Strategy in 2018: Here Comes GenZ!

By Mary Lee Duff, LEED AP,  IIDA | Senior Director of Strategy

January 18, 2018

How the Next Generation Differs From Their Millennial Counterparts.

Gupta Media in Boston. Photo © Robert Benson Photography.

The discussion over Millennials’ influence in society and the workplace has reached a feverish crescendo over the past several years, which sometimes has seemed overwrought. And yet, at a recent client panel I helped facilitate, the discussion on recruitment and retention focused on the GenZ (aka Generation Z or the iGeneration,) group entering the workforce straight out of college.

GenZ is identified as those born between the years 1995 and 2012. According to Forbes, the GenZ population constitutes approximately 25% of the U.S. population, meaning they outnumber both Millennials and Baby Boomers. They have been described as Millennials on steroids by some, while others see interesting and distinct differences between the two. Our panelists described this newest generation as “early career” staff and say they see a change coming to the workforce.

HPE.. Photo © SG Photography Ltd

GenZ cannot remember a time when the internet wasn’t ubiquitous and have grown up with smart phones as the technological and cultural norm.  Like Millennials, they are tech savvy but are the first to be considered true digital natives.  What has been observed to date is that this new generation coming into the workforce is characterized by a shorter attention span. Another observed trait is that GenZ is differs from their older Millennial counterparts because they possess a stronger work ethic and can multi-task better. This is a generation that doesn’t have the helicopter parenting, have observed their parents managing the Great Recession of 2008, and saw firsthand the need for frugality, hard work, and perseverance.

During the recruitment/retention panel discussion, our participants expressed concern about these early career professionals. Each participant noted that they hire interns and others straight out of school and acknowledge that this class of workers’ expectations and impact affecting their strategies on the delivery of both space and services. “Demographics play a huge role at my company, we’re trending with the majority of our staff being less than 35 years old.”

Early career employees want meaningful work. There is a baseline expectation of amenity space(s).  Amenities are not a perk, they are an expectation.

Client at a recent panel discussion

In recent research on the rising phenomenon of the gig economy and its implications on our workforce and workplace, I’ve observed converging parallels with GenZ. As a group, GenZ is comfortable and nuanced with the customization of practically everything, from apps to their studies. This also extends to how and where they work, contributing to the increased focus on hybridization and customization of the new work experience that typifies the gig economy.

Agility Recovery in Denver. Photo © Frank Ooms.

The ability to work part-time across multiple industries and interests anywhere in the world, while simultaneously pursuing creative outlets, embodies the growing appeal of the gig economy. I am struck by a guarded thought that this desire for flexibility in how and where we work may be the result of diminishing attention spans as well as the appetite to do a variety of things as opposed to focusing on one central path. Gen Z @ Worka recent book from father and son duo David and Jonah Stillman, speaks to this personalization in the workplace. Two years of research and analysis of GenZ’s impact supports many of this budding generation’s perceived attributes, including findings on their competitiveness and willingness to move on when they perceive roadblocks or diminishing opportunities.

Despite the differences in attributes of this generation, ultimately, they are advancing the current push towards the destination workplace. Today’s workplace competes with your home sofa and the local coffee shop. Diverse perks such as nap pods and baristas along with policies including flexible hours and benefits that transcend personal and business life are becoming the norm for the workplace to attract talent. Activity-based planning and hackable spaces will continue to develop and expand in order to enable greater flexibility and choice in how and where we work within a company’s provided footprint. As GenZ continues to occupy the workforce, they will search for a rich array of workplace offerings, meaning, and substantive relevance to their growth and interests.

Mary Lee Duff, LEED AP, IIDA

Senior Director of Strategy

Principal and Senior Director of Strategy, Mary Lee Duff develops high performance work environments and workplace strategies that integrate real estate, technology, process, and people to support and enhance organizational goals and objectives. With over 25 years of experience, she believes deeply in the value of end-user engagement from high-level visioning sessions to focus groups and ideation exercises that bring new concepts and planning to the forefront. Representative clients include SAP, Mercedes Benz, Salesforce, Google, and LinkedIn.

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