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Understanding your newest co-workers: Gen Z

Employers are still getting comfortable with the expectations Millennials set when they entered the workforce in the early 2000s. They were the first generation to emphasize inclusion and diversity, demand the latest technology, and the need for transparency in the workplace. This cultural shift in the new millennium rattled the corporate world and left Millennials with a reputation as self-obsessed and entitled.

Gen Z has added their own set of expectations in the workplace, furthering the demands of Millennials.

I’m a Gen Zer, born after 1995, and entering my senior year at Washington State University. I’m majoring in Strategic Communication with a focus in Public Relations and minoring in Digital Technology & Culture. This summer I’m interning at Nintex and I’m excited to dive deeper into the company’s Gen Z research to better understand what we need to be successful at work.

Some of my earliest memories with technology include flip phones and portable CD players, objects I now view as borderline archaic. I witnessed the advance of technology as it permeated more into my personal life, at school, and at work. I’m a part of the generation that rolls their eyes when people say, “back in my days we had to do everything by hand – you have it so easy!”

Nintex recently published research results on “The Gen Z Effect” in Australia and New Zealand to take a closer look at the expectations of Gen Zers in Australian and New Zealand workplaces. I’ve found the research to be very enlightening even as a Gen Zer in the United States. There are similarities and differences to my own experience.

As I enter the workforce, it’s clear my generation is straying from the path Millennials paved. We grew up in the height of the digital age, and our expectations for the workplace are different from our cohorts.

Gen Z is driven by personal passion, a desire to grow within, and want to add lasting value to a company. As a true Ge Zer, here’s my input on the top Australian findings from the study.

Finding fulfillment in education and our career path

Millennials focused on receiving degrees that prepared them for a specific career with financial stability while Gen Z is focused on pursuing personal convictions. According to the Australian study, 62% of Gen Z selected their university major because they found it personally interesting. Our sense of achievement is stemmed from ambition, not salary.

Unsurprisingly, the results of the study reflect my own educational and career values.

When I started college, I wanted to pursue journalism. The reaction I received from people often incorporated a backhanded compliment on the struggles I would face and the lack of pay. Following two generations who felt the hard-hitting impact of the 2008 recession, I understood their hesitation for me to follow my passion (at the time) so fervently.

Once I started journalism courses, I realized it wasn’t for me and switched my major to public relations (PR). I’m happy with my decision to follow my aspirations, I believe Gen Z will benefit the workplace from chasing personal fulfillment in education. We just need the opportunities to use our degrees to their full extent.

Work flexibility in Australia outranks salary and culture

Thirty-six percent of Australian respondents view work flexibility as the most important factor in choosing a job. The ability to work remotely or have flexible hours outranks salary (32%), work-life balance (29%), and potential for career growth (29%), according to the study. In contrast, Millennials top priorities are salary and company culture.

Personally, I value company-wide culture and other incentives over flexible hours and working remotely. I would rather work a 9-5 as an in-office employee if I had a strong team, free food, and enticements like yoga or a free gym.

If you’re reading my post and thinking I’m irrational for expecting this from a company—it’s possible! As an intern at Nintex, I enjoy coming to work daily and I receive all these perks. Working remotely and having flexible hours is beneficial for some, but I enjoy emerging myself into the operations of a company and being in office motivates me to work harder.

AI and automation: helpful or hindering

Artificial Intelligence and automation have Gen Zers concerned for the future. While 87% view AI and automation making their job easier, the majority fear robotic processes taking their jobs. In fact, 59% are concerned about AI and automation impacting job security.

Working at Nintex, I’ve already learned a lot about the benefits of workflow automation. This technology helps people and organizations operate more efficiently while saving money.

The Nintex Platform covers a wide range of products including workflow, forms, mobile apps, e-signatures, robotic process automation (RPA), document generation, and more. Nintex capabilities help businesses automate their processes. By doing so, companies are minimizing the need for document revision and spreadsheets, increasing the use of centralized data, and reducing time-consuming manual processes.

There are certain jobs that require emotional intelligence, an understanding of humans that robots currently can’t embody in the workplace. AI and automation anxiety are very industry-specific, for now.

I fear that AI will contribute to economic inequality as robots can complete tasks quicker and more competently than humans. From manufacturing to clerical positions, RPA will have the ability to take jobs.

Despite these apprehensions, implementing AI and RPA can help make people work more productively while empowering individuals and teams to focus on higher-value tasks. Companies that want to survive in the digital era must consider how they will enable their employees to administer AI and automation technologies to improve the way they work.

Gen Z is entering the workforce ready to follow our chosen career path, and we won’t settle for less.

Though it isn’t a requirement for me, the ability to work remotely or have a flexible schedule will be a new expectation for my peers in Australia. The assistance of AI and automation will allow us to complete simple tasks quicker but will continue to be a fear factor.

Even though this study was conducted in Australia and New Zealand, the findings represent me from all the way across the globe. I’m looking forward to working on the Gen Z study in the United States and helping the Nintex Corporate Communications team communicate the results. Stay tuned!

 

To view Nintex’s Gen Z research results in Australia and New Zealand, download the eBook here.

 

Maddie Sjolund

Maddie is working as a Nintex Marketing Intern on the Corporate Communications team in the summer of 2019. She is a student at Washington State University studying Strategic Communication with a focus in Public Relations and minoring in Digital Technology & Culture. Outside of school, she is an avid dog lover, radio show host, and enjoys going to concerts.