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What Are Gen Z Workplace ‘Icks’

by Tanya February 07, 2024

Generation Z (those born between 1997 and 2013) and Millennials make up 38% of the workplace.

These young professionals, born into the digital age, bring a fresh perspective to the work environment, demanding more than just a paycheck.

Generation Z is making its voice heard loud and clear.

This cohort is entering the workforce with fresh eyes, high expectations, and a list of workplace “icks” that they’re not afraid to call out.

From rigid office hours to outdated technology, let’s dive into what really makes Gen Z tick—or rather, what makes them say “ick.” 🙃

Ick 1: Meaningless work, bullshit job

The biggest “ick” for Gen Z is work that feels meaningless.

They want to be part of something bigger, contributing to projects that have a real impact on the world.

Work means more than money for this generation.

A survey of 1,000 UK workers has revealed the majority of survey respondents (48%) would prefer flexible working over other perks.

Gen Z are driven by missions.

Companies that stand for something—think Patagonia’s environmental commitment or Ben & Jerry’s social activism—resonate deeply with them.

According to data from Meta, an overwhelming majority (96%) of Gen Z workers highlight the importance of feeling valued, included, and empowered at work.

Even more interestingly, 80% would rather not be pigeonholed into a certain role and instead have the opportunity to explore and develop a wide range of skills in their work.

Ick 2: The 9-to-5 grind

The traditional 9-to-5 workday is a relic of the past for Gen Z.

This generation values flexibility above all, seeing the rigid structure as suffocating.

They’re champions of work-life balance, advocating for flexible hours that allow them to pursue passions outside of work.

In their eyes, productivity isn’t tied to a desk; it’s about the output, not the hours.

The rise of remote work isn’t just a pandemic trend for Gen Z—it has been a lifestyle for decades, that Millennials started.

Picture a professional drafting reports from a beach in Bali or coding from a café in Paris.

This generation values the freedom to work from anywhere, proving that productivity isn’t confined to an office desk.

Gen Z and Millennials expect employers to support digital nomadism with robust IT infrastructure and policies that facilitate work from anywhere.

Ick 3: Technological dinosaurs

For digital natives, outdated technology in the workplace is a major “ick.”

Having grown up with the world at their fingertips, Gen Z expects seamless digital experiences. Slow internet, clunky software, and outdated devices aren’t just inconveniences; they’re barriers to efficiency and creativity.

Imagine walking into an office where everything from project management to team collaboration happens with a tap on a screen. That’s the tech-integrated environment they thrive in.

It’s about making work feel less like a chore and more like a part of their digital lives.

Ick 4: The feedback desert

Craving growth and development, Gen Z wants regular feedback—not just an annual review. The absence of constructive feedback and opportunities for personal development can make them feel undervalued and stagnant.

Fostering a productive, inclusive, and forward-thinking work environment requires knowing and embracing the unique qualities of Gen Z, as explained by Mo – Employee Recognition Software.

They see feedback as a tool for growth, not criticism.

They yearn for growth and learning opportunities at work, much like the endless streams of content they consume online.

Digital platforms like Coursera and LinkedIn Learning are their arenas for skill-building, offering everything from coding to digital marketing courses.

In line with the UK’s growing emphasis on digital skills advancement, platforms that provide on-demand learning possibilities in fields such as data analysis, digital marketing, and coding can help quench their thirst for progress.

Ick 5: Lack of learning and development opportunities

For Gen Z, education is an ongoing journey.

They yearn for growth and learning opportunities at work, much like the endless streams of content they consume online.

Digital platforms like Coursera and LinkedIn Learning are their arenas for skill-building, offering everything from coding to digital marketing courses.

In line with the UK’s growing emphasis on digital skills advancement, platforms that provide on-demand learning possibilities in fields such as data analysis, digital marketing, and coding can help quench their thirst for progress.

Ick 6: Stifled voices

Gen Z craves a workplace where their ideas are heard and valued, regardless of their job title.

Hierarchical structures that prioritise seniority over merit or innovative ideas can quickly lead to disengagement.

They seek a culture of inclusivity where everyone, from interns to CEOs, can contribute to the conversation.

They admire leaders who are more than just bosses—think mentors with empathy, who champion diversity and act with integrity. Leaders who share their vulnerabilities and stand up for social issues earn their respect and loyalty.

Ick 7: Lack of diversity and inclusion

Diversity and inclusion are non-negotiable for Gen Z.

They expect their workplaces to reflect the world’s diversity, and they’re quick to spot when companies’ efforts are superficial.

A lack of genuine commitment to creating an inclusive environment is a significant “ick,” signaling that a company might not align with their values.

They expect workplaces to be a mosaic of cultures, backgrounds, and perspectives. It’s about creating an environment where everyone, from any walk of life, feels valued and heard.

Ick 8: Micro-management: the creativity crusher

Gen Z is all about creativity and innovation.

Environments that stifle this creativity through micromanagement or a lack of support for new ideas are major turn-offs.

They thrive in spaces that encourage experimentation and learning from failure, where creativity leads to innovation.

They seek workplaces that foster a sense of community, through mentorship programs, team outings, and spaces that encourage open dialogue.

Ick 9: Environmental apathy

With a strong commitment to sustainability, Gen Z is disappointed by companies that don’t take environmental responsibilities seriously.

Workplaces that lack green initiatives or contribute to environmental degradation are a big “ick.”

They look for ethical practices, sustainability, and a commitment to making the world a better place. Businesses that walk the talk on social responsibility will win their hearts—and their talents.

Summary: how to attract and retain Gen Z talent

In essence, the arrival of Gen Z and Millennials in the workplace isn’t just changing the game; it’s rewriting the rulebook.

Companies that listen, adapt, and embrace these shifts will not only attract the brightest young minds but will also pave the way for a future where work is meaningful, inclusive, and boundlessly innovative.

To attract and retain Gen Z talent, companies must listen and adapt.

This means embracing flexible work arrangements, investing in the latest technology, fostering a culture of inclusivity, and demonstrating a commitment to sustainability.

Feedback should be regular and constructive, creativity must be nurtured, and work should be imbued with a sense of purpose.

As we navigate this new era, the organizations that thrive will be those that understand Gen Z’s “icks” are not just passing complaints.

They are a call to action—a blueprint for building a more dynamic, inclusive, and innovative workplace that not only meets the needs of the next generation but propels us all forward.

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Tanya

The first Millennial blogger in the UK. Twitter @_luckyattitude

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