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Talent Development

Trends In Work Culture: Make Yours Work For Less

You can probably think of a few companies with really great work culture. It’s easy because people are talking about them. Creating a unique and positive work culture goes a long way in recruiting and keeping employees, engaged, productive and likely to stick around for years. Bottom line, your organization will be more successful.

You can probably think of a few companies with really great work culture. It’s easy because people are talking about them. Creating a unique and positive work culture goes a long way in recruiting and keeping employees, engaged, productive and likely to stick around for years. Bottom line, your organization will be more successful.

According to Sodexo’s 2012 report, top workplace trends include workplace flexibility and rewards and recognition. The good news for you? Trendy doesn’t always mean spendy.

Get creative with flexibility

The board game Twister might have had a rocky start, but creators knew they didn’t need to spend a lot of money to make flexibility a winning product; they just needed to be creative. You don’t need money or a board game to promote a flexible work culture, just be creative.

Telecommute: For everyone who’s checked work email on the weekend (guilty), you know the technology is in place to work from home. If you can work from home on nights and weekends, why not weekdays? We no longer need to be in the office to work. When you allow employees to telecommute you not only created flexibility, but you save them time and money. You do your part to lighten up rush hour traffic and make a greener planet.

Bring your own device (BYOD): Since you already use our own devices to work from home, why not use them at the office too? BYOD is a way to enable mobility of work and simultaneously save money on office technology. You are most familiar with your personal devices. Plus, you probably have a more up-to-date personal laptop than the computer your company supplies. Globally, companies use BYOD to facilitate ease of working offsite and create positive work culture.

Be flexible with time off: In order to create a more flexible work culture, Advanced Informatics in Minneapolis, an industry leader in online healthcare education management software, implemented a system giving employees autonomy over when and how much paid time they take off. Although PTO is still tracked, employees don’t accrue it, they just have it, as much as they want, and requests are rarely denied. Advanced Informatics creates flexibility by valuing productivity over hours worked.

Recognize employees without spending a thing

So you can’t afford to buy their loyalty, no problem. The best things in life are free, and that includes employee rewards and recognition. Even if you can’t afford to give everyone a raise, there are other ways to recognize hard work, make your employees feel valuable and encourage them to stay.

Reward with time off: Even if you’re not comfortable with an open policy on PTO like Advanced Informatics uses, you can still find ways to reward employees with time off. Time off fits right in with the culture of flexibility and has universal appeal. Think about offering “free days off” to be used anytime to do whatever you like. You love time off; everyone does.

Talk about the future: Find out what your employees’ goals are and then introduce them up to people who can help them advance their careers or be mentors to them. It’s free for you and lets them know you appreciate them and recognize their goals. Finding a mentor or making a good connection is more valuable in a career path than a pay raise.

Do what you do: Use what you’re already doing to reward your employees. Three Son’s Signature Cuisine, a by-design catering and event planning company in Minneapolis, allows employees to eat gourmet lunches on the job for a nominal fee. We’re talking brown butter seared beef tenderloin on crispy gorgonzola polenta with red wine pan sauce, here, whatever the kitchen has going. Employees don’t even have to bring cash; the cost is deducted from their payroll. Do you do something that your employees can directly benefit from? Share it.

A positive workplace culture fits the scope of all generations. It is a way to provide benefits to everyone on your team. Despite the notion of how expensive some may think it is, the truth of the matter is you can offer employees benefits and rewards that are nominal in cost for your organization. You may even think of it as a way to promote new talent development, offering training opportunities for your new talent or existing talent looking to make a shift in responsibilities.

What are you doing to foster flexibility and recognition for your employees? Are you creating your own trends?

Zs came of age in an era of disruption

In many ways, it’s symbolic that Generation Z is named after the last letter in the alphabet because their arrival marks the end of clearly defined roles, traditions, and experiences. After all, Gen Z is coming of age on the heels of what has been referred to as the most disruptive decade of the last century. America has become an increasingly changing and complex place.

For example:

  • ‍Zs were born into a “modern family era” in which highly involved dads help out at home, and the nuclear family model (two parents, married, with children) represent only 46% of American households.
  • ‍Zs are the first generation to be born into a world where everything physical, from people to places to pennies, has a digital equivalent.
  • From the time they were infants, Zs had access to mobile technology. As a result, their brains have been trained to absorb large amounts of information, and Zs are especially adept at shifting between skills and subject matter.
  • Zs tend to have crystal-clear memories of sitting up for the first time at six months old because they can easily and quickly reference the photos and videos their parents shared on social media or saved in the “cloud”. 

Members of this generation have undoubtedly been shaped by crisis and disruption. This generation will largely be responsible for confronting the aftermath of the Great Recession, high youth unemployment, the effects of climate change, terrorism, energy sustainability, and more. These dark events have undoubtedly made this generation more cautious and pragmatic, but they have also provided this generation with the inspiration to change the world – and their grit will likely allow them to do it.

Coming of age during disruption means that most Zs will be comfortable being the disruptors. While Millennials tend to be collaborative and innovative, this generation tends to be sincere, reflective, thick-skinned, and self-directed, and will likely approach work in much the same way.

Zs were raised to be competitive

In the era following World War II, Boomers (1946-1964) were born and eventually became the wealthiest, most prosperous generation in history. Raised to aspire for the American Dream, this very large generation moved into positions of power and influence, and served as the workforce majority for 34 years.

With the American Dream alive and well, Boomers had no reason to teach their children, mostly Millennials, about competition. Instead, they taught them to focus on academic achievement and to be team players because if everyone works hard, everyone can win.

Enter Generation X (1965-1981). In contrast Boomers, Xers came of age during a time when change and economic and political uncertainty began to take root. They have lived through four recessions, struggled with debt and economic decline most of their lives, and watched the best educated and accomplished generation of all time (Millennials) graduate during the Great Recession and become the most debt-ridden generation in history.

Gen Xers can be defined by their independence and anti-status quo approach to life, and they have taught their Gen Z children to be competitive, believing only the best can win. They have encouraged their children to be realists, finding something they are good at and aggressively pursuing it.

Xers have raised their Zs with an intense focus on competitiveness -- in academics, sports, and other activities. This approach to parenting has many implications, but one stands out in terms of business: Gen Z is likely to lead.

Millennials in the workplace created and aggressively advocated for collaborative work environments. In fact, their aversion to leadership has been so strong, some Millennials sought out companies that boasted boss-free or team-managed workplaces.

In contrast, Zs have been raised with an individualistic, realistic, and competitive nature. They have been taught the skills to successfully defy the norm. This means we’re going to see the pendulum shift away from collaborative workplaces towards a widespread demand for, and pursuit of, leadership development.

Zs are career-focused.

While Millennials have been criticized for their “delayed adulthood”, Gen Z is showing signs of “early adulthood”. Educators and parents often describe this generation as being more serious and contemplative about the world. Zs are thinking about their career paths and exposing themselves to career training at an earlier age than Millennials. It’s probable that some of this early onset of adulthood is caused by parents, who are pressuring their children to be competitive and successful and to avoid the debt that plagued both the Gen Xers and Millennials.

The numbers from our global research found 46% of Gen Z said they know what career to pursue and 51% have taken a class at school focused on their career interests. Forty percent joined an extracurricular program (team, club) based on their career interests.

Zs are seeking financial security. 

Zs have been shaped by the aftermath of the Great Recession. They watched Millennials become debt-ridden and are concerned about falling into the same trap. XYZ University’s survey results show 66% of Zs said financial stability is more important than doing work they enjoy, which is the exact opposite of Millennial survey results.  Also, 71% of survey-takers have a paying job.

Zs value leaders who are positive and trustworthy.

When presented a list of leadership traits, Zs ranked positive and trustworthy the highest. While Millennials and Gen Zs both value trust in a leader, Millennials usually cite collaboration and vision as most important. In other words, Millennials focus on the outcomes leaders inspire, whereas Zs are more likely to consider leaders’ attitudes and personalities. To Z, what leaders encourage others to do isn’t as valuable as how they make them feel.


Zs want to be challenged.

Both Millennials and Gen Zs place a very high value on feeling challenged and appreciated in the workplace. However, according to our survey results Millennials rank appreciation slightly higher than challenge, whereas Zs rank feeling challenged slightly higher than appreciation.

Time will tell how Zs go down in history, but we know this generation’s influence on history will be unlike any other.


Does your organization have what it takes to engage the next generation? Take this quiz to find out.


Sarah Sladek is CEO of XYZ University. Our generational intelligence can assist you with engaging and retaining young talent and members.

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