Forget Millennials — this is what Gen Z expects from the workplace.
Excerpts from a completely unscientific, unofficial study from the LEGO Workplace Experience team.
A lot has been said about the implications of the entrance of so-called Millennials into the workplace. From The New York Times lamenting how entitled, addicted to social media and downright lazy they can be to Forbes Magazine heralding them for being driven by social impact, personal growth and a strong sense of community. They’ve been accused of being the reason why every tech startup office now features a slide, free food and jelly-bean machines. But also led to places of work that are more purpose driven, open and collaborative, environmentally friendly and flexible, allowing employees to work from home in order to improve work-life-balance or from co-working spaces in order to foster external connections and inspiration.
But with the youngest Millennials now in their mid-twenties, a new generation is starting to join the workplace; the Generation Z, born from the late 1990’s, includes young people who are just coming out of university and getting ready for the world of work.
So, what then, are the expectations of Gen Z? Many articles conflate them with Millennials, but at the LEGO company we wanted to explore whether there might be a more substantial difference between the two generations. Hence we ran a couple of workshops with university students at the Danish School of Media and Journalism in Copenhagen and Aarhus University’s IT Product Development department (thanks again peeps!).
Here’s what we learned from our very unscientific, unofficial study:
Firstly, yes — the physical workspace DOES matter
The physical workspace helps to create an impression of the company, its culture and values, and can influence whether a candidate decides to apply for a job there. Does it feel corporate, fun, youthful, modern? For all the students the workspace mattered more than other perks and benefits, like company phone or car. Especially if it “feels like a place that you want to be, a place that makes you almost want to move in” as one participants said.
Gen Z are social animals
Just like their Millennial predecessors, the Generation Z care deeply about being part of a community and the social aspects of work. When asked about what made a good workplace in their minds, both groups immediately mentioned “a cosy sofa corner where you can hang out and socialise with colleagues” as one of their top priorities. Other social activities, like a Friday bar or sports clubs, were equally highly ranked.
Eco-friendliness is key, but “greenwashers” need not apply
Our participants were very passionate about companies being genuinely environmentally conscious and this being evident throughout all aspects of the workspace — from paper recycling and greenery to encouraging sustainable transport solutions to and from work. The students were very adamant that this had to be genuine and not just a case of “greenwashing”; claiming that you’re eco-friendly just for the sake of brand.
Having the newest tech shows that the company is “on trend”
Interestingly, there was limited interest in getting cool gadgets, like the newest iPhone or Macbook, and more focus on the workspace itself being “smart” or interactive. As one student told us:
“When a company has the newest technology, like I was in an office where the coffee machine was operated by an iPad, then it shows that the company is “on trend” and “gets it”, but then it’s even more important that the stuff actually works!”.
Allow for personalisation
Gen Z’ers want to be in charge of their physical workspace and continuously shape and personalise it to their needs, even if they don’t expect a dedicated desk of their own. Ideas ranged from moving whiteboards around to create flexible workspaces, to decorating shared spaces and meeting rooms.
Personal development as well as career development
Progression and development are high on the minds of the Gen Z. They appreciate a workplace where you are always learning, where there is active coaching and mentorship offered and where you can progress and develop, both in your career but also personally. Hence, while many companies now offer employees days off to do volunteering work, our participants instead requested dedicated annual leave to pursue individual learning (“interessedage” in Danish), which could or could not be immediately relevant to their current job.
And finally, perks and gadgets just aren’t that important
In contrast to the assumption that today’s young people are driven only by getting the latest tech gadgets or outrageous office perks, our research showed that the expectations of young people were actually quite modest. They want an eco-friendly, social and tech-forward workplace that allows them to personalise their surroundings and grow in- and outside of work.
I guess that’s not really too much to ask for.
Tim is Senior Manager in the LEGO Workplace Experience team. The team’s next big project is building the company’s new international headquarters, the LEGO Campus in Denmark. The Campus will be jam-packed with awesome facilities intended to increase employee happiness, collaboration, health and wellbeing and will offer a nurturing work-meets-play environment that will enable LEGO employees to do, feel and be their best at work.