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Gen Z is redefining what workers should expect from their employers. It's a good thing.

In the ever-evolving landscape of corporate America, one generation is already leaving an indelible mark on workplace standards: Generation Z.

Tennessee businesses, in particular, need to prepare for the growing demands of this younger labor market. Recent rankings in Forbes and CNBC, among other publications, point to an influx of young professionals to our state. Defined by their tech-savvy nature, progressive values and penchant for innovation, Gen Z is reshaping the fabric of how and where we work by challenging traditional norms and fostering a more inclusive, dynamic and purpose-driven workforce.

By 2025, more than a quarter of the workforce will be Gen Z, born between 1997 to 2012. Organizations need to be agile in adapting to this generation’s demands for greater personalization, flexibility and benefit offerings for both the short term and long term.

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How companies can cater to the needs of younger workers

Gen Zers are radically different from every generation before them, and those differences are reflected in their career aspirations, working styles and behavior. They hold more space for human experience and social responsibility, and they want their employers and company culture to reflect their same values.

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Additionally, they want pay transparency, actionable commitment to civic and charitable work, and a clear vision within an organization.

This all sparks the question: How does a company craft a total rewards program that aligns with the values of younger workers?

For organizations that want to benefit from the best of what Gen Z has to offer – technological know-how, fresh perspectives, impassioned ideas and thirst for innovation – giving them purpose by allowing them to be a part of the decision-making process is a great place to start.

No matter the industry, there are ample opportunities for Tennessee organizations to promote a sense of purpose through a human-first approach.

With Nashville landing itself on hot lists like Best Place to Live for Young Professionals for 2023-24 and Top U.S. Cities to Launch a Career, my biggest recommendation to local employers for creating a comprehensive and competitive benefits package is to start with this simple task: Ask your employees what they want rather than giving them what you think they want.

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Include employees in conversations about the policies and programs that impact them, from retirement plans to day-to-day operations and office culture.

Effective ways to do this include town hall meetings, engagement surveys and keeping an open-door communication policy.

Remote and flexible work arrangements are no longer just 'nice to have'

Previously fringe benefits such as remote and flexible work arrangements, mental health resources, and well-rounded wellness initiatives have transitioned from “nice to have” to non-negotiable requirements for the younger generation.
Previously fringe benefits such as remote and flexible work arrangements, mental health resources, and well-rounded wellness initiatives have transitioned from “nice to have” to non-negotiable requirements for the younger generation.

Employers must also know how to show their employees what their future looks like with the company and show them the tangible steps to get there. Gen Z workers emphasize trust, engagement with leadership, and a sense of meaning in the workplace. The organizations that do best exhibit these qualities are effective communicators; they articulate the “why” behind the work; and they follow promises with actions.

Additionally, previously fringe benefits such as remote and flexible work arrangements, mental health resources and well-rounded wellness initiatives have transitioned from “nice to have” to non-negotiable requirements for the younger generation.

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Each generation brings its own strengths and challenges to the workforce, and Gen Z is radically changing the way we view careers and the workplace, serving as catalysts for a new set of standards and values.

In a vibrant, melting-pot city like Nashville, it’s vital that companies avoid becoming complacent and keep listening, learning and growing. I urge employers to keep in mind that every individual’s wants, needs and working style can be drastically different, so it’s important to engage with employees when crafting their total rewards packages.

In return, employers will reap the benefits of higher retention rates, increased employee engagement, more productivity and a positive work culture. When employers consider both organizational goals and employee wants and needs, everyone wins.

Jenni Bedell
Jenni Bedell

Jenni Bedell is practice Leader – HR consulting with OneDigital Tennessee. This column first appeared in The Tennessean.

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This article originally appeared on Nashville Tennessean: Can Gen Z change corporate America? What workers expect from companies