Future of Work

Companies need to digitally grow up, or risk losing employees

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Gen Z expects work processes to be advanced, accessible and automated. Image: Unsplash

Tammy Polk
Chief Human Resources Officer, Formstack
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Future of Work

  • The lack of digital maturity among most organizations will continue to pose challenges for them in attracting and retaining top talent, according to an HR expert.
  • Young people expect work processes to be advanced, accessible and automated, she says.
  • And 91% of Gen Zers say employers' technology is a factor in choosing job offers.
  • Here, she outlines 6 ways companies can leverage technology for learning and creative opportunities and to enable meaningful work.

Gen Z grew up with tech in their hands and information at their fingertips. So the fact that the generation of 15-second TikTok videos and 280-character tweets doesn’t tolerate cumbersome, manual work processes should surprise no one.

Gen Z expects everything—work tasks included—to be advanced, accessible, and automated. While some generations see this as doing the bare minimum, Gen Z believes they are working smarter, not harder.

Employers looking to attract and retain Gen Z employees must adopt their mantra. After all, the vast majority (91%) of Gen Zers (pdf) say that an employer’s provided technology would be a factor in choosing between job offers.

Companies will continue to have challenges attracting and retaining top talent, given the general lack of digital maturity among most organizations. Only 4% of today’s organizations have achieved a fully digitized and automated workplace. Most still depend on inefficient, redundant processes that keep young employees from pursuing fulfilling, impactful work. It’s time to digitally grow up.

Stop doing tech like you’ve always done it

To retain your Gen Z talent, you must create a highly efficient workplace that streamlines processes, automates manual tasks, and relentlessly seeks efficiencies. Here are 3 pillars companies can leverage to stop the busy work and mature digitally:

Leverage it for learning

Inspire employees to think creatively and continue learning—inside and outside the office—by offering continuing education stipends and hosting internal upskilling sessions. 72% of learning and development leaders (pdf) say that providing these programs has become a more strategic function in their organization. Whether $75 or $500, providing employees with a stipend will increase their interest and awareness around professional development courses. Employees can be supplied with recommended sources and programs— but don’t limit them to topics related to their roles or professional skills. All learning stimulates thinking.

Use it to create

Host blue sky brainstorming sessions and commend out-of-the-box thinking. These methods can be helpful when team morale is low or performance needs to improve. Of course, if employees feel free to think without limits, they’ll probably come up with ideas that aren’t feasible. But that’s not wasted time! Without judgment, employees can surface genuinely novel ideas and help team members take impractical suggestions and mold them into refined, business-impacting processes.

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Leader led

As a leader, model professional growth and adaptability. Attend educational sessions internally and externally, show vulnerability when explaining organizational changes, and be transparent in your reasoning. Tell your teams about the class you took, whether it’s a data-driven communications seminar or a watercolor workshop. And, if there’s a change in a team or organizational process, celebrate it. Explain why change is good, even if it’s our instinct to fear it.

Take processes digital to enable meaningful work

Retain your talented employees by giving them what they want: digital everything.

Audit your processes

Use data—to root out inefficiencies that bog down teams with unwanted and unnecessary paperwork. This may uncover areas you were unaware employees were spending too much or not enough time. Without an auditing process in place, it’s a risky guessing game.

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Eliminate the clutter

Get rid of all paper-based forms and documents, and stop requiring wet signatures (you know, printing out a piece of paper and signing it with a pen). Instead, use technology platforms to turn these inefficient, manual processes into user-friendly, automated, and digitized ones. Most of the time, this change requires a mindset shift—start there and gain employee and leadership trust before implementation.

Give them work that matters

Put your Gen Z employees—well, every employee—to work on more exciting initiatives that interest them and add value to your business. Initiate conversations with employees that allow them to be honest about their work, what they’re passionate about, and how they’d change their workload. This can be done through monthly 1:1 conversations, surveys, or self-evaluation.

By building a digitally mature workplace, you will empower Gen Z—and all of your employees—to work smarter, not harder, replacing tedious, repetitive admin tasks with tech-enabled efficiency and enriching work.

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