Learning from Generation Z in the Age of Agile Working Event
We all know that 2020 proved a tumultuous year for businesses of all sizes. In 2021, the COVID-19 pandemic continues to have a profound impact on our everyday lives, while businesses are continuing to find new ways of working, growing, and evolving.
To underline this, our first event of 2021 was carried out solely online, with a virtual audience of hundreds of partners, customers, and resellers. Dialling in to see keynotes and discussion panels on the theme of hybrid working and how Gen Z is helping change the nature of work, the virtual nature of the event neatly underpinned how quickly we have all had to learn and adapt to new ways of working during the pandemic.
Future of Work and Gen Z
Jason Cort, Director of Product Planning and Marketing, presented the first keynote, highlighting that there have been clear global level benefits brought about by the pandemic.
Jason gave the example that we have had time to reflect on processes, both those that add genuine value, and those that have quickly faded, proving they were no longer really needed in the first place.
It is these evolving processes that were the key to his presentation. ‘In 2018 we conducted a series of workshops with young professionals to find out how they viewed the workplace of the future. To build on these insights, at the end of 2020 we surveyed more than 6,000 office workers young and old, in small and medium sized businesses across Europe, to understand how the global pandemic had impacted their working needs and priorities for the future.’
The key interests of the research focussed on the under 30s, a mix of Millennials and Gen Z, who are the building blocks of our future economies and societies. Our research found that just over half (51 per cent) agree that working remotely has made them more productive.
‘However, the most unexpected feedback from Gen Z came around the need for physical office space. While they recognise the benefits of remote working, young workers are still looking for businesses to provide physical office space, and do not seem to endorse a full move away from the office.’
Jason finished his presentation by underlining that while employees want both virtual and physical offices, it is vital for employers to provide the technology which enables both productivity and social connectivity in the new hybrid workplace of the future. And this is part of our mission at Sharp.
Collaboration, Communication and Compassion
Viola Kraus is a future of work psychologist with over 16 years’ experience and research, consulting with organisations and individuals on the future workplace.
In her keynote, Viola covered over a century of work, from the Industrial Age and man’s first collaboration with machines, through the Information Age and the rise of communicating with computers, to the present Digitalisation Age and how Artificial Intelligence (AI) is informing but also replacing traditional ways of working.
However, at the heart of her presentation were tips on how to make the most of the 3Cs (Collaboration, Communication and Compassion) in the modern workplace, especially when working with Gen Z employees.
‘In terms of Collaboration, we learned from the Sharp research that more than 30 per cent of Gen Z workers expect technology to play an increasingly vital role. Furthermore, as they are incredibly purpose driven, they want authenticity in the workplace. When it comes to Communication, they want it now, they want it fast, no email or phone call can be fast enough. The virtual meeting space is theirs – they love the camera and are tech savvy, so have no problem with freely speaking up and expressing themselves. ‘
‘When it comes to Compassion, for Gen Z work is about having a meaningful relationship, where work melds with private life. So they need to have that social interaction, virtually and when possible, face-to-face.’
Case Study: Fond Of
To bring a customer perspective to the event, we invited Fond Of, a success and evolving backpack manufacturer who place a heavy emphasis on technology and collaboration, to share their story.
Mathias Heinz, head of IT at Fond Of, outlined that the company was founded in 2010 as a small start-up for school backpacks, and today has over 300 staff members working across seven brands and working across 35 countries. They moved to their current headquarters, known as The Ship, in 2019. It is regarded as one of the most digitally advanced buildings in Germany.
The company has an incredibly young mindset, the average age of employees is just 33 years old, and while Mathias suggested that sometimes they may be missing some experience skills, they have found it the perfect way to work with colleagues who have the same drives and same skills.
‘From an IT perspective,’ he said, ‘it’s easy for us to introduce new products, whether software or hardware, and ways of working. New technologies are seen are being very welcome at Fond Of.’
Asked about how to make the most of hybrid working, Mathias said: ‘We have been working in a hybrid environment since 2014, so advice we can pass on is that you give teams the trust to work and collaborate for themselves. Be there when they need you and create processes and guidelines for everybody. In one sentence, be an enabler, not a supervisor.’
For this event we expanded our open panel discussion, a part of the event that has previously proven incredibly popular, where attendees are able to pitch questions on hybrid working to our panel of experts.
Alongside host Christopher Parker, Jason Cort and Viola Kraus, we were pleased to have Patrick Bouvet, who is a Channel Executive at Microsoft, Pietro Olioso, Architect and Consultant and honouree Gen Z, and Gary Bailer Director of Product Management, Pro AV Products at Sharp Imaging and Information Company of America as guests on the panel.
The panel covered a wide range of topics around the themes of ‘how to engage with attendees during a hybrid meeting’, ‘the role of mentoring in the hybrid workplace’ and even ‘webcam etiquette and the advantages of always having the webcam on during meetings’.
Some great advice was delivered, such as keeping people engaged in meetings by adding interactive elements every few minutes, such as offering up a video, a poll, or even setting quick-turn challenges. Bringing people directly into the meeting using their name was also a key way to make sure people are engaged and active.
Nordic Commercial Director