The landscape of today’s workplace is both dynamic and diverse. Across industries, we are seeing the needs and expectations of employees change – particularly for those from Generation Z – leading businesses to reshape and rethink traditional structures and policies. To accommodate different generational needs, business and HR leaders need to keep in mind that employees’ needs evolve and change as they reach different stages of their careers and lives.

Whether it’s a need for more flexible, hybrid working options for carers or parents, phased retirement for more senior employees or intermixed training and work schedules for new colleagues, businesses need to proactively listen and adapt to staff expectations where possible.

Establishing an inclusive and supportive workplace for employees across generations is especially important at the moment as employee turnover across sectors continues to increase. According to the CIPD, the average turnover for UK workers is currently 35%, making it more vital than ever to ensure colleagues feel that their needs are being catered to.

The impact of Gen Z in the workplace

As Gen Z has entered the workforce, they have brought with them unique skill sets, such as proficiency with technology, but also unique expectations that set them apart from other groups of employees. Most notably, there is a strong desire for hybrid and remote working options with these employees looking for a job that suits their flexible lifestyle. The pandemic proved that remote working can work for office roles, and this younger generation has seen this established worldwide.

However, while the preference for hybrid working may be more common in Gen Z colleagues, it’s certainly not exclusive to this generation with other employees finding that a more flexible work schedule enables them to have a more fulfilling social life. The pandemic in particular has served as a catalyst in recent years for employees reevaluating what they wanted from their careers, with many choosing to look for part-time and flexible working options instead of more traditional roles.

Moreover, it is also increasingly common for both parents within a family unit to have careers of their own which are viewed with equal value. As well as needing to adapt to shared childcare responsibilities, this family structure can mean parents need to make different decisions to develop their careers than they have in the past, often leading them to seek out more flexible roles.

Looking beyond the workplace

Another expectation of Gen Z employees that often benefits the broader workforce is the inclination to be part of a company that is positively impacting the environment and wider community. In fact, more than half (55%) of Gen Z employees say that they research a company’s environmental impact and policies before accepting a job offer[1]. The desire from this younger generation of colleagues to be part of an organisation that is environmentally conscious, charitable and delivering social value can help to influence positive changes for the wider workforce, ensuring every employee is in a fulfilling role.

Developing the workforce as a whole

In the past, employees often followed more traditional career paths, with many in industries like logistics – myself included – frequently working within the same company for decades. Now, across sectors, we are seeing Gen Z colleagues placing a renewed emphasis on personal development and finding a role where their ambitions and work-life balance are aligned, even if that means changing organisations fairly frequently.

The search for careers that meet personal aspirations is not one solely driven by Gen Z but one we are seeing more often from this demographic. As a result, there is a growing demand for businesses to meet the evolving needs of their employees, ultimately benefiting organisations by making them more accountable and focused on retention.

At DHL, for example, we leverage the scale and diverse nature of our business so we can open up new avenues for our employees, giving them the opportunity to change role or even work internationally. One of our key areas of focus is managing and responding to the different needs of our colleagues across generations, helping to maintain an inclusive and motivated workforce. We achieve this through a supportive culture, reward and recognition initiatives and our talent development programme.

The importance of communication

Open and honest communication is vital for more difficult conversations where certain needs or expectations cannot be met or where a compromise needs to be made. For example, while it’s important to cater to the increased desire for hybrid and remote working models, businesses need to strike the right balance so they can still establish a company culture where colleagues feel they are part of a team and can easily collaborate. Similarly, businesses need to find the right middle ground between supporting the rapid progression through roles that Gen Z expects while allowing enough time for development.

By maintaining strong channels of communication with employees, businesses can be better prepared to navigate the unique and changing needs of different generations. As new generations enter the workforce and current generations reach new stages, their needs and what they want from their careers will continue to evolve. To boost retention and recruitment, businesses need to remain flexible and ready to adapt and cater to new expectations.

[1] Deloitte 2023

Liz Noble DHL Express
Liz Noble
Vice President HR at DHL Express UK | + posts