Episode 1 - Gen Z and the changing expectations of the workplace

We open the series with a multi-generational discussion of these important questions, where Laura is joined by Technology Degree Apprentice and Gen Z representative Salome Tirado Okeze, alongside Alex Murray, Workforce Senior Manager, who brings his Millennial lens.

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Laura Hinton: Hello and welcome to the latest episode of our bite-size conversation series Forces at Work. I'm Laura Hinton, head of Tax, Legal and People at PwC UK and I'm delighted that you're tuning in. We're living through an era of extraordinary change with so many forces at work. Technologies such as AI are becoming more powerful and intuitive. The geo-political environment is complex and fast-moving, and the world and our clients are more interconnected than ever before. It's a really exciting time to be in or entering the workforce. But what are the different expectations of a multi-generational workforce and how can organisations effectively manage these? I'm absolutely delighted today to be joined by Alex Murray, a senior manager in our Workforce business and Salome Torado Akese a technology degree apprentice in our consulting business, so welcome to both of you.

Laura Hinton: We've heard lots of discussion around multi-generational workforce. We have three generations represented here. So, Alex, you are our, kind of, Millennial or Gen Y representative, Salome, Gen Z, Gen Z as I'm told we have to say. And I'm here representing Generation X. But at PwC we've got baby boomers and arguably an even newer generation coming into the workforce. So, the dynamic of having different generations working alongside each other is something that's fascinated me for a long time, I have to admit. So, Salome, maybe to start with you, Gen Z, from an employer perspective, what's your expectation of an employer? How do you think about work?

Salome Torado Akese: So, I think the basic expectations are good salary and really, really nice environment. I think more than ever, Gen Z loves to be working with people that are like-minded in a community that is very encouraging and sees your value. I think that is very important. But also, what's interesting is, I think I can't speak for all of Gen Z, but there's a large group of us that want to make sure that our organisation's values actually line up with our personal values as well. I think that's quite important. Do you feel the same way?

Alex Murray: Yes, I mean, I was involved quite a lot in the recruitment for our team and we grew quite significantly over the last couple of years and have a large proportion of Gen Z people in the workforce now, and I was really struck by how ESG topics were quite prevalent and front of their agendas going through that recruitment process. Some of the questions they were asking even in interviews were focused on team cultures and what we did as a team to socialise and how we genuinely managed work-life balance. And they were questions that I think back to when I was interviewing, and I think I maybe asked questions that I thought the interviewer wanted me to ask or seemed studious and these were, kind of, questions that were front and centre of their mind that they really wanted answers to. And I think that reflects in terms of how they are in the workplace after the recruitment process and I've noticed people are a lot clearer in terms of their personal boundaries. It's not so much pushing back, it's more a clearer sense of, 'This is what I want to achieve in my work day, this is what brings me joy, and actually, these activities I love, these activities I like less.' So, I think it's an older approach to the work place.

Laura Hinton: And how does that make you feel? Do you love that empowered, emboldened approach? Or does it frustrate you because it wasn't like that, maybe, for you coming through?

Alex Murray: For sure. I'm in awe of it. I’m almost uncomfortably in awe of it because I'm like, 'Wow actually, that's a really bold thing to be doing and really clear in terms of what they find enjoyment from.' I think they're able to squeeze the juice out of projects for experience but then what's really good is having the ability to say, 'Look, I've done project X and I loved it, I want to do project Y next, or project Z, I want to do something different.' I think maybe I'm quite risk averse but maybe I trod that well-trodden path in terms of career progression which I think can be more linear and narrower, so I think the mindset of Gen Z will give a much broader, richer experience. So, yes, I'm a little bit jealous of that approach to the workplace right at the beginning of their careers.

Laura Hinton: You know what, I would agree with you, thinking about the Gen X perspective, there's almost part of me that wishes we had the freedom. Maybe we did and maybe we just didn't take it or realise that we had that power as employees when I was coming into the workforce. But I think I love the fact that it's a more empowered, purpose-driven values, it feels as if it's more about how it feels and what you're learning and the environment rather than, certainly I think for my generation, more about progression, reward, recognition. More linear, more thinking about a ladder.

Alex Murray: Yes.

Laura Hinton: But actually now it's more of a sideways ladder, it's more about experience and the culture and the feel of a working environment, would that be fair Salome?

Salome Torado Akese: I definitely agree. I think while you were saying that I was thinking, 'Why is that?' And I think it's because we have such a diverse range of opportunities and insight of things we can do that, like the traditional progressive route, it feels like just one option of the many other things we can do as well.

Laura Hinton: Yes, but not better and not worse, which I think is that, kind of, liberating point isn't it? And how about technology? I think we hear a lot about Gen Z and technology and your relationship with technology, just having had it as a feature of life forever. How do you think about technology? Particularly in a world of work.

Salome Torado Akese: I just can't imagine life without technology if I'm being honest. So, sometimes when I go into other workspaces and, not here, but in other areas, and they don't have loads of technology or it's a bit more antiquated, I'm like, 'What? You guys haven't thought about using this?' And coming here is really nice to have, like, an organisation that's very technology forward because it's just all I've known. I can't imagine it any other way.

Laura Hinton: Yes. Alex, same for you?

Alex Murray: I think the Gen Z population are probably, it's more fully integrated and interwoven as the core fabric of their skillsets and capabilities in a slightly different way to myself. So, I think I'm tech savvy and, kind of, digitally enabled but it's almost a secondary learnt and practiced skill. So, I think back to my childhood and I remember lots of childhood without the internet. Then I remember the onset of the clunky, noisy dial up and even my Nokia phones and having to delete the tenth message so your tenth one can come through, and I think it's different. I think Gen Z, I don't think it's a coincidence, in our team especially, that it's often the Gen Z people that embrace the tools and advocate the tools first. Whether it's Tableau or Alteryx, Google, they're the best whizzes on it. They know all the smart tricks, how to speed things up, so I would like to be better but I think with the rise of AI, I think Gen Z is perfectly positioned to more seamlessly integrate that into their arsenal of tools and techniques. And I definitely will adopt it too, but in a more practiced, disciplined way.

Laura Hinton: Yes, that makes perfect sense. Almost it's turning hierarchy on its head isn't it? Because actually, the generation that knows so much about technology, embraces it and sees the art of the possible, as opposed to fears it potentially, or walks with some more trepidation I think is a Gen Z audience. And I think that's fantastic to really pull us Gen Y, Z along with you to embrace the art of the possible. That said, and I won't even give examples of some of the things that I remember, I think this idea in my mind around toggling and the thought of me being able to concentrate on one thing, whilst having headphones in listening to something else, or having different information streams at the same time, blows my mind. I'm just not wired like that because I've never really had to work in that way. So, I think there is no substitute for having a conversation is there? And understanding different perspectives. So, I guess, last thing maybe to explore briefly, and Salome start with you again, around multi-faceted careers. There's a lot of research out there that different generations think differently about a career. We've touched on it a little bit around a ladder and upwards and onwards. Is it different for you? How do you think about your career?

Salome Torado Akese: Well, I think we can all agree that representation is very, very important in the workplace in general, but I think one thing that's unique to our generation is that we're seeing representation all the time on social media of people living such different lives. So, whereas before, a lot of people, you know, the corporate route was the only route, I can now go on social media and I see somebody studying in Bali. I see somebody that's a store owner in London that looks like me, only a few years older than me. I see a day in the life of a doctor and then it's just so many opportunities, there are so many different lives we can live. And because things like travel are so easy and finding information about the careers you want to pursue is so much easier because of technology, I feel like the opportunities are endless. So, to just stick to one thing feels like it would be quite hard for me and the people that I'm surrounded with also feel the same way because it's like we have so many different things we could be doing, why would we stick to just one?

Laura Hinton: Yes, I think that's a great perspective. Alex, do you see the world through a similar lens? Or how is it different for you?

Alex Murray: Yes, I find that really great to hear because I do think there's probably more adventure and appetite from some of the Gen Z population, and we've seen quite a bit of turnover at that level, but often internally within the firm. So, actually people have moved. I work in our People in Deals team, so we look at all the human capital bits of M&A and there are team members that have moved to our legal departments and are taking on retraining in terms of a law degree or into our finance teams or financial diligence. And again, I just think it's a much broader perspective and I think they get more from their employer in terms of multiple experiences. Whereas I felt not necessarily a pressure, but a desire to specialise, to become an expert. I practiced activity A and I was good at it and I want to do it again because that can be my shining star, which is great, and has served me well career-wise. But I do wonder what it would be like to start out a career with hunger for breadth across the board, because it's more experience-driven and I think that maybe creates a funner fulfilling job.

Laura Hinton: Yes, I guess, far less tramlines aren't there?

Alex Murray: Yes.

Laura Hinton: To one extent, brilliant, but potentially overwhelming, I mean, anything is possible anywhere with any skill and maybe careers are about gathering skills as you go and building a portfolio of skills and that is a very different mindset. It wasn't that long ago that, you know, you'd look at a CV in terms of recruitment and see that somebody had spent two years in one place, three in another, and moved around and that would be seen as a negative. But now, it's really surprising if somebody hasn't moved around. The whole world has flipped on its head, so I think that whole fluid careers and employers having to adapt to that, because actually, this isn't going to change, is it? In terms of, none of us can speak on behalf of our entire generation but I think some of those really key themes come through so strongly that I think there is no alternative but for employers to really think differently around their own career options and mobility within an organisation. It's absolutely fascinating. So, that's all we have time for I'm afraid, I could talk about this for hours. But thank you so much to Alex and Salome for sharing your views, insights and perspectives, it really has been incredibly interesting. And thank you to all of you for tuning in. We have so many experts here at PwC in our people business, so please do reach out to us if you would like to hear more. Thank you.


  • Laura Hinton, Head of Tax, Legal and Workforce
  • Alex Murray, Workforce Senior Manager
  • Salome Tirado Okeze, Technology Degree Apprentice

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Laura Hinton

Laura Hinton

Managing Partner, PwC United Kingdom

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