Employee engagement: bridging the gap between generation Z and parents in the workplace

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With a new generation entering the workforce and more experienced employees becoming parents, the needs and interests of today’s employees are diverse. In order to attract and retain the best staff, organisations need to ensure their culture accommodates everyone’s interests and priorities. 

The US workforce is on the cusp of a significant transformation, as generation Z, the 61 million Americans born after the mid-1990s, enters the workforce.

They’ll be joining a labour market that looks far different from the one their parents and grandparents joined.

Technological innovation has disrupted entire industries, fundamentally changing the nature of work, and the demographics of those working in the new economy represent a marked departure from earlier generations.

The Pew Research Center found that in 46% of households, both parents work full-time, compared to only 31% in 1970.

For employers, this presents no shortage of challenges. Companies will inevitably face tensions in meeting the various, and at times conflicting, needs of their diverse employees.

From parents’ need for family-friendly working hours to young workers’ expectations of dynamic corporate cultures, how can companies bridge the diverse demands of both gen Z and working parents?

To build accommodating corporate cultures that both serve the wide-ranging needs of employees and maintain cohesion, workplace flexibility must be paramount.

Company policies that support flexibility will boost employee morale and satisfaction, help attract and retain talent, and serve the bottom line. So, what should flexibility look like?

Understanding diverse workforce needs

Building a flexible and effective corporate culture begins with understanding the unique traits and expectations of different employee cohorts.

Different as their needs and lifestyles may be, employees across generations appreciate the value of workplace flexibility.

Even more than the millennials who preceded them, gen Z employees are highly tech-savvy. As digital natives, they’ve never known a world without the internet, and 98% own smartphones.

Multitasking comes naturally to them. Those born in the late 90s and early 2000s are accustomed to an on-demand lifestyle in which everything is available at their fingertips and they can work independently, from anywhere.

A Canvas Blue study reveals that salary, work hours, and opportunity for personal happiness rank as gen Z’s top three priorities for a job.

Since they’ve come of age in an ‘always-on’ culture, they’re not convinced they need to remain tethered to their office desks from nine to five. Only 40% believe that they must work those hours to get ahead.

Notably, a slight majority (53 percent%) indicated that they would rather freelance than work in a full-time office job if they could earn the same salary.

A desire for flexibility

Working parents, meanwhile, have their own reasons to prize flexibility. Juggling careers, childcare, sports practices, household chores, and more, most feel that they’re struggling to balance their many roles and responsibilities.

For working mothers especially, this dynamic can take a toll on their careers. Four in ten working mothers say that balancing work and parenting has hindered their career advancement, while only two in ten fathers said the same.

Different as their needs and lifestyles may be, employees across generations appreciate the value of workplace flexibility.

An EY survey of 9,700 full-time workers in eight major economies found that flexibility ranked behind only competitive pay and benefits in what employees value in a job.

What’s more, a lack of flexibility ranks as a leading reason employees quit jobs, with half saying they’d leave their company if offered a job with more flexibility.

Listening to your employees, gauging their needs, and providing flexibility conveys respect and trust, which in turn fosters loyalty to the company.

A similar survey conducted by Mobfox, in which employees were asked to indicate the three workplace parameters they most highly valued, found that work-life balance was their top concern.

While sharing a common a desire for more flexible workplaces, flexibility will not always mean the same thing to gen Z and working parents.

Gen Z generally prefers to arrive at the office later in the morning and to leave later in the evening. To accommodate their own lifestyles, working parents often prefer the opposite.

The key to satisfying these and other seemingly competing needs: structured flexibility.

Incorporating structured flexibility

There are a plethora of policies to promote workplace flexibility that accommodates both gen Z and working parents: unlimited vacation, telecommuting, flexible work hours, and so on.

Understandably, many employers wonder whether implementing such policies might work to the detriment of organisational performance -- particularly given the sometimes competing desires of different employee cohorts.

Structured flexibility can meet the needs of employer and employee alike, however. Listening to your employees, gauging their needs, and providing flexibility conveys respect and trust, which in turn fosters loyalty to the company.

Studies have shown that flexibility reduces absenteeism and turnover, significantly boosts employee engagement, and helps recruitment and retention.

Those who work in flexible offices are more satisfied, less stressed out, and less prone to burnout. Unsurprisingly, happy and engaged employees are better for corporate performance than dissatisfied and disinterested ones.

Of course, employers must set parameters that ensure flexibility policies aren’t abused - limiting the number of days employees may work from home each month, for instance.

As companies grow and become more diverse, it’s vital for employers to weight options and to provide both gen Z and working parent employees with the flexibility they require, in a manner that makes the most sense for each company.

When they do, the company will benefit just as much as employees. It’s a win-win situation.

Interested in learning more on this topic? Read Managing the wellbeing needs of a multigenerational workforce.

About Sheya Hertz

Sheya Hertz

Sheya Hertz is the VP Human Resources at Mobfox, a Matomy company.

 

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