BlackRock CEO Larry Fink says the pandemic revealed a gap in generational expectations at work.
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The pandemic revealed a generational gap at work, BlackRock CEO Larry Fink wrote in his annual letter to CEOs.
He said leaders need to think about how to connect to social issues that matter to employees.
The gap between Gen Z and millennial employees grew during the pandemic, but both want the same things at work.
In a remote work world, it’s not just where we’re working from that’s different. It’s also how we’re working with each other.
BlackRock CEO Larry Fink said in his annual 2022 letter to CEOs that leaders need to work with employees to navigate the new world of work, fostering an environment that expands its focus beyond pay and flexibility. That includes thinking about how to connect to social issues that matter to employees.
“In addition to upending our relationship with where we physically work, the pandemic also shone a light on issues like racial equity, childcare, and mental health – and revealed the gap between generational expectations at work,” he wrote.
The 2010s economy saw generational differences emerge as millennials overtook the workforce, bringing tech-savviness and a desire for flexibility that older generations weren’t used to. The pandemic era of the 2020s ushered more Gen Zers into the foray, adding another generational divide to the mix as this generation was more assertive about what companies can do for them. It turns out, millennials and Gen Z want the same things — they just ask for it in different ways. And Fink says boomer executives should pay attention.
“Companies that deliver are reaping the rewards,” he added. “Our research shows that companies who forged strong bonds with their employees have seen lower levels of turnover and higher returns through the pandemic.”
Millennials and Gen Z want the same things out of work
As the The New York Times’ Emma Goldberg wrote in an article that went viral late last year, millennial managers are afraid of Gen Zers, who are confidently and assertively demanding a better work-life balance.
The TikTok generation delegates to their bosses, isn’t shy about asking for mental health days, works less once accomplishing their daily tasks, and sets their own hours, Goldberg wrote. It’s coming as a shock to work-obsessed millennials, whose careers have always seen overworked and structured days.
But while millennials and Gen Z may work differently, they want the same things in the workplace. Both generations experience more anxiety and stress than older generations, and both equally prioritize mental-health benefits and work-life balance. Both are also demanding corporate social responsibility, wanting the companies they work for to make a difference on issues like climate change and racial injustice.
The difference is in how the generations approach these priorities at work, which has a lot to do with the economic crises each generation confronted after graduation.
Millennials, who entered a dismal labor force broken by the Great Recession, were keen for change but risk-averse. But the era of remote work gave Gen Z the upper hand in amplifying demands for workplace autonomy, Lauren Stiller Rikleen, president at Rikleen Institute for Strategic Leadership and author of “You Raised Us, Now Work With Us: Millennials, Career Success, and Building Strong Workplace Teams,” previously told Insider.
And so, as Goldberg wrote, they began questioning pre-pandemic workplace norms like eight-hour shifts or lack of progressive values, much to the chagrin of the millennial managers who are used to doing things their way (just like every generation).
While this creates a gap between millennials and Gen Z in the workplace, the two generations’ similar needs unite them on one side of a different generational gap with boomer leaders on the other side. Millennials paved the way for a more progressive shift that Gen Z is now actively turning into a workplace norm. What Fink’s comments imply is that employers need to accommodate these changes.
Of course, an increasingly progressive streak is what happens as a new generation ages into the workforce. As Rikleen said, “The quest for a workplace that respects boundaries and needs is baked in generationally. That will not change. With each new generation, this will get stronger.”
Economy, Markets, Finance, Economy, BlackRock, Workplace, gen z, Millennials, Pandemic, Great Recession, Larry Fink
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