Here are the thoughts and analysis of Kevin Davis, founder and president of First Workings, a nonprofit that helps underrepresented high school students in New York City build social capital through paid internships and one-on-one mentorships.
Before the pandemic, only 2% of workers worked remotely. In May 2020, that number was up to 70% according to SHRM. Hybrid working (a combination of working from home and in the office) has grown in popularity, and many big tech companies like Amazon, Meta, and Alphabet have announced permanent remote working policies.
As companies plan for the future, it’s important for business leaders to consider Generation Z. They are currently the largest generation in America, and a generation that is entering the workforce quickly as interns. and junior staff. With the Great Resignation still underway, companies need to consider Gen Z concerns to grow their workforce.
I learned a lot as the founder and president of First Workings, a non-profit organization that helps high school students in underserved communities develop their social capital and work-readiness skills through paid summer internships and to mentorships at major New York companies. Working with high school students throughout the pandemic has taught us valuable lessons about virtual learning and working.
Gen-Z is the most diverse generation
According to a Pew Research Center study, Gen Z has more racial diversity than any generation before it. Their entry into the workforce coincided with a huge “racial count” across all industries in America. Over the past 18 months, many industries we work with, including finance, legal, medical and media, have made strides in expanding the diversity of their workforces.
Virtual jobs and internships can fill some gaps…
Virtual jobs and internships allow students and graduates to gain experiences in companies regardless of their location. Not every student can afford to move to expensive places like New York for the summer. Others may need to spend time living with family members in locations far from corporate headquarters. For them, virtual positions make a lot of sense and expand their access to opportunities.
Additionally, working remotely can give new hires more one-on-one time with mentors and supervisors. Indeed, in our experience, interns and mentees get much more one-on-one time during a face-to-face call with their supervisor, than in the middle of the hustle and bustle of an office. busy. One obvious reason for this is that when a conversation takes place over a video call, the employer or mentor can focus entirely on the mentee for a set amount of time. This makes their engagement much deeper and more meaningful.
But there are fees
For new hires from underserved communities, virtual work isn’t always the best fit. Finding a quiet place for Zoom calls can be difficult, especially when sharing small living spaces with extended family members and/or siblings. Additionally, we have noticed that many students we have worked with over the past 18 months are reluctant to turn on their camera when interacting. Zoom fatigue, coupled with feelings of shame or embarrassment about the camera background, can negatively impact their ability to make connections in virtual environments.
Businesses should prioritize face-to-face interactions
A young person entering the labor market will not have the same office relationships as his older colleagues. It’s important for HR staff and management to encourage as much interaction as possible outside of Slack and email. If new staff members have a question or concern about a project, they should arrange a Zoom call (or meet in person, if possible) allowing relationships, trust, and social capital to grow. Additionally, employees should be encouraged to go “offline” while working in person at the same time, if in-person work is optional. This will help colleagues communicate better with each other and build trust.
New hires should spend as much time as possible building intentional relationships. It doesn’t mean idle office conversation, but something deeper based on shared interests, goals, and aspirations. Newcomers should show initiative by joining a committee or offering to help with one-off projects.
Mentoring does not happen naturally
If employers want their employees to advise each other, an active effort must be made to facilitate this relationship. Companies should set clear guidelines and expectations to ensure a fair and beneficial work experience for everyone involved. The lockdown has forced First Workings to develop a virtual mentoring model, and we’re seeing how many additional benefits are here to stay, despite returning to in-person work.
Managers must prioritize work in the office for Gen Z
If companies are to succeed in attracting and fostering Gen Z talent, a critical eye must be on remote work. It is not enough to implement small fixes, because we cannot build the future workforce from our home offices. Bringing the next generation into the workplace is the best option for building a sustainable workforce.