How HR can play a leading role with Gen Z

Yvonne Teo, Vice-President, HR, Asia-Pacific, ADP, discusses how HR can lead a new generation of Gen Z employees in the workplace.
By: | July 6, 2022

Generation Z is the newest entrant to the workforce across the world – bringing with them a new perspective and their own set of preferences in building their careers.

Considering that most Gen Zs joined the workforce during the pandemic – juggling job insecurities, COVID concerns and societal disruptions – they are handling the transition with relative aplomb. ADP’s People at Work 2022 survey showed that 8 in 10 Gen Zs (86%) are satisfied at their current workplace, and they are also the most optimistic about their long-term career prospects (82%).

Gen Zs are assertive, adaptable, and more personally committed to social causes compared to other age groups. On the technology front, these digital natives are the first of our generations to only know life with the internet and social media. Perhaps this is the reason why they adapted to remote working with relative ease – they are already comfortable with the bulk of communication taking place over screens.

It is time to consider Gen Z as the workforce to reckon with in the coming years ahead. How should HR companies engage with this new generation?

Know the Gen Z script

This generation is seeking work and workplaces that are purpose driven and align to their values. Gen Zs are highly creative, confident, and want to make a difference through their work. The Gen Z employee is the most likely to look for inclusive companies that make a social and ethical impact on the communities they are located in. To get the most out of this demographic, workplaces will need to have a strong overarching purpose that is both consistent and authentic.

Gen Z seeks collaborative and truly flexible workplaces where expectations on both ends of the stick are clear. They expect the employer/employee dynamic to be a mutually beneficial relationship that centres on connection.

Playing a leading role

HR leaders have the opportunity to make a real difference for this generation of workers, while working towards achieving organisational goals. ADP has found that providing development programmes, embracing new technology and a flexible, diverse, and inclusive work culture resonate with Gen Z employees.

1. Collaborative learning

Gen Z share similarities with other generations when it comes to career and workplace priorities, like learning, development, and the need for clear career progression frameworks.

However, hierarchical structures are not favoured by Gen Zs – most prefer an open, collaborative culture. It is important to create an environment that encourages cross-generational collaboration, creating opportunities for different generations to come together and work on different projects, allowing them to understand and respect one another. HR leaders can also consider training programmes where ‘boomers’ can be mentors to Generation Z and vice-versa.

2.  Embrace mobile platforms for HR systems

Gen Z is truly the first mobile-only generation. In June 2021, LinkedIn released a paper that stated 98% of its Generation Z members own a smartphone and 55% use their smartphone five or more hours a day, while 26% use their smartphone for over 10 hours a day.

Whether it is having HR and payroll systems that are optimised for mobile use or communicating with this generation through text or chat apps, embracing mobile technology is essential in reaching out to this generation.

3.  Fostering flexible work culture

Gone are the days of the 9-to-6 working model. Workers in this generation want to be able to work where and how they work best. Gen Zs are the first generation to know hybrid working as the norm, instead of seeing it as a disrupter to long-established working structures. Being able to balance time in the office for collaboration, and time in other environments that foster their creative skills, will allow them to create the best outputs.

4.  Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) must go beyond words

While there has been an increased focus on the importance of diversity, equity, and inclusion (DE&I) in workplaces across other generations, it is becoming increasingly non-negotiable for this age group.

Gen Zs are passionate about effecting change. They are vocal and active in the pursuit to create a better world for all. This quest is embedded in all aspects of their lives, including the workplace. A Feb 2022 report by PR Week showed that younger employees in creative industries are concerned about working for fossil fuel clients, with 67% believing that agencies should take a stronger stand.

For employers, it is important to understand that these younger generations demand action and will not settle for empty promises. This needs to be seen from the top – employees want to see how the leadership team is transforming words into authentic action, that the DEI strategy is representative of the current workforce and the communities you do business with, and that it is visible within and outside of your doors.

In fact, ADP encourages all employees to join the company’s various Business Resource Groups, voluntary employee-led groups for staff to come together to promote and work on projects that foster a diverse and inclusive workplace.

5.  Mean it with mental wellbeing

While it is true that Gen Zs reported elevated stress levels compared to other age groups, they have a greater awareness of mental wellness and do not regard mental distress with the same stigma that other generations attach to it.

Gen Zs place an important emphasis on work-life balance. Benefits such as paid days off, mental health days and activities that drive connection to community will be vitally important to Generation Z.

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While the mental health of ADP employees has always been a priority, it has been an area of great importance as we navigate our way through the impacts of the pandemic. We have a system, known as “Stand-Out” that makes managers’ weekly check-ins with their employees much easier. It helps to ensure that all required help and support are being provided on time. Global programmes including an Employee Assistance Programme and ADP’s “It’s Okay” programme also serve to support employees and foster a sense of belonging and solidarity worldwide.

Creating meaning

What we do know is that Gen Z employees want to feel part of a community that goes beyond company profits. One of the ways this can be done is by implementing sub-communities within the broader company community that aligns with differing values and motivations. A great way to do this is through volunteer programmes, social groups and clearly defined working groups that target specific and impacts, such as sustainability.

Such programmes allow Gen Z to be part of something larger than the traditional working grind while improving their networks. This platform enables them to advance their purpose and beliefs, something we know is essential for this generation.