The millennials have a mixed reputation in the workforce. While they have introduced new ways to work – including healthier work/life balances and more emphasis on making a difference in the world – they have also publicly shamed baby boomers and Generation X-ers for handing them an unfair world marked by student loan debt, shady business practices, and a ruined environment.
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Boomers responded by dubbing millennials the "Me Generation," perpetuating a myth that Gen. Y is lazy, entitled, and responsible for the death of any number of industries that have failed to adapt to new consumer trends.
So what about the up-and-coming Generation Z? Where will they fit into this tense picture?
As it turns out, the post-millennial generation isn't interested in this intergenerational squabble. Gen. Z looks forward rather than backward, with many members of this generation maintaining positive outlooks on the future, according to the results of an EY survey of more than 1,600 Gen. Z interns.
Mom and Dad Got Nothing on Gen. Z
Sixty-three percent of the respondents to EY's survey believe they'll be better off than their parents in terms of workplace happiness and financial stability. Gen. Z's inclusive nature and embrace of technology fuels its excitement for the future, and like millennials, Gen. Z-ers have a demonstrated interest in making positive change in the world.
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"Gen. Z-ers are interested in building something better and leaving something better for future generations," says Larry Nash, U.S. recruiting leader for EY.
Unlike older generations, Gen. Z-ers also see the coming technological revolution as more of a blessing than a potential doomsday scenario.
"While Gen. Z's predecessors tend to fear the looming A.I. revolution as a threat to their jobs, three-quarters of our Gen. Z respondents think new advances in technology like A.I. and robotics will spur an evolution of human work," Nash says. "Moreover, two-thirds think it will increase their productivity, and more than half think it will allow them to focus on more valuable work and gain deeper work experiences."
The Future Is Flexible
While much sets Gen. Z apart from previous generations, there are points of intersection. For example, Gen. Z-ers agree with millennials on the value of flexible work arrangements.
"In today's global economy, working flexibility isn't a nice-to-have, it's a business imperative," Nash says. "As work hours trend upward across industries, the lines between career and personal life are becoming more fluid. Companies ... are finding new and innovative ways to address the needs of their people across generations and offer flexibility for all. The goal is to create an agile workplace culture not only to attract and retain talent, but also meet the needs of global clients and teams."
In an earlier survey, EY found that 75 percent of millennials want flexible work with no stigma or negative consequence on their career paths. In this most recent survey, 50 percent of Gen. Z-ers said flexibility is an important factor when looking for a job.
"These stats clearly show flexibility is a key to attracting and retaining both millennials and the future Gen. Z cohort," Nash says.
Gen. Z and Millennials Have a Lot in Common
Millennials and Gen. Z-ers share more than a preference for flexibility – which might be why 67 percent of respondents to EY's survey said they'd prefer a millennial manager.
"Much research has shown that millennials and Gen. Z share similar values," Nash says. "These similarities include the emphasis on work that has purpose, flexibility in the workplace, and a focus on personalization."
In the EY survey, only 1 percent of respondents selected salary as a priority when assessing employment opportunities. Like millennials, Gen. Z-ers don't see money as the most enticing part of a job.
"As such, rewards must focus on short-to-medium term," Nash says. "Examples at EY include corporate responsibility sabbaticals, flexible work arrangements, equitable opportunities to advance for men and women, student loan refinancing, progressive parental leave policies, and more."