What the Digital Generation Wants at Work

What the Digital Generation Wants at Work

What the Digital Generation Wants at WorkGen Zers, who are also known as zoomers, comprise about 70 million Americans born between the mid-to-late 1990s and early 2010s. As they continue to mature, they will increasingly shape workplace culture and dynamics. Thus, employers must adapt and understand their hopes, fears, values and distinctive aspirations.

What makes a zoomer?

A primary defining characteristic is that the Gen Z cohort has never known anything other than a technology-driven environment. They can barely imagine the era before the diffusion of today’s digital devices, whether writing a letter by hand, flipping through an ink-smeared newspaper, reading a map or keeping a leatherbound address book.

Their young experiences have shaped their outlooks. With older zoomers having lived through challenges like the Great Recession of 2008 and, of course, COVID-19, they tend to be driven by their career goals and a desire for financial security. While they share many of the same workplace values as millennials, such as an urge to find meaning and a wish to contribute, Gen Zers appear more ready to implement them.

As avid competitive gamers, they respond to gamification exercises. Being highly educated and culturally diverse, they are open to independent research. Outside work, they are on the lookout for extracurricular meaning derived from art, yoga or vocational groups. Messaging is a natural medium for this entrepreneurial and communicative crowd, who prefer transparency and clarity. For zoomers, quick feedback is expected — even if it’s only an emoji.

What are Gen Zers’ priorities at work?

Zoomers seek a decent work-life balance with an employer whose values align with their own, such as social and environmental responsibility. They are looking for a reasonable amount of time off, often in addition to a work-from-home or hybrid policy. Notwithstanding their concern with social movements, their foremost expectation is improved pay, according to a CareerBuilder website. Many are now facing the pressures of inflation. Compare that practicality to the aspirations of millennials, who cited career progression and personal development as their top goals in a 2011 PwC survey.

Be warned: If they become dissatisfied, Gen Zers show little hesitation about quitting. A Bankrate study observed in 2021 that 77% of employed zoomers were looking for new jobs! Along with competitive compensation, physical and mental health care play a significant role. Employers can meet these demands with mental health programs, which may include stress management, resilience, mindfulness and meditation sessions. Health benefits or separate stipends can be structured to cover therapy or similar treatments.

Zoomers wish lists also cover:

  • Expanded family leave.
  • Child care subsidies.
  • Elder care support.

Although they may be demanding, they still enjoy office work (albeit preferably on hybrid schedules). For instance, Gen Zers’ TikTok videos depict in-person work as glamorous, highlighted by cool clothes, fun interior workspace decor and tempting complimentary food. For young professionals, their office is a social hub and place to connect.

The personal touch

Ironically, these digital natives crave face-to-face proximity and personal interactions. On the one hand, they view their mobile devices as self-extensions and feel lost without them. On the other hand, they value steady in-person communication and care about offline relationships.

Managers and human resources departments can accommodate this yearning for human connectivity. Start with onboarding as an opportunity to demonstrate your support. Don’t use it just to transmit information but rather as a forum to encourage questions in a safe setting. It should be a community-building exercise where new hires can become comfortable and friendly with each other. As they develop into full-fledged team members, they can benefit from mentorship, sponsorship and peer coaching to maintain their networks.

Everything old is new again. Zoomers, who are inclined to be cautious and practical, are growing up in some ways to be more like their grandparents than millennials are.