Sud took the helm of Vimeo, a video services platform, in 2017 and has seen her own workplace shift over the past six years: As of February, Gen Z makes up around 19% of the U.S. workforce, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The definition of Gen Z is sometimes contested, but is roughly considered anyone born between 1997 and 2012.
“We used to have a very ‘One Vimeo’ global approach [to how we treated employees], in the name of consistency and fairness,” Sud said at a TED conference in December. “And what we found is … we have to design mechanisms to support our teams in a very different way, because their experiences and the world around them is quite different.”
Changes in workplace culture are often cyclical, and each generation brings its own personality to the labor force. Millennials, many of whom started their careers in the wake of the Great Recession, leaned into freelancing. Gen X embraced tech in the workplace.
Successful companies tend to follow those evolutions, or their bottom lines suffer. Businesses today perform better financially when they prioritize diversity, equity and inclusion efforts, a 2020 McKinsey report found — a demand that gets louder with each new wave of workers.
It’s one example of how Gen Z, after more than three years of a global pandemic, has a heavy hand in shaping the next new normal. Here’s how the most successful Gen Zers are already doing it, according to Sud.
Embracing the work-life blend
That means doing away with the idea of “work personas” — being a more professional version or yourself at work, or a less professional version of yourself at home. It also means embracing how your personal life can inform your work, and vice versa.
A lot of Gen Zers are used to quickly internalizing large amounts of information in short periods of time, for example, especially with the boom of short-form content on platforms like TikTok. Their most effective learning strategy may not take the form of a 300-page manual or three-hour training video.
“[The way we] communicate and interact in our personal lives is going to translate to work,” Sud said.
That’s not necessarily a bad thing. Sud referred to it as an “area of opportunity”: If you can eliminate the extra work that goes into squeezing your identity into the mold of a false work persona, you’ll ultimately create a more efficient business.
Looking for a ‘why’
Doing work just because “my boss told me that this is what we’re going to do” doesn’t cut it with younger workers, said Sud. “They don’t just want to do something because someone with formal authority told them to do it. They want to do it because they understand why it matters, why it ties to the mission.”
In a 2022 Deloitte survey, 36% of Gen Zers said they had rejected a job or assignment based on their personal ethics, a show of how much some younger workers care about bringing value to consumers and society.
Successful young professionals are also adept at pushing their bosses for deeper explanations behind company choices, since they often impact how employees go through their day-to-day.
Doing that soul-searching isn’t just a matter of quelling Gen Z’s demands, Sud said — it helps the workplace as a whole.
“[It] forces leaders to really bring more of the ‘why’ into how we communicate and motivate people,” Sud said.
Flexibility as a priority
Most companies can probably provide a work-from-home option a couple days a week. The four-day workweek is more doable for some than others.
Gen Z workers gravitate toward workplaces that prioritize those kinds of options, Sud said: “This is true of all of us, but particularly the younger generation. I think they’re looking for flexibility and they want options and choices.”
Most people understand that not every company can meet every employee request for flexibility. Instead, young workers want workplaces that stay true to their principles while still updating antiquated company policies, Sud said.
Those changes can lead to company-wide improvements, she added: Employee feedback led Vimeo to revamp its hybrid work policies, approach to compensation and DEI initiatives.
Today, Vimeo allows its employees to work 100% remotely, with the option of coming into the office at their own discretion. As of 2021, the company also rolled out “competency rubrics” and other initiatives to gauge its progress on DEI issues.
Such changes can also present challenges. How do companies facilitate mentorship when people work from different locations, for example?
“Candidly, it’s an area that I don’t think we’ve really figured out perfectly,” said Sud. “And I think it’s really critical that as leaders, we do that, so that this next generation is able to get the same growth opportunities that we all had … We’ll actually come away a much more evolved and efficient workforce.”
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