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How does New Work apply to Gen Z?

It’s a mix of mindset, skills, digitalization, and open exchange with those to whom the future belongs

October 06 2021Nouran Elsherbiny

A new generation is forming. Are you part of it?

When I read that 76% of companies do not have a strategy for New Work, I wondered whether they simply didn’t consider New Work as a priority or, whether they did, but didn’t know how to design and implement it. But this can be overcome if you start by asking the right questions. Great questions engage action, bring people together, and unlock the potential of the future. And this is where I, as the Chief Tomorrow Officer at T-Systems, come into play.

The winds of change drive immediate uncertainty

Two Women are walking next to each other in an office, both are smiling

Members of Generation Z are at the start of their careers – and already they face uncertainty. Jobs and in-demand skills are changing rapidly: half the world’s workforce may need ‘reskilling’ by 2025. Across eight major economies, 100 million people could switch occupation by 2030.

How can Gen Z workers, like me, deal with this? What do they really want? These New Workers are looking for job opportunities to future-proof their careers and take an active stake in the future of work. They want to design ways of working that fit their long-term needs.

What are people from Gen Z really like? They are highly creative and inquisitive. They question norms, and the most prominent question they ask is: Why? Why are things done in a certain way? Why can’t we have everything – a fulfilling professional and personal life, sustainability alongside commercial growth?

For businesses keen to attract these highly qualified employees, the mission is clear: fulfil the needs of Gen Z, or someone else will.

The arena to fight for talents is open

The time to act on this is now. Especially after COVID, questioning norms has the norm. Working patterns are shifting in ways we would never have considered before. Working from anywhere is commonplace and accepted. As long as you have connectivity and do your job in time and budget, where you work from does not matter.

On top of this newfound flexibility, we must recognize that especially young people are deep thinkers. They think about the environment, and about the ethics of the company they work for. They support local brands. They champion social change and inclusion. Most of all, they want to feel appreciated, and trusted to work on their own terms, following their own initiative. Employers should listen to them. If you can align your company’s new work strategy with this set of needs now, you will be best placed to attract the top talents from Gen Z in the coming years. And like that, you have secured your company’s position for the future.

Values over money

Some things matter more than money. Generation Z employees’ biggest demands are deeper and more intangible than their predecessors’. Remuneration is no longer the be-all and end-all.

Tomorrow’s talents value autonomy: the ability to divide their working hours freely, to set their own goals, and to put their skills to full use rather than getting stuck on repetitive tasks. Alongside this, they appreciate a sense of purpose: working in dynamic teams as part of a business that contributes social as well as monetary value. And they want a work-life balance – they don’t want to fall into the all-too-common burnout trap. Personally, I know I will always continue to seek a less stressful work environment. That’s one of the most important aspects of how I select my job. This governs the choices of both employees and business owners. As employees ask themselves ‘What am I looking for from my job?’, owners must ask, ‘Is my business geared up to deliver it?’

Asking questions is the starting point

So, how can businesses future-proof themselves effectively? They can start by listening to employees. In their eyes, where do the greatest opportunities and pain points lie? In my role as Chief Tomorrow Officer (CTO), this was the first job: engaging with employees in all functions and levels, inside and outside the company, and coming up with insights and ideas that drive us toward a better future. 

It’s important to acknowledge that we don’t hold all the answers to every question – but nevertheless we can orient ourselves in the right direction. For example, we’re actively exploring how we can use AI to address frustrations, automate tasks and create a less stressful working environment. Most people know the feeling of running all over the place, going from meeting to meeting, working frantically to hit targets. We’re using our data-driven modelling capabilities to design ways to consign this stressful routine to history. And we believe it will work.

Why organizations need CTOs

In the world of New Work, organizations need to be open and flexible: believing in change, giving employees real opportunities to work, and being proactive enough to take the initiative now. A Chief Tomorrow Officer can catalyze this change, moving from first steps with ideas to taking action rapidly. It’s an excellent role for a Generation Z-er to take on – harnessing their digital-native skills and their new ways of thinking to tackle the topics of the future.

I believe that CTOs will become a lot more common as companies become brave enough to try the concept, pioneered by T-Systems but easily transferable to other companies. Once they do, they will be amazed by the possibilities it unlocks. When you talk to 18-year-olds, you soon realize that they have incredibly well-developed ideas. They give an eloquent voice to what previous generations felt: a sense of frustration at the rules, restrictions and repetitive tasks that take up their time and curb their creativity at work. It’s time to do to the opposite. Embrace creativity and put it to work to transform your business to be ready for the future.

Get your company ready for the #questionfortomorrow!

Are you a company and would also like to establish a Chief Tomorrow Officer program? Or are you a university or college interested in our program?
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About the author

Nouran Elsherbiny

Chief Tomorrow Officer Program Manager, Deutsche Telekom

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