to 5’, you’re on the right track.

With half of Gen Z made up of minority groups, genuine workplace diversity is no longer ‘optional’. Gen Z value knowledge-intensive roles and interpersonal working relationships over more traditional ‘career paths’. So, neglecting workplace culture means you’re likely to lose emerging and established talent – and fast.

Getting ahead of the game.

Understanding the ‘always on’ mindset is a great place to start if you want to consider how the next generation of workers will view your workplace. Their entrepreneurial, vocational spirit means you’ll need to work harder to keep them, but you’ll get so much out of them if you do.

Objectives-led, flexible approaches will help you attract talent. Committing to continuous learning will keep your teams engaged and motivated. You must commit to using tech intelligently to support, not replace, your workforce. Do this, and you’ll be in a strong position to welcome Gen Z to your workplace.

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Post by Carrie Kleiner

Carrie Kleiner was instrumental in taking GOV.UK's blogging platform from its infancy through to being the most established government blogging platform in the world; home to over 100 blogs and thousands of contributors. Carrie wrote Government Digital Service's first editorial strategy and went on to become the Head of Content and Editor-in-Chief at UK Parliament - writing their first ever content strategy and editorial direction.

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