Bracing Your Organization to Equip Gen Z in a Hybrid Working World

Organizations need to assess how they onboard Gen Z professionals to ensure they are engaged and provided with the appropriate level of training.

An increasing number of organizations are adopting the hybrid work model, and the rate at which Gen Z employees are entering the workforce similarly is rising. As the first digitally native generation, it can be argued that Gen Z (workers age 24 and younger) is the most equipped to thrive in today’s hybrid work environment. However, hybrid working offers unique social and cultural challenges. With little workplace experience to lean on, Gen Z is more likely to find it difficult to navigate such challenges, in addition to new expectations.

As such, organizations need to assess how they onboard young professionals to ensure they are engaged and provided with the appropriate level of knowledge, resources, and training throughout their induction period and beyond.

Setting Gen Z Up for Success from Day One

Gen Z is attracted to roles that provide greater autonomy and flexibility via remote and hybrid work schedules. Still, flexibility can quickly become chaos without proper onboarding processes, and incredible talent may be lost. Here are some suggestions for successfully onboarding Gen Z employees in a remote and hybrid work environment:

  • Train leaders to manage remotely: Though many interactions shape new employees’ experiences, managers have the most remarkable ability to influence their onboarding experience and engagement positively. Several simple ways managers can have an impact are by involving Gen Z in projects that align with their interests and the organization’s goals and by establishing open lines of communication and trust early on, so they feel comfortable raising their concerns, questions, and thoughts. Consider how equipped your leaders are to support hybrid Gen Z employees and whether they might benefit from remote management training.
  • Communicate and illustrate culture: Fostering or maintaining culture virtually can be challenging, but it is not impossible and is a critical component of a young employee’s experience. Gen Z strives to connect purpose to their work, so assuming an organization’s culture is built around its purpose, it is helpful to communicate and illustrate how these two organizational elements are interwoven. Furthermore, managers should find ways for young employees to experience the culture first-hand. Consider connecting them with incumbents who model the culture day in and day out or introducing them to projects and initiatives that showcase the organization’s culture, values, and purpose and align with the employee’s passions and interests.
  • Don’t underestimate the power of connectedness in a virtual world: When you think about the start of your career, what experiences most impacted your development and engagement? Often, they are experiences fed by networking, camaraderie, and collaboration versus isolation and independence. Without conversations over coffee, hallway chats, and random encounters, it is challenging for young professionals to feel connected to their immediate team, let alone build social capital across the company to advance their careers. Therefore, managers must foster a culture where social support thrives and encourage and reward Gen Z employees for proactively building their networks.

Necessary Competencies to Kick-Start Gen Z’s Professional Development

Though employees should take direct ownership of their ongoing professional development, organizations benefit greatly from supporting young professionals’ growth with resources, coaching, and mentorship. Having the necessary tools and guidance for development is particularly important now, as the skills needed to thrive and survive in the workplace are changing rapidly.

Here are a few competencies Gen Z employees would benefit from developing, or sharpening, in today’s hybrid working environment: 

1. Accountability

Employees who demonstrate accountability readily accept ownership of tasks and objectives; take obligations seriously; and are responsible for their actions, decisions, and results. Though hybrid work schedules create flexibility, they also require managing one’s work schedule more independently. While teleworking, for example, young professionals need to do their best work, meet deadlines, and operate with a sense of urgency without their boss looking over their shoulder.

Questions to consider:

  • How do your leaders role-model accountability for their team members?
  • Are your leaders setting clear expectations with their direct reports, and are they prepared to have challenging conversations when those expectations are not met?

2. Learning Agility

Employees who demonstrate learning agility critically evaluate their experiences, learn quickly from outcomes and feedback, and apply their newfound knowledge to other situations. In a world where the resting pulse is rapid, a thirst for knowledge trumps skill sets and creates a significant competitive advantage for companies who embrace it. The frequency and ease with which Gen Z reskills and upskills will determine the pace at which they develop and, ultimately, their level of success.

Questions to consider:

  • How does your organization reward learning agility?
  • How does your organization determine gaps in learning skills and provide appropriate on-the-job development?

3. Organizational Agility

Employees with solid organizational agility identify key decision-makers and influencers, successfully utilize communication channels, and leverage relationships and hierarchy to achieve goals. Although this can be challenging for green employees—especially in a virtual world—it is more important than ever to navigate a quickly changing business landscape successfully.

Questions to consider:

  • How are leaders encouraging their direct reports to connect with key stakeholders and utilize informal communication channels?
  • Is your organization’s structure helping or hindering young professionals’ ability to navigate through it?

Meeting Gen Z’s Learning Styles and Preferences

Just as critical competencies for success are continually evolving, so, too, is how organizations must help young employees to learn and develop them. With Gen Z accustomed to having the “world at their fingertips,” evidenced-based, blended learning is ideal for this generation, as it offers engaging, flexible, and bite-sized development content. Blended learning also significantly benefits hybrid organizations, as it is designed to drive the most critical employee learning and development objectives. In a world that is ever-evolving, training and development must flex and evolve with it.

Lindsay K. Beers
Lindsay K. Beers, M.Sc. is the Organizational Development Consultant of Development Solutions for PSI Services, Talent Management.