August 23, 2022
What Is Gen Z Looking for in the Workplace?
Every new generation enters the workplace with its own communication style. From viral TikToks to provocative statements like “We rarely use email,” Gen Z’s entrée into the workforce will certainly make its own waves. But what do we need to consider as we recruit, try to retain, and sell to this next generation of designers?
By 2025, Gen Z is predicted to make up 27 percent of the total workforce. The oldest of this generation were born in 1997, and many younger Gen Z designers onboarded during pandemic lockdowns. Now they are getting their first chance to go into the office and forge in-person relationships.
At ThinkLab, we believe the timing of this generation’s entrance into the workforce, coupled with its relationship to digital tools, will likely affect how Gen-Zers communicate at work, what they look for in an employer, and how they specify. We explored these concepts in a recent Clubhouse session with a group of educators, experts, and Gen Z designers who offered firsthand observations about how this generation is different—and how it’s not. Here’s what we learned.
WHAT GEN Z BRINGS TO THE WORKPLACE
While using the last letter of the alphabet is fitting for the final generation of the 1900s, some of the people we spoke to have said that the name Gen Z is appropriate because, if we take no other action, this may be the last generation before we destroy the environment. Many Gen-Z designers speak to their passion for sustainability, which they will bring into the workplace. “There is a gap between seasoned professionals who want to be sustainable but don’t know how to get there,” says Vedyun Mishra, technical designer, Gensler, and a 2021 Metropolis Future100 winner. “We can help bridge that gap.”
Gen Z has also demonstrated a great deal of resourcefulness (such as when they created side-hustle bedrooms out of necessity during the pandemic). Given these characteristics, Gen Z architects and designers will likely bring pragmatism and a sense of minimalism to their projects.
WHAT GEN Z WANTS IN AN EMPLOYER
Gen Z will be the most diverse workforce in our nation’s history. According to Pew Research, a bare majority (52 percent) are non-Hispanic whites. Gen Zers are also more comfortable than previous generations with expressing gender fluidity (about 60 percent say forms or online profiles should include additional gender options, compared with 50 percent of millennials). In the workplace, they will look for a culture that embraces diversity, equity, and inclusion.
Gen Z designers are also sizing up firms for their approach to career development, mental health, and societal impact. According to Tarra Kieckhaefer, founder of Network Next Gen, “The questions [Gen Zers] are asking today are around work-life balance and setting boundaries.” We hear a lot about transparency, but this generation expects and is willing to talk openly about difficult issues, including salary.
COMMUNICATING WITH GEN Z
While many presume that Gen Zers will push us further into a digital-only world, they want the best of both worlds, and they are innately comfortable with the digital/physical fluidity of a hybrid world. At ThinkLab, we believe we can help evolve the industry in a positive direction by developing a dialogue that helps everyone communicate better. With that in mind, here are some closing suggestions:
If you are hiring Gen Z architects and designers:
· Gen Z is looking for flexible policies that honor empathy and autonomy.
· To attract them, you will need to be more transparent than ever about your firm’s policies.
· To retain them, you will need to prove you “walk the walk.”
· Be ready for their fearlessness around transparency, including salary.
If you are selling to Gen Z architects and designers:
· Gen Z is looking for the right balance of in-person and digital experiences.
· They expect engagement on multiple fronts and the same authenticity from their brands as they do from their employers.
· Gen Z has large national networks because of their connectivity on social media, and how they build relationships will affect what they expect from brands and their local reps.
If you are a Gen Z architect or designer:
· Welcome to the interior design industry—we’re glad you are here.
· Please be patient as we, yes, make some categorizations but only with the intent to help communicate the values of your generation to those who can empower you to do your best work.
Amanda Schneider is president of ThinkLab, the research division of SANDOW Design Group. Join in to explore what’s next at thinklab.design/join-in.
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