Keep Up With the Future of Work by Looking to Your Gen Z Colleagues

The first generation to not know life without widespread internet use, Gen Z has an even bigger technological advantage and influence than millennials.

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This article was written by Lindsay Patton, an Entrepreneur NEXT powered by Assemble expert. Do you want to future-proof your business with on-demand expertise? Entrepreneur NEXT has the expert solutions your business needs to succeed in an evolving market.

We don't give Gen Z the credit they deserve especially since they're the driving force behind the future of work. Yep, that intern or recent grad you've been managing the past few weeks — you know, the one you've complained about at least once a day — will shape how you work five years from now.

We've seen it already with millennials, who are prioritizing work-life balance and pushing for flexible, remote work options. By 2025, illennials will make up 75 percent of the workforce, and we have already seen companies evolve so they can cater to millennial work values and best retain talent. (Think: remote work, flex time, an empathetic environment, goals aligned with personal values, etc.)

Gen Z, born between 1996 and 2010, is just now entering the workforce and is taking cues from their older generational siblings. The first generation to not know life without widespread internet use, Gen Z has an even bigger technological advantage and influence than millennials. With millennials pushing our current work trends, it's only a matter of time before Gen Z evolves how we work.

Here are ways you can look to Gen Z to help forecast the future of work and create the best work environment for this up-and-coming generation.

Observe how they use apps and consume content.

We can all learn something from Gen Z. From using TikTok as a political protest to making money-saving purchases on Wish instead of traditional ecommerce sites, studying Gen Z app use is, in some ways, looking into a tech crystal ball.

One trend we've seen for years is the switch to mobile-based video. Gen Z grew up in the age of YouTube, and the platform is one of the top social media sites for the generation. YouTube provides an efficient way for them to pick up new skills or learn more about a topic.

And as YouTube's popularity has grown, Gen Z has helped push mobile-centric content. More than half (61 percent) think viewing content on a smartphone is just as good as watching through television. That is a big leap from millennials (63 percent), which prefer to view video content on television.

Knowing mobile is a key part of Gen Z's communication and content-consumption styles, look to mobile trends, apps that boost efficiency through mobile and ways to make your own website and processes mobile friendly.

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Encourage collaboration and interaction.

Human interaction is big with Gen Z. Surprisingly, the most technologically literate generation actually prefers face-to-face interaction in the workplace, and sees it as more effective than digital-communication tools.

That doesn't mean they are averse digital-collaboration averse. They utilize tools like Google Docs, Slack, Microsoft Teams and more to increase collaborative efforts. An Indiana University study found that by using collaborative tools, student satisfaction increased and absenteeism dropped by 50 percent.

Gen Z is also the most diverse generation entering the workforce, and that translates to how they prefer their work environments. Out of Gen Z workers, 48 percent are non-caucasian, which helps bring diverse perspectives to the workforce, increasing creativity and innovation. Gen Z values diverse collaboration in a team environment, with 20 percent believing the most important part of a team is diverse cultural perspectives.

Offer room for curiosity.

A very curious generation is entering the workforce. Gen Z is more likely to explore new skills and is hungry for feedback along the way, with 97 percent receptive to regular feedback on their work.To Gen Z, "regular feedback" means a check-in every couple of weeks. For millennials, they prefer feedback at half the rate. When it comes to being managed, 43 percent of Gen Z enjoy a self-directed approach to learning, and 77 percent of them prefer having a millennial manager.

What all this means is companies need to foster environments that give employees space to explore and grow their skills, opportunities to learn from their mistakes, and a team environment that values diverse voices.

Like their millennial predecessors, Gen Z is looking for a healthy work-life balance. Burned-out employees are 63 percent more likely to take sick days and three times more likely to leave their job. With seven in 10 millennials experiencing professional burnout, and Gen Z has been watching and taking measures for their own well being.

Provide them with value professionally and financially.

While Gen Z wants fulfillment in their work, they also want to get paid. Like millennials, Gen Z is concerned about stagnant wages and increasing cost of living expenses like healthcare, housing, student debt and more. The biggest motivators for Gen Z to perform in the workplace are financial incentive and career advancement.

Growing up, this generation witnessed an economic depression that affected either their families or families they know. They heard horror stories of millennials entering full-time jobs and needing a "side hustle" just to earn enough money to pay necessities. In fact, a 2019 Bankrate survey found 49% of adults 35 and younger have a side hustle and one out of three people who take on a side hustle does so to survive.

Seeing the effects of an economic depression played out during childhood, Gen Z is more likely to take financial precautions. For example, 35 percent plan to get a retirement plan in order during their 20s.

In order to solidify financial security, Gen Z takes skill-building and professional development seriously in order to advance in career and salary. Growing up digital, these employees understand how technology's fast-paced nature requires adaptation and skill-building in order to succeed in their careers. Main motivators for Gen Z workers to learn are to improve their job, make money and get promoted - all aligning with the professional and financial value they seek in a career.

With technology evolving at such a fast pace and a new generation of workers entering their careers, one of the best ways to stay on top of the future of work is to observe how Gen Z works. Ask questions, learn their habits and think about how your company can best implement these trends to increase employee retention and stay ahead of the curve.

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