Why video-first organisations will win over Generation Z talent
Organisations everywhere are now trying to attract the newest workplace entrants – but how can Gen Z’s different technology demands be met?
As the next generation of employees enters the office environment, the workplace will have to adapt to the unique challenges and preferences that they will bring. Each new working generation tends to form reciprocal relationships with the technologies, cultures and norms that they have grown up with: that is, they are influenced by them and in turn influence them.
What this means in practice is that with every cohort that enters the workplace, differences will emerge in how workers behave and interact. These present new challenges for how operators of workplaces accommodate them – especially with regard to technology. For example, according to vision.critical.com, device use by Gen Z workers favours smartphones (15.4 hours per week) over laptops (10.6 hours), whereas Millennials take a different approach with desktop use (16.4 hours per week) beating smartphone use (14.8 hours). Pivoting working practices towards the smartphone as opposed to laptop or desktop computer puts a different accent on how the work environment is configured and asks new questions of the relationship between people, place and technology.
Any business that does not move with the times and fails to accommodate the next generation will lag behind and be unable to successfully tap into emerging talent. WORKTECH Academy, in partnership with Swiss company Logitech – designer and developer of innovative personal peripherals for PC navigation, video communication and collaboration, music and smart homes – has already examined some of the thinking around how the Generation Z cohort (born between 1995 and 2012) will be different from their predecessors.
‘A preference for visual social media…’
This generation has never known a time before the internet and mobile phones. While their perspective may seem alien to some, Generation Z are set to make up around 25 per cent of the working population in 2020 and this will grow. This means that understanding this generation will be a critical factor in business success and will only become more important as time goes on. Because of their unique experience of technology, they also interact with services in different ways that will shape their demands in the office. A good example of this is visual technology: Generation Z typically prefer visual social networks to others, with YouTube being the most popular (85 per cent of Generation Z report using this), followed by Instagram (72 per cent) and Snapchat (70 per cent).
Pool of future talent
There has been a lot of talk around what Generation Z will want and need from the workplace of the future. Organisations are now beginning to address these desires as they vie for this pool of future talent. This approach can take many different forms. Some companies have adopted new spatial and architectural strategies to create a ‘physical social network’ for the always-on, Snapchat generation. For example, Social Chain, the international social media marketing company, has crafted its entire workplace around accommodating Generation Z, with an indoor jungle zen zone, an outer space boardroom and New York Subway meeting pods filling its space.
But, undeniably, a new approach to technology is also important to meeting Gen Z expectations. At automotive pioneer McLaren, innovation and high quality are essential, so alongside standout office design, it has focused rigorously on the technology that this cohort is going to be using, in order to attract and retain emerging talent.
McLaren has set itself the goal to video-enable every meeting space it has worldwide, while still matching its distinctive branding. The McLaren IT team also believes that end user peripherals need to be customised and is moving away from a one-size fits all approach to meet the needs to a diverse and modern workforce. Through enabling colleagues all over the world to better connect and collaborate with one another, McLaren is already creating a workplace ready for the future workforce.
A challenge to technology
So, what are the technological challenges organisations are expecting with Gen Z? And what are the potential solutions? Many commentators have noted that the newest working generation works over a broader range of different media than other generations. Due to growing up with social media platforms like Instagram and Snapchat and video-sharing platforms such as Youtube and TikTok, younger workers are far more accustomed to receiving and sending information through a video format.
‘Video never took off but there has been a massive shift now. FaceTime changed all that…’
Martin Smith, Logitech’s UK-based unified communications specialist, observes: ‘Generation X have always been happy with a handset on the desk and a conference phone where you can dial a number. Video never really took off for this generation…There has been a massive shift now. FaceTime changed all that. Now people want to use the tools they want to use, not the tools you want them to use.’
Logitech’s director of product management, Martin Ruddle, who is based in Santa Cruz, California, adds: ‘Generation Z are much more used to using point-to-point video for personal use. They seem to be more open to that in business use too.’
This abundance of video-based services coupled with fast Wi-Fi serves as a powerful inducement to conduct more and more communication over video. Many offices do not have sufficiently capable video infrastructure to support the level of video-based interaction that Generation Z are going to expect. For example, many workplaces have traditional boardroom style meeting spaces built for 12 or more people. This tends to be the only meeting room that is actually video-enabled. Many businesses recognise the need for smaller meeting rooms spaces and are making changes, however they haven’t made a significant enough change to also equip employees or the rooms with video.
‘Many offices do not have sufficiently capable video infrastructure to support Gen Z…’
If a room needs to be adapted at short notice for a short space of time, an even faster solution is the Conference Cam Connect. This is an integrated Bluetooth webcam and speaker unit that is designed with portability in mind. Bluetooth and wired connections allow it to be easily connected to a huge range of different devices and software packages. This is perfect for enabling quick, informal conversations in any space.
Ease of installation will bring the video to them and ensure that they still have access to video communications in whatever space they are using.
Martin Smith of Logitech stresses the seamlessness of the process: ‘It is essential to have a joined-up video journey: if you are listening to a call on your mobile, when you come into a meeting room, it should offer to transfer the call over to that. This should immediately mute the mobile and use room audio and video, then resume on your phone if you leave.’
Higher standard of wellbeing
As we learn more and more about our health and the way the work environment affects it, so too are the newest generations coming to expect a higher standard of wellbeing in the workplace. This is evidenced by wide-ranging initiatives aimed at younger workers to encourage activities like exercise, mediation and relaxation. Generation Z will also be used to these from a younger age, with more care taken throughout the education system to ensure that students will have wellbeing supported. As more emphasis will have been put on this from a young age, Gen Z will be expecting more from workplaces in turn.
When competing for the best future talent, companies will have to bear this in mind. Highest salary or smartest company car will not be the deciding factors when Generation Z come to choosing jobs. Instead, benefits that support their health and wellbeing will be far more valuable. These include measures like flexible working and workplace wellbeing programmes. To be truly successful at this though, companies will need to show that looking after their employees is a fundamental part of the way they work, not just a tactical add-on to company culture. They will need to evidence this through everything they provide to employees and the way they act.
This extends to supporting employees at work in subtle ways that they may not even notice. Such support may take the form of making sure that equipment is the best for supporting ergonomics. Logitech has developed a whole range of products that are specifically aimed to be possible to use for extended periods of time while maintaining good ergonomics. Many of these are tailored especially towards knowledge work. They include mice to reduce muscular strain and precisely fit the shape of the hand, keyboards that automatically light to reduce eye strain and have a wide range of tilt angles for adjusting to different users. Many products offer a range of different ergonomic benefits perfect for supporting employee wellbeing.
Another common technological trend being driven by Generation Z is the trend for customisable services. Familiar with flexible software rather than clunky hardware, most in Generation Z will have grown up in an age of highly customisable products and services that can offer each individual what they most want out of it. Major news websites, online retailers and social media outlets are all striving to learn more about their audience and customers as that has become a lucrative way to monetise them. This has resulted in a high degree of customisation: if you are only interested in politics news, that is all your news application will display to you. This level of customisation will come to be expected in the workplace.
Logitech supports this through several different technologies. Martin Ruddle summarises the approach: ‘Work is not a place anymore; it’s what you’re doing. You need to have products that can deal with a changing environment around you. They need to be unobtrusive and portable. You need to have headsets and other peripherals that can match the mobile phone’s portability.’
A small but not insignificant offering in this regard is the support on many of its devices for customisable buttons, for example on keyboards and mice. These allow the user to specify different inputs that they find themselves using most regularly, such as adding a new desktop or opening a program.
Logitech goes further than this though, ensuring that customisation is at the heart of its technology. Flow is a software package that allows Logitech devices to interact with multiple computers, seamlessly sharing files and control between them. It even works across multiple operating systems. As the drive for customisation develops, more and more people are preferring to bring their own devices into work to make use of something that is set up exactly how they want it. Logitech Flow ends the need for finding a flash drive or emailing things to yourself, allowing quick and easy transfer of both control and data between devices.
Understanding the requirements
In summary, there are a number of ways in which Generation Z entering the workforce is likely to change it. Video infrastructure clearly heads the list. As Logitech’s Martin Smith explains: ‘There is a huge amount of communication that we miss out on due to not seeing people – nodding, hand gestures and son on, that will drive more video communication. Companies need to outline why they are going to become video-first organisations. You see a lot on video that you wouldn’t see otherwise – you get to know people a lot better this way.’
However, more broadly, understanding and adapting to the requirements of Gen Z will be pivotal in enticing them in to work at your company. Organisations that have the best chance of success are those that ensure they have the right technologies, tools and working conditions. As the Baby Boomers, with their more traditional methods of communication at work, begin to give way to the ‘Xbox generation’, there’s a lot at stake.