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Leadership

Communicating In-Person At Work Isn't Dead Yet, Says Gen Z

Generation Z and millennial employees love technology in the workplace, but the digital natives still crave human interaction at work.

[Photo: monkeybusinessimages/iStock]

Though they were born and raised with cell phones, internet connectivity, and social media, both millennial and generation Z employees crave in-person communication in the workplace.

A recent survey conducted by Future Workplace and Randstad revealed that while the digital natives of the workplace have drastically different values than previous generations, 39% prefer in person communication over digital alternatives, such as email, social networking, and video conferencing.

The study of more than 4,000 full-time gen Z (22 years old or younger) and millennial (23- to 34-year-olds) employees in 10 countries including the U.S., U.K., and Canada also found that 41% of gen Z and 42% of millennial workers prefer working in a corporate office, as opposed to a coworking space, or working from home. Their preference could indicate an eventual shift away from remote work that more employees are doing than ever before.

While the need for in-person communication hasn’t changed much from their parents’ generation, little else remains consistent with traditional workplace values. For example, 19% of respondents chose work flexibility as their most preferred employee benefit, surpassing health care coverage and training and development.

Previous studies have also found that 50% of millennials would take a pay cut to find work that matches their values, and 90% want to use their skills for good.

"Despite the introduction and proliferation of new technologies at work, millennials and gen Z value the in-person communication that comes with a traditional corporate office, much like older generations do," wrote Dan Schawbel, the research director at Future Workplace, in a statement. "At the same time, they also seek flexible hours and telecommuting that two-thirds of companies still fail to offer," Schawbel stated.

More Tech In The Workplace

Though younger employees still crave in-person communication, they also want their employers to incorporate technology into the workplace. Among survey respondents, 20% wanted to use robotics, 26% wanted virtual reality, and 27% wanted their employers to incorporate wearable technologies. Above all other technologies, 41% of millennial and generation Z employees wanted to use social media at work, though 46% admitted it was their biggest distraction from getting work done.

It should perhaps come as no surprise that technology was the most desirable sector for these two generations to work in, with 45% of respondents ranking it as their top pick.

Employee Loyalty

Younger employees are widely known for much higher turnover rates than their parents. Only 15% of millennials believe they should stick around for more than five years, compared with 41% of boomers.

But in spite of higher turnover rates, the Future Workplace study found that 49% intend to work in their current industry for their entire career, even with multiple employers, compared to 31% who intend to switch fields.

Employers can better retain younger employees by satisfying their need for career diversity without forcing them to switch employers in order to find it. The Future Workplace study found that while 71% of respondents have only worked in one country thus far in their careers, 56% aspire to work in multiple locations.

Managing The Next Generation

Managing this cohort of employees requires different considerations than what was required in generations past. One major requirement is constant feedback, with a majority of respondents receiving feedback regularly compared with only 3% who received performance reviews on an annual basis. Companies are already cluing in to the benefits of continual evaluations, especially those that have ditched the annual performance review.

Furthermore, these employees despise corporate politics, naming it among the biggest obstacles to productivity, alongside stress and money. However, only 27% of respondents believe they are extremely prepared to work in a team environment or rate their personal skills as being "very good." This squares with findings from another Future Workplace study that revealed that hiring managers believed this year's college graduates were lacking soft skills necessary to work well with others, such as critical thinking and problem solving, communication, and writing.

There is one caveat on these, and other findings, that aim to examine generational differences. Social scientists tell us that they merely illuminate how one age group feels at that specific time. As Tomas Chamorro-Premuzik writes in Fast Company: "As a result, we're left with a surfeit of snapshots of how younger people differ from older people, but not of how younger people have changed as a result of time or culture." So stay tuned.

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