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From Tetris to Roblox: Gen Z Redefines the Modern Workplace

Generation Z will soon surpass Millennials as the world’s most populous generation, with over one-third of the world’s population identifying as Gen Z. In 2024, we will see a fundamental shift in power and trust relations between employees and employers. It is part of a generational shift in work from being like Tetris to being more like Roblox. As a millennial, I spent many hours playing Tetris-style games on my Gameboy and phone. There is something fascinating about slotting the flat-sided blocks that fell from above together. The game was designed to be sleek, accurate, and simple. It instilled in the player a sense of order and control. I showed my 11-year-old cousin and asked if he wanted to play. “Why would I?” he quickly replied. “You can never beat the game.” And, in this sense, he’s right.

Organisations by design used to be similar to Tetris—top-down, hierarchical, and with well-defined rules. Work had set bounds for hours, geographical places, and duties. Notably, the employer, not the employee, establishes these boundaries. My cousin belongs to Generation Roblox, while I am a member of Generation Tetris. Like in the Roblox game, you can construct infinite kingdoms and roles in his universe. You may create your profession, build bridges or spaceships, run a farm, or live in a mansion on the waterfront. At its core, Roblox is about self-authorship. However, the sense of control stems from being a maker, not organising blocks. He loves Roblox because, in his words, “It’s my world and my rules.” There’s a joke that goes, “If a Gen Z employee isn’t happy, they’ll find a new job on LinkedIn by lunch!”

In many respects, the worlds of Tetris and Roblox serve as excellent metaphors for a dramatic change in power and trust taking place at work. Gen Z (and Alpha, who will enter the workforce at the end of this decade) are uninterested in the Tetris-style work environment. The rules, rewards, and reporting mechanisms do not make sense to them. Given that by 2025, Gen Z will account for 27% of the workforce in OECD nations, this is a significant issue to address. By 2030, the Roblox generation will account for more than 58% of the workforce, including Gen Z and millennials.

Gen Z and Millennials differ in various ways, one of which is evident in team scenarios. Millennials favour collaborative approaches, while Generation Z likes working alone, most likely due to growing up with personal gadgets. While both have advantages, it is evident that a combination of both generational cohorts is required in a high-performing team. According to the World Economic Forum, over two-thirds of Generation Z want to work for themselves or a startup. 80% of Gen Z workers worldwide desire a better job that matches their ideals, and over half say they would resign if it interfered with their work-life balance. Flexibility is frequently offered as a remedy to changing workplace dynamics. Another key feature differentiating Gen Z from Millennials is their emphasis on alternate revenue streams. This is most likely due to witnessing their parents suffer during the 2008 financial crisis. Employers should not see this as a lack of devotion; Gen Z wants to guarantee stability if anything like that happens to them. Yes, younger generations desire greater freedom and security, but focusing on where and when people work ignores a larger paradigm shift: people’s relationship with businesses has changed.

While wealth is vital in selecting a job, Generation Z values it less than prior generations. Gen Z was evenly split between higher-paying but dull work and something more thrilling but lower-paying. Companies and employers must stress their efforts to be responsible global citizens to win over Generation Z. Companies must show their commitment to larger societal challenges, including sustainability, climate change, and hunger. Diversity is the buzzword of Generation Z. They care about diversity in various ways, including identity, orientation, race, and gender. Companies that effectively portray variations in their external branding/marketing are far more likely to diversify their talent pools. According to Randstad’s study, 42% of Gen Z workers would even accept a wage loss if it meant working on a project that made a difference in the world, and 49% would refuse to work for a firm that did not share their beliefs. This research shows how important business and social responsibility are to Generation Z.

Career advancement and financial security are high on Gen Z’s priority list. Almost 75% feel that their initial employment should last no more than a year before they are promoted. And 32% think it should only last six months. Many Gen Zers aim to land their dream career within ten years of entering the workforce. Furthermore, Generation Z is willing to shift occupations numerous times to advance in their careers. According to one study, Generation Z is predicted to change jobs ten times between 18 and 34. Another poll revealed that 83% of Gen Z would leave their jobs if they did not see appropriate opportunities for advancement.

As we learn about the tastes and behaviours of our newest workforce members, we must also consider how “work” develops and evolves. The new realities created by these engines of change raise complicated challenges, such as the ethics of human-machine collaboration, how to prepare for 50-60-year careers, and how we release organisations via a continuum of talent sources. The future of labour will necessitate the return of the Renaissance figure: a person with several abilities, hobbies, and fields of study. It will require combining four critical professional skills: digital tools and technical proficiency, comfort with analytics and data, business management capabilities, and design and creative abilities.

Gen Z will be able to expect more customisation as they go through their careers. Organisations must recruit and keep the best and brightest of the generation, necessitating a new attitude. In many aspects, Tetris’ design reflected a “power over” leadership mindset: “If I tell others what to do, they will follow.” Rules and boundaries are built into a linear, top-down structure and cannot be invented. Roblox, on the other hand, exemplifies the “power with” dynamic. There are no business ladders or hierarchies to traverse unless you create them. The game’s collaborative, autonomous, customised, and peer-driven design fosters engagement. According to a recent Gartner analysis, employee engagement has a 3.8 times larger impact on stress than job location. In other words, how individuals perceive their daily job—their sense of participation and enthusiasm—is more important in decreasing stress than where they conduct their work. Most organisations do not comprehend this, but gaming creators do. In 2024, leaders will have no choice except to acknowledge that Tetris is no longer playable in a Roblox world.

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