Most of us remember dressing up and walking into the office for the first time at our first “real” job. But what if you are a young person joining the workforce today, and your first “real” job is virtual?
A recent poll found 60% of senior executives are worried about how Gen Z will fare after joining the workforce remotely during the pandemic.
“It’s very important to get the younger employees in the office,” says Christopher Merril, CEO of investment firm Harrison Street. “That is where they learn. That is where they grow. My learning was sitting in my boss’s office and listening to a call, or sitting in on a meeting, or bumping into someone in the lunchroom.”
Tiina Lee, CEO of Deutsche Bank U.K. and Ireland voiced these concerns even as her company switched to a hybrid work model: “Grads and interns [should] spend as much time in the office as they possibly can. I would like to see our grads in the office five days a week.”
Clearly, leaders are worried about their new hires and the impact virtual work will have one their professional development. But how do actual members of Gen Z feel about this?
So, are we creating a “lost generation” of workers stuck in dead-end remote jobs – or is this just another case of elders fretting over “kids these days”?
The research suggests the truth lies in between. On one hand, well-managed virtual teams have been outperforming on-site teams by as much as 43% for decades. However, despite their performance virtual workers are 50% less likely to be promoted, and many burn out over the long term.
Is there a future for Gen Z working remotely? That’s largely up to their employers. Companies that want to become an employer of choice for Gen Z need to act intentionally to ensure new remote hires are welcomed into the culture and can grow careers. Specifically :
In the end, leaders’ concern for Gen Z may be the product of their own biases. Gianpiero Petriglieri, Associate Professor of Organisational Behaviour at the French business school insead points out, “People advising youngsters to go into the office are those who made their way in that environment.” As we look towards a virtual/hybrid future, colleagues from different generations will need to chart new types of career development paths, together.