Meet the next wave of workers who are taking over your office

Yound adult working in office, Generation Z
Nicky Loh | Bloomberg | Getty Images

Generation Z represents the 23 million Americans born between 1994 and 2010, ages 6 to 22 years old. This year, the first group of Gen Z-ers graduated from college and entered the workplace. They have their own set of values, preferences and abilities that companies simply cannot ignore if they want to remain competitive in today's business landscape.

They grew up in a time of economic and political uncertainty and have watched their millennial predecessors struggle to find jobs and become financially independent. Gen Z doesn't want to share the same fate, which is why they are not willing to settle and are extremely self-motivated.

In order to further identify the unique views of Gen Z, we partnered with Randstad on a new global study of over 4,000 respondents, a follow up to our previous study in 2014. Overall, Gen Z believes that their college education prepared them for their job, and when asked about their industry preferences, they are most interested in technology and least interested in insurance, manufacturing and utilities.

Here are the four most significant findings from our study and why they help define the generation:

1. They desire corporate offices but embrace flexibility

This year, we found that 41 percent of Gen Z survey respondents said that a corporate office is their top work preference, compared to only 28 percent in 2014. "I have always been motivated by those working around me which influences and encourages me to push myself," says David James, a venture capital equity sales rep at Manhattan Venture Partners and Gen Z member.

When we asked Gen Z-ers who they turn to first when developing their work skills, they said "my peers at work." They want to collaborate and learn from their peers, especially those who are willing to work as hard if not harder than they do. Companies should modernize their workspaces in order to create a more collaborative environment for their Gen Z employees.

Despite their desire for a corporate office, flexibility has displaced health care coverage as their top employee benefit, yet only half of them report working for companies that offer it. "Flexibility, especially having the comfort to take time off in an emergency is very important to me," says Robert McCormick, a Gen Z paralegal at McGivney & Kluger, PC.

Companies should create and promote their flexible programs to recruit Gen Z talent, while supporting millennials as they have children in the upcoming years.

2. They prefer in-person communication to technology but want companies to embrace social media

Every generation we've studied favors in-person communication over texting, tweeting, snapping and even using a phone and Gen Z is no different. "In-person communication is always ideal for me," says Peter Hulburt, a Gen Z key holder at Club Monaco.

Agreeing with Hulburt, McCormick explains, "I prefer to communicate with my coworkers in person because it is important for developing an effective coworker relationship." As new technologies surface, people will continue to seek personal connections with others instead of remaining isolated.

That's not to say that Gen Z is completely shying away from using tech professionally. They are, of course, the most connected and tech savvy generation, as they've never had a phone without a camera or Internet browser.

When asked what technologies they want their employer to incorporate into the workplace, 43 percent said social media. "I do use LinkedIn quite often at work to network and connect with potential business and personal relationships," says James. Companies should embrace new technology in order to modernize their workplaces, attract young talent and enable collaboration.

"Gen Z is used to receiving real-time social media updates so they carry the same behaviors and need for instant gratification into the workplace."

3. They want to work in more than one country in their career

Gen Z is traveling more each year than any other generation, which is why they seek employment in multiple countries. In a study by Expedia, they found that those aged 30 and under travel 4.7 times per year on business compared to 3.6 years for 30 to 45 year olds. We found that 60 percent of Gen Z-ers want to work in more than one country in their career.

They understand that having global experience will be an asset to their career trajectory. "Living and working in another country would be great for my resume, and would be a chance to develop a broader worldview," says McCormick. While Fortune 500 companies are able to offer global rotational programs, smaller companies will struggle to support Gen Z in this regard.

4. They insist on regular feedback instead of waiting for annual performance reviews

Gen Z is used to receiving real-time social media updates so they carry the same behaviors and need for instant gratification into the workplace. While about a fourth seek feedback regularly, only 3 percent want annual performance reviews.

This is a trend that we are seeing at some of the biggest companies in the world, including GE and Adobe, where they have exchanged their annual performance reviews for regular feedback programs.

As a result, they have increased both the retention and productivity of their employees. "I enjoy consistent feedback from my supervisors as it allows me to tailor my performance to the current needs of our project," says Hulburt.

Commentary by Dan Schawbel, partner and research director at Future Workplace and New York Times bestselling author of "Promote Yourself" and "Me 2.0." Follow him on Twitter @DanSchawbel.

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