The Hybrid Approach that Attracts Gen Z

Hybrid work patterns are a good fit for centennials

El enfoque híbrido que atrae a la Gen Z

The talent shortage is a growing problem for companies. In a work environment where employee turnover and desertion is on the rise, the role of generation Z (centennials or Gen Z - those born between 1996 and 2012) is gaining relevance. In the “war for talent,” considering this generational group, which already represents 32% of the world's population and almost a quarter of the global workforce, is crucial. To attract this talent, companies must allow for the aspects of well-being prioritized by the members of this generation, such as work-life balance, mental health, or corporate commitments to diversity, equity and inclusion. According to Deloitte, a work-life balance is the top priority, followed by learning and development opportunities, and, thirdly, pay.

It stands to reason that work values change from one generation to another. Members of Gen Z display less professional loyalty and, if they are dissatisfied with their current position, are more than willing to change jobs. These are obvious challenges for employers, who must understand and adapt their strategies to the new values, attitudes, and behaviors of centennials. In turn, this generation provides extensive advantages for companies, as can be seen in our article “Explaining Gen Z’s desire for hybrid work in corporate, family, and entrepreneurial settings” (Business Horizons, 2024).

An X-ray of Generation Z

Gen Z's work style can be summed up in four main characteristics:

  1. Digital natives: They can make better use of the technological knowledge they have absorbed through the use of smartphones, being more aware of privacy and security issues. On the other hand, they tend to be less adept at communicating over the phone or face-to-face interactions.
  2. Individualists: They are autonomous in their learning, work, and communication style, which is why they prefer independent work to teamwork, prioritizing their personal growth and development. They tend to multitask.
  3. Mental health: They have normalized mental health challenges. They are highly aware of the advantages of a work-life balance and the benefits of watching their well-being. They value social connections, frequent feedback, mentoring relationships, and having leaders who are understanding and compassionate.
  4. Personal values: This generation makes decisions based on their personal values and favors companies that defend and prioritize diversity, equity and inclusion.  They are tolerant, empathic, and understand different points of view.

Instead of focusing on the negative stereotypes popularly attributed to this generation, companies should also look at the unique benefits and advantages of centennials. For example, this generation easily adopts the latest digital technologies, is enthusiastic about acquiring new knowledge, and is more willing to work in international settings, incorporate new work methods and propose process improvements. The distinctive traits of Generation Z, such as its adaptability, creativity, and tech savvy, are extremely valuable in the current landscape, particularly in the face of the disruption produced by emerging technologies, such as artificial intelligence.

In Defense of Hybrid Work

Flexible work arrangements are becoming increasingly common thanks to technological advancements and the demand for greater decision-making agility. Hybrid models are undoubtedly a good fit for the characteristics of this generation: their tech literacy, their individualistic work style, the presence of a more diverse and multicultural workforce, their approach to sustainability, etc. But, above all, autonomy in deciding where and when to work empowers them, thus increasing their motivation and job satisfaction.

Hybrid work also has advantages for employers, such as saving costs associated with office space, although investments in technical infrastructure or cybersecurity increase. Hybrid models often lead to greater efficiency, as employees have the flexibility to work in environments where they are more effective, focused, and alert. Nevertheless, the disadvantages for companies include the challenges of building a robust organizational culture, since interactions and the opportunity to share values are reduced, as well as low levels of productivity, innovation and creativity. The reality is that hybrid work can offer the best office environments while giving the employee the chance to work from almost anywhere.

Our data analysis reveals that the majority of the members of this generation prefer hybrid work, although their reasons vary depending on whether they aspire to jobs in corporations, family businesses, or entrepreneurial ventures.

  1. Those who want to work in corporate settings place more importance on social interactions and visibility. Since the office offers them formal and informal opportunities, promoting collaborative and communicative environments can create a sense of community and keep centennials motivated. Team-building activities, networking events, and other participatory initiatives help cultivate a cohesive team, while also serving as recruiting tools. Furthermore, combining in-person mentoring and coaching with remote training can provide support for new employees.
  2. Those interested in family businesses place more importance on infrastructure and amenities. Highly functional office environments can serve as a sanctuary of comfort and well-being, making Gen Z more enthusiastic about coming into the office. These improved services need to justify the effort and cost of going into the office in person, offering work spaces where bonds of trust and friendships can also be built.
  3. Those who aspire to create or work in a startup, value, above all, the work-life balance factor. Entrepreneurial ventures should offer support and resources to establish optimal working conditions at home, such as subsidies for internet access, meal vouchers, or office supplies. A monthly supplement for health and wellness or maternity or paternity leave programs could also be provided. Supporting optimal performance and workspace personalization, with the fewest possible distractions, increases employee productivity.

In short, by accommodating the preferences of Gen Z, companies can enhance their employer brand and position themselves as an attractive place to work. Some attraction and retention strategies are easy to apply, while others require investments and organizational adjustments. With a proactive approach to Generation Z, companies can increase their own adaptability while successfully improving their competitive advantage, creating attractive value propositions for their employees.

The authors are research professor, Department of Marketing and Business Intelligence at EGADE Business School, and leader of the Retail Industry Transformation Thematic Area Group (Lucila Osorio) and adjunct professor at EGADE Business School, professor at the School of Business of Tecnológico de Monterrey, and leader of the Organizational Design and Culture Thematic Area Group (Sergio Madero).

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