Generation Z is Coming. What are Their Work Preferences?

By: Audrey Frey, Managing Director, Occupier Services Leader, CBRE

FREY0282_1.25x1.667We have been talking about attracting and retaining millennials in the workplace for several years. What are their workplace preferences? How do they like to work with others? What motivates them? This is still top of mind, but it’s also time to start thinking about the next generation entering the work force: Generation Z (“Gen Z”).

The oldest members of Gen Z are beginning to graduate from college and send their resumes to you. I had the privilege of learning about Gen Z’s preferences straight from a Gen Z-er, Jonah Stillman, when he and his father, David Stillman, were guests at a recent CREW Atlanta luncheon. A few things stood out:

  • Gen Z is in “survival mode” and has been for a while. Jonah Stillman told us his generation has been trained to work hard, because if they don’t someone else will.
  • Gen Z is more focused on earning potential than finding meaning in a job. In line with the “survivor mode” mentality, Gen Z wants to make sure they are taking care of themselves financially. They are more interested in setting themselves up for financial success than in “finding personal meaning” and “making a difference at the company.” which are cited as top priorities for their predecessors, the Millennials.
  • Gen Z is making decisions about career paths before going to college. Gen Z will likely not begin college by checking Undecided as their major. They’ve been thinking about their futures since middle school. For those of us hoping to acquire this talent by the time they graduate college, that means getting on their radars before they step foot on campus and select their majors. They need to be exposed earlier to internships, brands, career paths, and understand how to get there when they set the path for themselves in college. They tend not to deviate from that path as much as students have in the past.
  • Gen Z is the most competitive generation since Baby Boomers. This circles right back to the “survivor mode” Jonah introduced to us. It’s a great trait as far as personal motivation, but not great for workplace collaboration. He admitted collaboration may be a problem area for Gen Z in the workplace, and could be a good opportunity for some mentorship from millennials. Gen Z, according to the Stillmans, may have a problem with keeping their work too close to home and not sharing results with coworkers because of their competitive nature.
  • Gen Z would prefer to write their own job descriptions. Gen Z has become used to a certain level of customization. For example, millennials bought CDs hoping to like all the songs on it; Gen Z made playlists with only songs they knew they liked. Millennials got college acceptance letters with their names inserted into templates; Gen Z has digital acceptance emails with videos catered to them. Gen Z is also creating college majors that interest them, so naturally they expect to create job descriptions that do the same.
  • Gen Z is challenging the notion of physically being in an office to work. This generation has never had to adapt to technology. They have grown up with laptops, iPads, smart phones, video conferencing, and other devices that let them instantly and digitally connect. They know how to work from anywhere, so being confined to a desk in an office for a set timeframe every day does not make sense to them. They know they can work from any location, at any time of day, and they are challenging the traditional office setting and hours.
  • More than 90% of Gen Z quotes technological sophistication as a deciding factor when choosing a company. Again, technology is second nature to Gen Z. They know how to use it as a tool and know all of its capabilities. They expect to be armed with the best tools to achieve the best results.

I would like to thank CREW Atlanta for hosting this eye-opening luncheon, as well as David and Jonah Stillman for sharing their insights. As a mother of two Gen-Zers, so much of what we heard resonated with me. I’m sure we all will keep these traits in mind as we begin looking over resumes from the Generation Z.

Serving as the CBRE Managing Director and Occupier Leader in Atlanta, Audrey Frey works closely with both local and national executive leadership to grow CBRE’s market share and portfolio success in the Atlanta metro area in office, retail and industrial spaces. Responsible for driving the success of Atlanta’s occupier brokerage professionals, Audrey serves as a business partner and strategist. Day-to-day responsibilities often include executive leadership collaboration, business development strategy, pursuit identification, strategic team formation, broker debriefs, multi-market coordination, technology implementation and oversight of business development marketing and field research professionals.

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  1. Audrey – Yes, the GenZ program was excellent! Your summary and comments are great! I think everyone in attendance learned much about themselves, their families, changes to corporate thinking and the future of business overall. I can’t wait to buy their book to learn more about GenZ’s impact on us all!

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  2. Great summary of a very entertaining presentation!

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