Gen Z in the workplace: Culture needs to be ‘frequent feedback’ focussed
Updated 26th February 2022
The only constant is change, right?
These days, even the youngest millennials are well into their 20's. Change is a-coming with focus on the generational differences. Workplace culture is shifting. The lived experience of the oh-so creatively titled "Generation Z" has become almost completely defined by today's technology.
Generational divides are pretty arbitrary for the most-part. People of a wide age-range having kids year-round. But it's also true that children born after the millennial cut-off are in a unique position. And over time, their experience looks set to become the new norm.
Early studies of Gen Z in the workplace have shown that many of these people value continuous feedback and communication.
Gen Z has been labelled the "tech generation"
We've all grown up in more technologically advanced worlds than our parents. But Gen Z are the first of us to be born into a world where the internet has become an ever-present staple of society. This will (bar some horrific Mad Max scenario) be the case for every new generation going forward.
But for now, they're in a unique position.
Before Gen Z, we have already experienced previously unprecedented technological acceleration that will likely continue well into the future. But is this rate of progression good or bad, and will it last forever?
The Tech Sector report from the 2020 Edelman Trust Barometer found that over 60% of people worry that technology is advancing too quickly. But it's worth noting the Trust Barometer surveys people across a range of age groups. As generational balances shift over time, we might see people becoming less anxious about technology as a whole.
At some point in all our lives, the internet became what it is today.
Gen Z growing up with all this is significant because of the ability of children to learn at incredible speeds. You're much more likely to truly master something if you start learning it at a young age. But the emphasis on a digital-first way of life also encourages instant gratification and direct, personal communication.
It probably also helps that they aren't holding onto all the useless stuff that the rest of us are. Remembering how to fix a cassette tape with a pencil is a nostalgic throw-back. Those internet sounds from an ADSL dial-up are the sounds of a by-gone era. But what good does knowing about these things do us in the modern day?
Why feedback is important to Gen Z in the workplace
In 2018, the Center for Generational Kinetics released quite an interesting survey. They found that over 65% of Gen Z employees reported needing frequent feedback. Ideally, they preferred to get it at least once a week. And some wanted feedback even more regularly than that to stay in their current job.
We've already talked about how feedback can potentially reduce turnover. But that's more a case of why it's important for businesses. It doesn't tell us why a lack of feedback is such a deal-breaker for Gen Z in the workplace.
Feedback matters to Gen Z, and a lot of employees in general, for a few reasons.
It exhibits a vested interest in their wellbeing and career development from management. Employees can also value feedback for the direction it provides their work, regardless of generation. Feedback and approachability play key roles in combatting disengagement. So, in that sense, Gen Z pushing for a more feedback-centric work culture could have far-reaching benefits for staff of all ages.
How Gen Z in the workplace thrive on feedback
A study of 1,400 Gen Z professionals found that many handled feedback very well. 63% of respondents preferred feedback in a timely and constructive manner. They may even have the perfect mindset for receiving negative feedback. 80% reported the belief that failure was something to be learned from (a stark increase from previous generations).
This is a lovely snapshot of the youngest generation in the workplace and what their strengths might be. But more importantly, it also highlights the efficacy of properly structured feedback. People need consistent feedback filling in the gaps. Without that much, performance reviews can end up causing more harm than good. And bad performance management leads to reviews feeling like a tick-box exercise and even make employees hate them.
Tools for giving feedback in the workplace
If you want to give your employees access to regular feedback, it's important to use the proper technology. You might be able to skate by on emails and spreadsheets if you're a small start-up. But the more people you're responsible for, the more likely it is you need a bespoke solution.
In big companies, you can't take the time to check in with everyone in-person each week. If you personally spoke to each one long enough to properly hear their concerns, you'd lose hours of productivity.
Employee check-ins are one of the services we offer here at Weekly10. Leadership and managers (optionally) have control over everything from question customisation to update frequency.
Whether you're checking in or reviewing someone's update, it takes just a few minutes. A variety of question categories allow you to get a range of qualitative and quantitative data.
our "Recognition" question type even allows employees to highlight each other's accomplishments via mentions. Managers can also view the answer histories for any questions they have set. And if more issues arise, you can respond provide immediate, short-term feedback by responding to individual questions.
Remote work has reinvigorated the feedback conversation
You can't afford to ignore just how popular and successful remote work has become in the last few months. Remote work is highly sought-after. But the total implementation of it necessitated by lockdown has isolated many, including Gen Z employees.
One study found that 79% of sampled UK workers working remotely during isolation reported feeling less connected with their co-workers. This rose to 81% of millennials and 85% of Gen Z specifically. Remote work has been one of our major focus topics recently, and it's another layer to consider when giving feedback.
This employee feedback helps to ensure your people feel a connection to the business. It's in your best interests to make sure people aren't isolated from their team. And while that's an ongoing challenge for remote managers, even small interactions can help. When checking in with remote staff, it can be useful to approximate an in-person 1-1 using apps like Microsoft Teams.
It's important not to overdo it though. Almost two-thirds of Gen Z respondents reported that the amount of time spent on video calls made it harder to get work done. We talked about the dangers of micromanaging remote employees last month, and it's definitely worth a read.