By 2025, Gen Z is expected to take up 25% of the total workforce in Vietnam. Understanding those born between 1997 to 2012 better and designing a workplace experience that makes them tick could help companies become much more successful in both attracting and retaining these young, creative, worldly employees.
So what does Gen Z want? What drives them? And how different are they really from Millennials? A wide-ranging study led by Decision Lab, an agile marketing research agency, and Dreamplex, which designs and delivers employee-centric workplace experiences, set out to find the answer to those questions.
In a series of blog posts, we dive into the results across The Job, Ways of Working, The Workplace, and the need for Personalization and Choice.
Ways of Working – modernizing the way you work with them
Beyond knowing what Gen Z wants from their jobs, employers can make themselves stand out by understanding how to work with them and by making adjustments to their leadership and communication style as needed.
Growing up not just connected, but mobile and social (remember that this is the generation that was born in or after the year Google was founded!), the way Gen Z likes to be engaged may be very different from how you currently work with your teams.
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Communication: forget the face-to-face
For example, only 8% of Gen Z prefer in-person communication with coworkers. Communication by Instant Messaging (IM) is by far the most preferred way of keeping communication flowing in the office: 63% of all respondents in our study said they prefer to talk to their colleagues on IM.
Instant messaging outshines video calls and email (10 and 9% respectively) as well as in-person meetings and phone calls (8% each.) Text messaging is the least preferred method with only 2% of Vietnamese Gen Z’ers choosing it.
If you personally prefer video calls, you might have better luck with Millennials: 10% of them chose this method of communication, compared with 6.9% of Gen Z’ers. Millennials are also more in favor of email (9% of Millennials vs. 7.5% for Gen Z) and in-person conversations (11.3% vs. 8%.)
Asked about Gen Z’s overwhelming preference for Instant Messaging, focus group participant Chien (born in 1999) replied that he thinks members of his generation “prefer discussing things via messaging, because we’re not used to talking without having time to think about what to say or what not to say.”
Lan (1997), another Gen Z’er, shared: “Even when we’re in the same office, I usually just send screenshots of my work back and forth with my manager. I prefer it over speaking to them.”
Beyond this, Instant Messaging also lets Gen Z work asynchronously and location-independently. This echoes the ingrained mobile and social behaviors that define this generation.
It also shows parallels between communication preferences for work and in personal life, where Instant Messaging reigns supreme too. Phone calls are an outlier, however, being the second most popular means of keeping in touch with family and friends (15%), yet only a number four platform for work (8%.) So, if you need to speak to them beyond the IM, opt for a video call or email instead.
Working in groups, in person, is popular with Vietnamese Gen Z. Asked to describe their working style, 52% of them named it as their most preferred way of working. However, it’s less popular than with Millennials (59%.)
That difference is made up with a preference for working independently. Here, the delta goes the other way: 40% of Gen Z want to work independently, which is 21% more than Millennials.
Even though this data was collected in a post-COVID world, by far the least favorite way of working is in groups remotely. Only 8% of both Gen Z and Millennials want to work on a group project from their kitchen table.
The higher preference of Gen Z to work independently is also apparent in how they run projects that are assigned to them. Asked how they would approach a new project from their manager, an overwhelming 86% of Gen Z said they would want to do their own research and seek help after. Only 7% said they would ask for instructions immediately, while another 7% would not ask for any kind of help.
That independence doesn’t mean that they don’t want to get feedback. In fact, they want a lot of it. 90% of Gen Z agree that they want feedback at least once a week. They are also more likely than Millennials to say they want feedback more than once a day (19% vs. 12.5%.)
It’s easy to link this back to a phenomenon that we discussed in the first blog post of this series: Gen Z wants to continuously improve. They work not just to make money, but to learn and develop themselves. And indeed, to the question “What do you expect to gain from your manager's feedback?”, 72% answered that they want to understand areas for improvement.
This makes it important for modern managers to frame and position feedback as opportunities for young employees to develop themselves. Instead of coming down on employees for not doing their job well, data-driven feedback can be used as a coaching moment to improve employee performance and their sense of development. This aligns with the larger trend of servant leadership and the “manager as a coach.”
Even failure, something that traditionally is not widely embraced in Vietnam, is starting to become more accepted. Gen Z’ers in their entrepreneurial drive are in more of a “test and learn” mode, gaining learnings along the way. This is in line with international trends: 80% of Gen Z think that embracing failure on a project will help them to be more innovative.
Hence the importance for managers to give feedback frequently. The time when a performance review every 6-12 month would have sufficed, is over. In the quest for self-improvement, Gen Z expects continuous feedback to aid their growth and development. Feedback frequency is often rated very poorly by employees, however.
Managers and companies that can provide this in a structured way can expect to fare a lot better in attracting and retaining the best young talent. Savvy employers will keep this in mind as a key focus area for improving their companies.
Designing a way of working that fits Gen Z
First, understand their preferences and communicate with them by Instant Messaging when and where possible.
Then, allow them to work both in groups in-person and independently. Let them take charge after briefing them on a new project, supporting them once they have done some initial research and have come to you with questions.
Finally, give them (very) frequent feedback in a way that allows them to continuously learn on the job. Use moments of providing feedback as coaching moments that will help them develop while creating a stronger workforce for your company.