Welcome back to the experience economy blog series, where we’ve been discussing key issues that companies need to be aware of as Generation Z employees enter the workforce. A major issue for this newest generation of employees is balance. Balance is key in the employee experience economy. Research suggests that millennials and Gen Z employees are the least satisfied with their work/life balance than other generations. A driving factor behind work/life balance is the ability to work when they want from where they want. Working a traditional 9 am to 5 pm schedule in an office setting is not going to support the lifestyle that these employees are seeking. In fact, more than 40% of both millennials and Gen Z employees rank flexibility of work hours and location as top considerations when selecting a company to work for. Many companies are adapting to this change, as about 68% of large companies believe that the majority of employees will be mobile and not bound to an office space by 2021.

Gen Z employees have an entrepreneurial spirit and believe that business can be done anytime from anywhere in today’s constantly connected world. Gen Z workers embrace the gig economy with 46% of these workers working as freelancers in some capacity. This generation is willing to put in the work, but they want to do it their way, which means that traditional full-time positions are less appealing to them and creates a challenge for managers and companies to build a culture around a dispersed workforce. However, millennial managers embrace this challenge and believe that by investing in and empowering their employees to work remotely, they will get the best results.

While flexibility of hours and location is a critical piece for Gen Z employees, it is just one piece of what they expect in terms of benefits. Gen Z employees have high expectations for what they want in terms of benefits, including the traditional offerings (e.g., comprehensive health insurance) and less traditional offerings (e.g., wellness initiatives). They want a meaningful benefits package that will help them feel secure, appreciated, and balanced.

So, here are some tips on how to update your benefit offerings in a way that resonates with your employees:

  • Make Benefits Convenient: Gen Z employees are digital natives, never knowing a time without the internet. As such, they are accustomed to accessing information whenever they want it. These employees want the convenience of information received via technology, specifically via their smartphones and mobile apps. Consider your current benefits programs—are there pain points involved with gathering information, enrolling in benefits, or communicating important information? Make this process easier and more convenient by investing in mobile-friendly benefits technology—a number of useful HR platforms that can help with this. Create a well-thought-out communications plan for how you will share important benefit information with your employees.
  • Offer Growth Opportunities: Gen Z employees are seeking personal and professional growth, help with finances, mentorship, and lifestyle benefits. Consider offering different classes, workshops, or other programs that are designed to help these employees learn and grow in all areas of their lives, such as starting leadership development early on as discussed in my previous blog. A key element in developing Gen Z employees is the quality of their leaders. Gen Z employees want their leaders to invest in one-on-one time with them to help them set goals and take action. While previous generations utilized the traditional, annual formal performance review, Gen Z employees are all about less formal, constant feedback. Leaders should focus on coaching Gen Z employees—providing them with consistent, timely, and personalized feedback regarding their performance. Make sure your leaders at all levels are equipped to be effective coaches and support this type of employee growth.
  • Offer Personalized Benefits: Out with the one-size-fits-all style of benefit offerings. By knowing the needs of your people, you can provide a menu of benefits that take into account what is most meaningful to them—flex hours, leave to take care of family, reimbursed tuition, opportunities to give back to the community, employee wellness incentives, and better rules to deal with an always (technologically) connected world. One example of a company doing this is Ultimate Software. They take a humanized approach to benefits by constantly seeking employee input on what benefits packages work best for their families and them. They adapt their offerings based on employees’ needs and focus on promoting the overall well-being of their employees. Offer a variety of meaningful benefits and let employees customize their benefits package in a way that best meets their needs.
  • Promote Well-Being: Gen Z employees put physical, mental, and social well-being at the forefront of the work/life balance equation. As such, companies should offer benefits that provide a holistic approach to well-being. Workplace stress has a significant negative effect on productivity, engagement, and retention, yet many companies fail to create a culture of health. Implement benefits that reduce workplace stress and offer employees an opportunity to connect with each other and create a sense of community. These can include offering comprehensive benefits for physical and mental health, offering meditation classes, subsidizing gym memberships, encouraging employees to take breaks, and getting out of the office for team-building activities. Companies should teach employees how to manage stress by providing classes on techniques to help reset and recover, which is especially important in fast-paced, high customer interaction environments where employees can easily become overwhelmed. Additional stress-management training can include proper time management, prioritization, and managing conflict. When not at work, employees need to be able to fully unplug and reset. The expectation of constant communication, especially outside of working hours, is a major stressor for many employees. This issue has become so problematic that some countries have passed laws against employees checking or responding to emails during non-work hours. Leaders need to support this by emphasizing the importance of downtime and setting the expectation that work can wait until the employee is at work. Leading by example is critical when promoting work/life balance, so make sure your leaders at all levels understand the importance of balance. The focus should be on how to increase efficiency, ultimately leading to better productivity and results, but without the need for so many employees to constantly sacrifice their personal life for work.

Offering a menu of options that considers a wide range of needs is important in keeping employees motivated and satisfied. Ultimately, the best benefits program is one that meets the needs of your employees, so start by listening to what they have to say and adjust your offerings to help support your employees in being their best and finding balance.