Graduates of the Pandemic: What Does Gen Z Want in the Workplace?

Before the spring of 2020, most Gen Z students had their lives planned out – finish college, get an internship, travel, and get a job. 

While this was a reality for most members of Gen X and Millennials – Gen Z’s plans were disrupted by the pandemic. Recent graduates are now left scrambling to find work experience in a new, remote-first environment.

In TeamBonding’s latest podcast, we spoke to millennial money expert Robert Farrington about the impact of the pandemic on the Gen Z work experience.

Farrington kicks off the podcast by saying, “Virtual internship, what is that? Gen Z is frustrated. They’re not learning the job. They’re not getting the experiences that they’re looking for.”

In this article, we’ll help employers understand what Gen Zers want in the workplace and what you can do to support their career development goals in this new working environment.

Understanding Graduates of the Pandemic

Gen Z is graduating to a world recovering from the pandemic. They’ve participated in protests, dealt with mental health issues, and watched their peers walk off the job without a second thought

A general shift in overall values has heavily impacted the question of what Gen Z wants in a workplace. With the hustle culture waning, this generation is not keen on the idea of all-consuming careers.

However, boycotting workaholism doesn’t mean young professionals are looking for jobs where they can slack off. They want to work hard, but they’re also looking for organizations that will support their efforts to achieve work-life balance, maintain their mental health, and advocate for social justice.

Challenges of Gen Z in the Workplace

Recent graduates are facing an economic downturn, with jobs disappearing and unemployment hitting unprecedented levels. They’re also entering a workforce that’s primarily operating remotely, without systems that enable fully functional work-from-home models across all industries.

Fresh to the working-class world, Gen Zers usually lack soft skills. Even the most basic onboarding process can be challenging. Virtual internships often don’t provide as much access to networking opportunities with other professionals in the field.

On the other hand, businesses and technologies are expanding and can be easily accessed by recent graduates. As a result, many have changed their calling from their desired career path to paths where employment is almost guaranteed. 

After all, not everyone can patiently wait for their dream job opportunity to come around with mounting student debts creeping up.

The difficulty of finding a good job immediately after graduation isn’t new with this generation, but it could have long-term consequences when it comes to both students’ careers and their financial futures. 

If anything, all these piling struggles are actively shaping what Gen Z wants in the workplace – or better yet, what they don’t want.

How to Motivate Gen Z in the Workplace

By 2025, it’s expected that Gen Z will make up roughly 27% of the workforce. For most managers, this means that adapting the workplace to Gen Z workers’ wants and needs is no longer optional.  

Many members of Gen Z will be coming into the job market with little to no work experience. These new recruits represent a costly investment, and companies want to ensure they receive a return on that investment.

Farrington points out that Gen Zers are not getting the necessary experience. 

“They’re not learning the job. They’re not building connections, mentorship, networking — things you get from the natural work environment. Inevitably, they’re going to start searching for other employment.”

If you’re trying to figure out what Gen Z wants in the workplace, you may be able to improve your odds of success by shaping workplace culture in ways that address the negative impact of the pandemic on recent college grads.

1. Meaningful Work

Many young workers are just happy having a job to pay their bills. But Gen Z needs more motivation than just money to stay on a job long-term. 

They have to feel like what they’re doing matters, and that their work has an impact on people’s lives. Your Gen Z employees should understand how their role contributes to the team’s mission and values as an organization.

Consider providing your Gen Z employees with opportunities to volunteer and help those in need. TeamBonding’s The Charity Bike Build is a great way to help your team positively impact the world. Gen Z are highly attuned to which companies contribute to positive change, and a team building activity like this shows you are on the same page.

2. Growth and Development

Young workers want opportunities for growth and advancement in their new jobs. They don’t want to be stuck in the same role for years on end, doing the same thing day after day. What motivates Gen Z employees is seeing opportunities for professional development.

According to one study, more than 50% of Gen Z employees plan to leave their current employer in less than three years. 

Addressing this issue involves creating developmental experiences for young workers so they can see themselves moving up within your organization.

TeamBonding’s Catapult to Success team activity is great for a networking event because it gives your team the chance to see each member’s strengths and weaknesses when working on a common goal.

Corporate Survivor is another great option that helps build soft skills, which may be missing in a typical virtual work environment. Experiencing the benefits of team building through play can give you an abstract glimpse of what Gen Z wants in the workplace.

3. Recognizing Hard Work

Gen Z is typically highly motivated by recognition. As digital and social media natives, they are used to receiving feedback from their peers. If you want to motivate this younger generation, you need to be ready to recognize their efforts and provide guidance. If their work is not recognized at your company, they will seek recognition elsewhere.

Shake up the status quo with TeamBonding’s Big Inc. Challenge. The goal of this activity is to get your team members to become “incorporated” with one another. Inspired by Big Brother, this virtual challenge motivates your team to get to know each other better and work together in hopes of earning the title of Head of HR. 

If your team is all about friendly competition, our new Squad Game team building event is a fantastic option. Based on the Netflix series Squid Game, this interactive event aims to facilitate teamwork, improve communication, and help you discover leadership potential in your team. No room for individualism in our Squad Game, though!

Do You Know What Drives Your Gen Zers?

If your company only thrives on long hours and weekend shifts, you’ll be missing out on a huge talent pool of ambitious workers who are coming onto the market. 

Gen Z is prepared to work hard for their penny. At the same time, they aren’t buying into the narrative of giving up every other aspect of their lives to pursue a promotion or raise.

What Gen Z needs in the workplace is quite simple: growth opportunities, a sense of their impact, and feedback.

To learn more about what drives Gen Zers and what they care about in the workplace, be sure to listen to the full Team Building Saves the World podcast with Robert Farrington. You can also explore other TeamBonding activities that can help you keep your Gen Zers engaged and happy.

Anna Webber

Team Contributor

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