What Gen Z and Millennials will be looking for when the crisis is over

The COVID-19 crisis has changed the workforce for good, and dynamics between employers and employees along with it. What does this mean for organizations looking to hire and retain Millennials and GenZ-ers?

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By Adam Etzion, HR Analyst @ Gloat

The COVID-19 pandemic has shuffled the cards for everyone. Economies and institutions which we could all rely on have been upturned almost overnight, and truths we’ve held to be almost universal are no longer relevant.

This is especially true of the job market.

Whereas up until a few months ago the generally accepted rule of thumb was that “Talent is King” and that employers were the ones who needed to court prospective employees, things seem very different today, for everyone.

But will this shift in dynamics hold after the pandemic is over, or will the market revert back to the way things were?

As things currently stand, no one is in any position to predict the future – but one thing’s for certain: for Millennials, who comprise nearly half of the workforce, and for the younger Generation Z, who comprise over 20% of it, priorities will change following the global crisis.

A Tectonic Shift in Priorities

While the crisis is a disaster of unprecedented scale, with countless talented people losing their jobs, it also means that these same people will soon be on the lookout for new opportunities. Decision makers and executives should now be thinking about the day after the crisis is over, and what they can do to attract these newer generations to their organizations. What they’ll be looking for in the workplace, however, won’t necessarily be what they’ve looked for before the outbreak: hereas Millennials and GenZ-ers were notorious for their job-jumping, constantly on the lookout for new experiences, the experience provided by the global crisis has introduced uncertainty to their financial futures.

This doesn’t mean that these young professionals are going to be willing to settle for less, though. If anything, the crisis has deepened and emphasized the problems and challenges these generations have been facing all along.

New Experiences and Project Oriented Tasks

Before the crisis, workplaces that offered diverse learning and growing opportunities ranked high with Millennials and GenZ-ers. Whereas this could have once been dismissed as the result of short attention spans, the current situation has really brought to light just how critical this is – not just for workers, but for businesses as well. In a world where markets fluctuate wildly overnight, organizations need to be able to react quickly to change. To do that, a flexible, adaptable workforce with a wide array of experiences is key.

In more traditional work settings, employees have routines set out for them, with responsibilities and regularly scheduled tasks making up the bulk of their day.

But increasingly, Millennials and GenZ-ers crave project and “gig” oriented work, which provides more diverse experiences and greater opportunities for initiative and originality.

During this current crisis, we’re seeing this need arise from within organizations as well. As each day throws new and unexpected challenges in the way of decision makers, project-oriented work allows the flexibility and dynamism required to deal with them.

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More Control Over Their Professional Future

In addition to access to a wider array of experiences and skills that will prepare them and bolster their ability to cope with the uncertainties and financial instabilities their futures seem to hold, Millennials and Generation Z are also craving more control over their career paths. It used to be that once you’ve committed to a company, the fate of your career was in their hands, at least until you had to make a choice regarding your next role. But younger generations want – and need – to plan their professional paths at higher resolutions.

They want to understand what short- and long-term options are open to them, and from a practical standpoint, what they need to do and learn in order to advance to the next stage of their careers.

The ability to provide finer control is especially important now that so many other aspects of employees’ lives have been shuffled around and become uncertain.

Workplaces that are able to provide their workers with the visibility and insight required to navigate their careers according to their aspirations, at scale and through reliable technological means, will both find driven talent drawn to them, and simultaneously create an independent, evolving, highly adaptive and highly driven workforce from within.

Flexible Work Environments

Ask almost any young professional, and you’ll hear that workplaces that allow flexibility in the work environment increasingly rank higher than those sticking to more traditional office spaces. And with good reason. Millennials and GenZ-ers strive to be more independent, and to shape their own workflow. This makes sense, considering the “one-size-fits-all” approach to career paths and job descriptions is becoming increasingly irrelevant, and each individual has their own special requirements for what they need to get the job done.

Millennials and GenZ-ers function best when they can choose when to work from home, co-working spaces, cafes or the office. Workplaces that have already started enabling this had a leg-up when sheltering in place and social distancing started, and will continue to have an advantage when this is over.

But this isn’t just about personal preferences. Following the current situation, many young professionals will hesitate to commit to a location-based job. The new reality we’ve found ourselves in has proved that internet-based, location-free organizations are safer and more dependable than traditional work environments.

Social Impact and Meaning

When attempting to figure out what young generations want, survey after survey has stressed that they are intensely passionate about making a positive impact on the world. It’s not enough to just bring in revenues and be industry leaders; for these young people, contributing to society as a whole is key, and a workplace that allows them to do so has a serious advantage over competitors – even if the salaries they offer are lower.

And although the coronavirus crisis has made finances tighter for many, it has also stressed the importance of social solidarity for Millennials and GenZ-ers. How your company acts now in terms of social responsibility and outreach can really shape how attractive it will be as a workplace when this is all over.

Sensitivity in the Workplace

Another key factor younger generations are looking for when they seek out employment are sensitive and attentive employers. Awareness of mental and emotional health is constantly increasing among younger people, and employers that take the time and make the effort to listen to their needs find themselves with a more engaged and committed workforce.

COVID-19 has only emphasized the need for this attitude, with unusual and extreme emotional circumstances plaguing us all. The need for compassion and attentiveness to the emotional wellbeing of workers won’t go away after the pandemic is over; if anything, it’ll become even more necessary.

So it seems that although the COVID-19 crisis has changed the dynamics between employees and employers, it hasn’t changed the needs and requirements of younger generations. While it may offer new opportunities to bolster your workforce with previously unavailable talent, if you want to hold on to that talent once you have them with you, you need to provide them with a good set of reasons to stay. Luckily, those things that Millennials and GenZ-ers want from their workplace are precisely the things that enterprises need to be doing anyway in order to adapt to the new financial reality.

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