What Your Gen Z Employees Expect of You

What were once workplace perks, like flexibility and mental health days, are now bare requirements. Why does Gen Z feel they warrant such asks? They’re eager to learn, actively seek out challenges, and have higher expectations than any generation before them. In short: they’re the boldest generation yet. If we, as leaders, can understand and harness this tech-native generation, our organizations can do more, better, and faster.

Here’s what Gen Z is looking for in their current and future employers:

1. Flexibility

We can thank the cloud for this. Now that it’s possible for everyone to work from anywhere at any time, Gen Z desires permanent flexible work options. For many of them, remote and hybrid work aids their productivity by eliminating workplace distractions. They also value their personal life as much as their professional life. Flexibility in their schedule means they don’t have to compromise on their freedom and will likely stay more engaged within your organization.

2. Mental health support

The oldest of Gen Z have seen a recession, politics at its worst, a global pandemic, a war, and have a recession in their future. Can you blame them for feeling stressed? In general, Gen Z’s parents were much more straightforward and truthful with their children than Millennials’ parents were with them. While this has made them competitive and driven, they’ve also been acutely aware of micro and macro issues for a long time. They desire a workplace that they deem healthy, and the resources and support to back that up. Empathetic leadership and a culture of wellbeing goes far with this group, along with policies and programs that offer mental health support.

3. Real diversity and inclusion

Gen Z has participated in more social causes than anyone before them. They have high standards when it comes to diversity and equality, demanding tangible action to design inclusive environments for all forms of identity. It’s not enough to say it in a meeting or a memo — they want to know how your policies facilitate real, authentic commitment to their values.

4. Access to tech

There are some very important dots to connect when it comes to technology and Gen Z’s productivity. Brought up in an environment that offered them constant contact with the latest and greatest from Silicon Valley, this generation thrives when paired with the latest tools and tech. Forcing them to operate using traditional methods over automation, for example, will hinder their work flow. See them as your in-house consultant on how you can implement new technologies in your organization in a way that enhances everyone’s performance. It’s their sandbox, after all.

Why we work “above the line”

This manifests in our business as behaviors that indicate openness, security in each team member’s place in our organization, and taking accountability and responsibility. When we operate above the line, we see everything through the lens of a creator — as having the ability to impact and learn from our environment. This keeps us open, curious, and committed to learning.

Whenever we begin to explore a potential new partnership, we express that our entire team operates above the line.

  • We are open to new ideas and ways of doing things.
  • We let go of any need to be right.
  • We take responsibility, and forgo blaming or criticizing.
  • We abandon any notion of scarcity and believe in abundance, regardless of how competitive an industry is.
  • We are honest in our dialogue and seek solutions first.
  • We believe in continuous learning and education.

If everyone is aligned, we know that the partnership will be a highly productive, long term venture; where we and the client both win.

Curious about Above the Line Leadership? You can learn more here.

Conquering your organization’s lack of innovation

1. Teach your employees to see themselves as innovators

Chances probably are, your next handful of innovative ideas are already within your four walls. However, if you don’t have a system in place to properly foster innovation, ideas that come down the pipeline might seem half-baked or straight-up batty. This might require you to revisit your organization’s competencies and assets (you don’t sell a product, you sell a solution), remind your team that customers are people (not numbers), and encourage a culture that challenges invisible industry “rules.” Disruption frequently metamorphosizes into innovation.

2. Invite retroactive process feedback

Sometimes the most powerful innovations are just small tweaks to current systems and procedures. A regular retroactive process feedback meeting is a way to keep your team feeling involved, heard, and trusted in bringing new ideas forward. Collectively, your team is a knowledge and experience powerhouse — so use it!

3. Make learning the new normal

Innovation comes from employees who are constantly learning. A great way to inspire learning is for employees to take turns sharing a piece of industry news at weekly meetings (we do this!). It gives your team the leeway to learn on the job, the space to reflect on their own, and finally, ownership of the collaborative dynamics that come from bringing something new to the table.

4. Start with you

At the very least, innovation is overwhelming. That’s why it’s imperative to start small with simpler initiatives before moving on. This not only helps you build inclusion, trust, and openness with your team, but also gives you a chance to get your feet wet first. Think about how you may need to change personally to create an open, participatory culture that unleashes innovation.
You may have to shift your identity from “powerful leader” to “leader that innovates through shared power,” and that’s ok!