3 Gen Z expectations for the future of work

Gen Z and the future of work: ServiceNow co-ops share about their experience.

This is part three of a three-blog series exploring the ServiceNow co-op program for college students.

You’ve been introduced to the early-in-career ServiceNow co-op program and heard from three students about their virtual co-op experiences. In this post, those same three Gen Zers share their thoughts on the future of work.

Unlike previous cycles of co-ops who traveled to the Bay Area and experienced the office, commute, water cooler conversations, conference room meetings, snacks, friendships made on lunch breaks, and all other aspects of the traditional 9-to-5 workday, the past few cohorts of students working at ServiceNow have had to do things a little differently.

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“With the co-op program, going to Santa Clara and being in the office allowed us to get to know a whole co-op cohort and travel to California and visit the surrounding areas,” recalls Helene B., analyst relations co-op at ServiceNow.

Virtual or in person?

When the pandemic hit, ServiceNow quickly pivoted, redesigned its program to operate virtually, and remotely onboarded the next wave of co-ops within a matter of weeks.

ServiceNow’s virtual co-op program—complete with coffee chats, speaker series, movie nights, happy hours, mentorship and growth opportunities, and company swag (I’ll use my ServiceNow-branded coffee mug forever)—received unanimous positive feedback. Despite that, it’s clear that a 100% virtual experience has its limitations.

Although Gen Z has been referred to as the “digital native” generation and stereotyped as “having their heads in their phones,” it’s not safe to assume they’re happy and fulfilled with their entire work experience taking place online. Gen Zers have made it clear they crave social interaction, face-to-face collaboration, and in-person mentorship.

Based on conversations with ServiceNow co-ops, here are three key Gen Z expectations influencing the future of work:

1. Flexibility

Although able to adapt to a digital work experience nearly overnight, Gen Zers want the opportunity to go to an office and interact with colleagues. Without this, they have a strong fear that being entirely remote could cause them to be overlooked or taken less seriously. And that could result in missed opportunities for career growth and advancement.

“Gen Z is super fascinating because these are individuals who are digital natives, but they still greatly value face-to-face engagement with their manager and teammates,” notes Therasa C., director of global early in career talent acquisition at ServiceNow. “Gen Z is incredibly focused on results, but not necessarily on a 9-to-5 type of office experience. Their work needs to be flexible.”

Helene adds, “I think our generation sees the pros and cons of [work from home]. We see a world of opportunities for flexible working. For me, I see the flexibility of travel—to continue traveling and working remotely from wherever I am.”

Along with this, Gen Zers are looking for modern, forward-thinking employers who enable them with the tools and technologies needed to have a consistent work experience and be successful and productive from anywhere.

“Gen Z is super fascinating because these are individuals who are digital natives, but they still greatly value face-to-face engagement with their manager and teammates.” Therasa C., Director of Global Early in Career Talent Acquisition, ServiceNow

2. Self-care

Among other societal shifts confronting employers, Gen Zers are highly aware of mental health and want employers to discuss it head-on. Heightened by the pandemic and the increasingly blurred line between home and work life, stress and anxiety are growing problems.

Gen Z is ushering in new attitudes and approaches to addressing well-being. The generation is putting the expectation on employers to not only make mental health a priority, but also to have leadership lead by example when it comes to work-life balance.

At ServiceNow, employees (co-ops included!) are offered online mental health resources and team-wide days off. They’re also encouraged to take personal time off and even a few hours per day to exercise or to be with family. And the entire company is offered half-day Fridays through Labor Day.

Jacqueline L., user experience research co-op at ServiceNow, has seen the added benefits of this emphasis on self-care and hopes it continues. “Now taking time off for yourself feels a lot more welcome and more voiced than it was before. So, I think carrying that over when we start going back in person would be super helpful for a lot of employees.”

3. Values and purpose

Gen Z is the most racially and ethnically diverse generation in US history, according to Pew Research. Like millennials before them, Gen Zers keep issues such as sustainability and social justice top of mind.

A focus on global impact and diversity, inclusion, and belonging are table stakes when it comes to what they’re looking for from employers. Beyond demanding companies have these types of programs in place, Gen Zers expect full transparency about the practices and progress being made.

Helene says she only applied to ServiceNow after doing a deep dive into the company’s leadership to ensure there were women at the top. The company became the top choice for Alex C., product marketing co-op at ServiceNow, after he concluded it had a diverse and inclusive work environment with programs in place to prioritize and keep these efforts moving forward.

Defining the future of work

Ultimately, it remains to be seen exactly what the impact of Gen Z’s growing presence and influence in the workplace will look like. All we know is it will be big and will continue to evolve.

“As we think of Gen Z talent, we have to really take that step back to understand what roles can be done in which places strategically,” Therasa says. “That means some roles we're going to aim to have in a digital space. Other roles may have flexible work arrangements. But I think the key thing is, we have to understand people's motivations and make sure that their work, works for them so that they can feel enabled, inspired, and encouraged to do exceptional work for our customers.”

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