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.
Why Personalization & Choice
In the final installment of this series, we take a look at personalization and choice. This plays a big role in a workplace that Gen Z finds attractive. Because even though there are many similarities highlighted in this study, Gen Z, like any group of people is as diverse as they are similar.
Whether it’s their office design preferences, what fuels their sense of purpose or what achievements are meaningful to them, the insights in the research should not stop employers from getting to know the individual, beyond the group at large.
How social and apps have driven the need for choice
To understand why Personalization & Choice is especially important with Gen Z, just take a look at some of the apps that they use day-to-day. With those, they have grown used to getting what they want, when they want it – all tailored to their unique personality, preferences, and wants and needs in that moment.
Personalized social apps like TikTok: Like YouTube and Facebook before, TikTok has mastered the game of recommending just the right content to keep you scrolling. Being accustomed to this, Gen Z will expect experiences to be personalized and will have a hard time accepting one-size-fits-all.
Wherever workplace experiences can be personalized, they should. This makes the difference between feeling good but generic, and “totally me.” If the most popular social apps are any reference, personalization in the workplace will drive engagement, and that will drive retention.
Data-driven super apps like Grab: “Growing up” with super apps like Grab means that Gen Z expects to have a world of choice at their fingertips. This and other apps cleverly use data to recognize patterns, such as predicting where you want to ride next, reducing the process of booking a ride to just a few taps. All this makes it even more of a rub when (digital) workplace experiences are slow, generic, and always the same.
The immediacy of delivery apps: Delivery apps like Baemin, Gojek, Foody and others have further entrenched Gen Z’s expectation of immediacy. If it takes only a few minutes to place an order for whatever snack or meal they are craving, and no more than a 20-minute wait to receive it, it’s only natural that Gen Z should wonder: why is the workplace still acting like it’s five years ago?
Work when and where they want
These expectations for personalization and choice were only further accelerated during the pandemic. According to a pre-COVID research from Navigos Search, flexible work was at the top of Vietnamese workers’ wish lists. And the reason remote work was on a wishlist to begin with is because very few companies were aware that a need existed for this kind of flexibility. Among those who were aware, few were willing to offer it.
COVID helped flip that. Especially after the social isolation in April, companies saw that having people work from home wasn’t all that bad. And employees saw that working from home all the time wasn’t all that great – especially as personal connections, bonding, learning and overall well-being suffered. Additionally, being distracted or not having enough discipline to focus was the biggest con of working from home for 7 out of 10 Vietnamese Gen Z-ers.
So companies have an opportunity to offer the best of both worlds. They can meet the 56% of Gen Z who appreciated flexibility in working hours the most by letting them choose when to work. And they could satisfy the 1 in 4 Gen Z-ers who say that having no commute is what they love most about working from home by letting them choose where to work, at least some days of the week.
Bringing work to people, not people to work
Based on these trends and preferences, smart companies are letting work come to the people, rather than people to work. Recent data from CBRE shows that companies in Ho Chi Minh City are increasingly starting to move out of the Central Business District in favor of decentralized office buildings in more residential areas.
There, they move into areas where their employees live – cutting down on their travel time and supporting their work/life balance. And, saving the company costs along the way. A recent Cushman & Wakefield’s whitepaper takes it even further, presenting a vision of a network of places and spaces to work allows companies to offer total flexibility to their employees.
This is something that Gen Z could embrace even more so than generations before them, building on what they have learned in previous years studying in a hybrid world. As Gen Z-er Nhan (1998) shared: “My ideal workplace would be a mix. For example, when I studied, I had three different places: home, coffee shop, and university library. I would let my mood or purpose influence where you go to study.”
Making the office more purposeful
When the core functions of a company’s “headquarters” office get spread across multiple locations including a central office, smaller neighborhood offices, and additional third places like coffee shops and coworking spaces, that headquarters needs to be thoroughly redesigned. Beyond the demands Gen Z already has for their workplace, this means rethinking the actual role the central office plays and making it purposeful towards those needs.
Another recent CBRE study highlighted that offices now should be centered around human interaction. In the survey, respondents were asked about the primary reasons they would come to the office when the pandemic is over. “For team collaboration and connection” and “to collaborate face-to-face” where mentioned by over 60% of those participating in the study.
This highlights the importance of thinking about the purpose of the office and how it’s reflected in the design. Companies would be wise to consider adding or expanding social areas like cafes, lounges, informal meeting spaces, as well as functional spaces for collaboration and co-creation. All these together give employees of all generations the choice of how to work for any task or mood.
Offering Personalization & Choice to Gen Z
Growing up with apps that know them intimately and serve only relevant content; can predict where the user wants to go without being told; and meet their need for immediacy with timely deliveries to their homes or offices, Gen Z has very different expectations from the world. And the workplace is largely not meeting them.
Forward-looking employers will download and use some of these apps to gain a deeper understanding of Gen Z’s mindset and how to cater to it. They would be smart to try and personalize the employee experience wherever they can and allow for flexibility in working hours and locations.
Letting Gen Z work when, where, and how they want will improve their productivity, reduce the stress of commuting, and save the company money in the process. In a world of personalization, the workplace needs to catch up.