Gen Z wants more than snacks and happy hour at work

In recent years, many people who previously worked in an office have adapted to a remote or hybrid working model. And it’s likely that many knowledge workers won’t be returning to the office full-time. After all, we stayed productive and achieved a better work-life balance with less travel. But what does this mean for the younger generations starting out in their careers?

Many companies, including mine, offer flexible and hybrid work environments. According to for harvard business reviewmore than 90% of employers plan to adopt a hybrid work model for their knowledge workers in 2022. And Accenture’s latest “Future of Work” study found that 83% of workers prefer a hybrid full-time in-office or full-time remote work model.

However, a new generation of Gen Z workers (born in the late 1990s and early 2000s) are just starting to get started professionally. What are they missing? Sure, Gen Zers want flexibility, but do hybrid or remote environments give them the skills they need to become the leaders of tomorrow? Industry leaders have expressed similar concerns. JPMorgan’s Jamie Dimon said this year that working from home and only from the home environment “does not work for young people.”

What can we lose in a distant world

Much has been made of the Gen Zers’ desire to belong on their team. They seek purpose in their work. In one Margin Survey out of 4,700 remote workers, the company found only one area where employees are less satisfied when working remotely: belonging. Learn about technology company Cognizant 93% of Gen Z workers in all countries think it is important to feel like they belong at work and that “creating personal bonds with managers and colleagues is an important part of belonging”.

The challenge is that a remote work environment has not always been conducive to learning, development and engagement at work, aspects that are particularly important for young workers. Being in an office makes it easier to network, and previous generations have honed their interpersonal skills and judgment through years of relationship building, coaching, and mentoring.

Think of sales reps sharing information about what works or doesn’t work on cubicle walls. Imagine a customer service agent learning how to handle tough calls by listening to co-workers navigate difficult interactions. These teachable moments may occur less frequently in a hybrid environment, and perhaps even less frequently in a remote environment.

Working remotely could mean less engagement and connection during a critical time for building your professional network. Those moments of camaraderie; lunchtime water cooler and conversations; quick conversations after a team meeting; sharing small struggles and big victories – these interactions create lasting relationships.

All of this means that in the long run, remote work could stunt professional growth. Your newly graduated employees want to move up the career ladder. Some of this can happen virtually, but we need to reinvent better ways to manage career growth, job expectations, and learning opportunities when we’re not all in the office together.

Managers can make all the difference

Many companies will continue to support remote or hybrid working styles. In February 2022, investor Charlie Munger said he believed the old ways of working were not coming back: “It’s never going to come back to the full-time white-collar office.” Google and Facebook have also announced that they favor long-term hybrid work options.

It’s up to managers and leaders to find better ways to give young employees valuable guidance and support to succeed when we’re not in person. Every employee, wherever they are, should have the means to assess their performance and progress. In real time, they should be able to respond “How am I?” It’s equally important that every manager understands how each employee is progressing and where they need coaching.

We need innovative solutions to help tomorrow’s managers and leaders perform at their best. Now is the time to reevaluate the processes and tools individual contributors and managers need to succeed in their careers in this new world.

Creating a successful flexible work environment requires a more multifaceted approach than virtual happy hours and “employee of the month” recognition to engage and motivate workers. Here are nine effective steps to help Gen Z thrive in a hybrid or remote environment.

  1. Be proactive in coaching employees. Help young workers make connections and understand the bigger picture. Being proactive means establishing an open door policy and giving prompt feedback and praise to facilitate dialogue and engagement, regardless of location.
  2. Set clear goals and metrics and measure success. Goals and KPIs are essential in any work situation, but they’re especially important when managing remotely.
  3. Give employees transparency into their performance against goals and their ranking against their peers with real-time data and metrics. Without being among co-workers, it’s hard to truly understand day-to-day expectations and where the bar is set for success.
  4. Create opportunities to connect in person. When employees are together in the office, activities such as group training and team building are fun and engaging. Even more informal gatherings, such as an afternoon walk with team members who live close to each other, can foster belonging.
  5. Establish a mentorship program. Ask new employees to partner with a senior in addition to their manager. Someone from a different department can provide unbiased advice.
  6. Create more growth opportunities. Champion the promotion of remote employees when deserved. Look for opportunities for promotion, even if it’s a gradual advancement. Internal upward mobility helps employees grow and boosts retention.

This more holistic approach should go a long way in giving our younger colleagues the path to improved performance and career progression., and become strategically important contributors and leaders.

Alex Kvamme is the CEO of night lighta team management platform.

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