New research has found that, despite the tech revolution, many young workers crave in-person collaboration.
The study, from Future Workplace and Randstad US, found that globally, Millennial and Gen Z workers want to work in corporate offices, and much prefer face-to-face communication than digital messaging.
“It goes against what people think. The whole study in many ways goes against what the public thinks of these generations. The public thinks that all they do is stay at home using an iPad, while texting on their phone, while watching TV. That's the stereotype but it's really not true,” Dan Schawbel, Research Director at Future Workplace, says. “These generations have a lot in common with other ones, and it all comes back to the fact that we're all human beings. Humans want in-person communication over technology, that will not change.
“In 50 years you can have VR, you can have AR, you can have all sorts of wearables, Google Glass 2.0, and they will still want in person communication. That's across every generation and I believe for Gen Alpha, the oldest of which are about five years old now, they are going to want in person communication as well. I don't think that's ever going to change.”
Jim Link, Chief Human Resources Officer at Randstad US, adds: “I think most of us who are of a certain age have a belief that these folks do almost everything digitally, including having very important conversations. But their preference is strongly toward face-to-face communication in those circumstances. And I think that says a lot about the generation, that they're able to segregate and separate and be timely and efficient and use technology when it makes sense but also are reserving time for important conversations in face to face manner. That was a little bit surprising.”
The research also revealed a strong preference from Gen Z (who are born between 1994 and 2010) toward more regular feedback, and less focus on an annual performance review. “It goes along with everything that we see in this generation. They are very capable of getting any piece of information that they need at any time just by simply going to their devices to get it, they're globally connected, they can be chatting and having conversations and texting with people all over the world and having real-time access to information,” Link says. “So in their mind real-time access to their performance, coaching and development should be on the spot and now, not partitioned into some report at the end of the year where they randomly get assigned some number that may or may not make sense to them.”
So how can companies attract and retain both Millennials and Gen Z workers? “It’s all about corporate culture,” Schawbel says. “That’s the competitive advantage now.”
However, he says, to build that culture it’s necessary to have a corporate office – “you can’t really build a culture if everyone telecommutes”. But it’s not about the corporate office of 50 years ago – it’s about building a workplace that is better for everyone, he says.
Link, on the other hand, thinks that career experiences are key to attracting Gen Z. “The idea of a career ladder is slowly going away. What these folks are after is a real time experience at work that has a begin date and an accomplishment date at the end and then they are off to the next experience. Companies that are able to package their work and the things that they need to get done in that way are going to be very appealing to these individuals,” he says. “This doesn't necessarily mean that Gen Z will move around between roles and companies more though. I think as companies adapt to this desire of individuals to get these experiences they will get better at devising their own internal structures to support that. This Gen Z group actually reports loyalty at a little bit higher percentage than the Millennials.”