Five Gen Z priorities that will shape the future of work
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Five Gen Z priorities that will shape the future of work

Five Gen Z priorities that will shape the future of work

Gen Z remote workers have strong attitudes when it comes to physical and mental health, and they expect employers to appoint leaders that put these issues front and centre

Mark Ackerman, Area Lead – Middle East & Africa, ServiceNow - 1[2] copy

If you are a business leader in the MEA region, you have probably had more than your share of sleepless nights over the past 18 months. You may have stared at the ceiling on these nights contemplating the slew of issues that face your organisation in the post-pandemic era. I am also sure that many, if not most, of these ruminations have concerned your workforce. How do you keep them safe? How do you keep them productive? In fact, how do you keep them at all?

Millennials and Generation Z both grew up in the age of the Internet, but while the bulk of millennials were joining the job market in the late 90s and early 2000s, in relative economic stability, the oldest Gen Zers will clearly remember the great recession of 2008 and have recently lived through a crisis that has threatened their livelihoods continually. This makes for a dismal outlook.

Business leaders must come to understand the Gen Z mindset as they will now make up greater and greater proportions of employees as “future workplaces” are being built. We should turn our thoughts to how they think and what they want if we are going to achieve those most elusive of business goals: talent acquisition and retention.

1. Skilling opportunities

Formal training has always been a part of professional development, but in the digital age, digital natives yearn to be in control of their own path, upskilling and reskilling as they see fit. Giving Gen Z employees the option to construct their own career path will be a vital component of the work-life cycle, from recruitment, to onboarding, to offboarding.

In addition, companies that face skills gaps would be well-advised to offer positions to applicants without traditional university degrees and offer them ongoing learning opportunities throughout their journey with the company.

2. Flexible work

Gen Zers that were part of the 2020 workforce probably experienced some form of flexible scheduling. These norms have taken root and cannot be easily reversed. For companies looking to create attractive work environments, remote-working and the option to manage one’s own time are part of the expectations of the staff body.

Finding a balance between autonomy and compassionate monitoring of issues such as stress levels is critical. A global study from last year by Deloitte showed nearly half (48 per cent) of Gen Z workers to be “stressed all or most of the time”. Companies must ensure that work-from-home practices have the desired effect for the employee and the company.

Their digital-native nature may render them agile enough to adapt to remote work quickly, but some Gen Zers also crave the human interaction they can only get in an office environment. This desire may be as much about the fear of being overlooked — and therefore not considered for career advancement — as it is about social isolation.

3. A different kind of leader

Gen Z remote workers have some strong attitudes when it comes to physical and mental health, and they expect employers to appoint leaders that put these issues front and center.

A recent Pwc study on GCC-based Gen Zer’s attitudes to leadership highlighted some of these concerns. The Arab Gulf is one regional territory that is becoming increasingly dominated by millennials and Gen Z. These younger Gulf residents and natives now see workplace leadership as distinct from job title and more a function of action. They also prioritise good leadership over remuneration and in Pwc’s study, young Gulf professionals cited a series of attributes from relatability to boldness that defined an effective leader, with “selfless and nurturing” coming top.

Integration of these principles into company policy and leadership training will be vital if companies are going to build the ideal modern workplace. In short, regional enterprises are going to have to implement “empathy at scale”.

4. Diversity, inclusion, and belonging

Regional Gen Z is more focused than ever on equity and fairness. And they are also aware that conversations around diversity, inclusion and belonging (DIB) have ventured beyond the political and moral arguments to those of economics. Now that companies around the world have DIB programs in full swing, we can see the positive results of parity, with more DIB-mature organisations outperforming others.

For example, in the Middle East and North Africa, many legal and cultural obstacles persist for women who want to participate in the workforce. Pwc last year estimated that these barriers could be dampening regional GDP to the tune of $575bn each year. It is little wonder that two thirds of MENA women favor government intervention in such matters.

5. Consumerisation of the workplace

Tech-savvy workers require a digital relationship with their employer that governs all kinds of workflows, from requisition requests to the booking of leave. Onboarding, training, offboarding, research — everything an employee does must fall under the digital umbrella.

These consumer-like employee experiences are gathering steam and EX has become as vital to post-pandemic customers as CX.

Perhaps that is the neatest summation of the Gen Z worker’s mindset. If you want to acquire me, if you want to retain me, if you want me to be the best I can be, then treat me with the same regard as you would a customer. Just something to think about on those sleepless nights.

Mark Ackerman is the area VP, Middle East and Africa, at ServiceNow

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