Failure Drives Innovation, According to EY Survey on Gen Z

October 4, 2018
3 Business person's heads from the shoulder up. A man on a phone at left, in the middle a woman with glasses and on the right another woman looking.

When it comes to failure, Gen Z (people born from the mid-1990s to the early 2000s) is not afraid to embrace it. In fact, more than 80 percent of Gen Z think that embracing failure on a project will help them to be more innovative and 17 percent believe that it will make them more comfortable to take on new risks, according to a recent survey of 1,400 Gen Z individuals at the 22nd EY annual International Intern Leadership Conference (IILC) this summer.

Designed to gauge Gen Z’s sentiment around the future of work as they enter the workforce, the EY survey found that this generation is eager for innovation and accepts that failure will likely be a part of the process.

“With the next generation of our workforce not afraid to fail in order to grow and innovate, organizations should create an environment that allows them to bring their ideas forward, fail fast, and then learn from that failure,” said Natasha Stough, EY Americas Campus Recruiting Leader. “At EY, this means embracing values like inclusiveness, collaboration, openness, and flexibility that best attract these candidates and encourage them to be fearless innovators once they join us.”

For Gen Z in particular, having the right mindset is key to succeeding in the workplace. In fact, more than two-thirds (70 percent) believe it is more important to be seen as having a curious and open mindset than a specific skill or expertise. Moreover, Gen Z is not afraid to venture outside of their comfort zone when presented with a new challenge – with about a quarter (24 percent) being excited and honored for the opportunity.

Gen Z is also not afraid to make mistakes, especially when they are able to learn from them. Largely all of Gen Z (97 percent) is receptive to receiving feedback on an ongoing basis or after completing a large project or task, and 63 percent of respondents prefer to receive timely constructive feedback throughout the year.

When it comes to their workplace preferences, Gen Z males and females have some differing priorities. While the potential for progression and growth is important for 39 percent of respondents when looking for an employer, competitive salary is a key priority for males (at 16.5 percent), while more females (22 percent) prioritize flexible work opportunities.

Despite notions of the workplace becoming increasingly digital, more than 90 percent of Gen Z prefer to have a human element to their teams, either working solely with innovative co-workers or with co-workers and new technologies paired together. Interestingly, more than twice as many males (11 percent) prefer to work with new technologies that will allow them to do their jobs faster and take on higher levels of work, compared to five percent of females who agree.

When faced with a problem to which they do not have the answer, 73 percent of females say their natural instinct would be to enlist the help of their peers, while only 63 percent of males agree. Interestingly, more females prefer to work with coworkers who can challenge and motivate them and that they can learn from compared to their male counterparts.

“We are eager to watch Gen Z thrive as they enter the workforce,” said Stough. “By supporting a collaborative, team-friendly environment, organizations can successfully leverage this generation’s skills to manage and propel these forward-thinking individuals to solve the problems of the future.”

When working in a team, nearly two-thirds (63 percent) feel it is most important to work with people with diverse education and skill levels; an additional 20 percent think that having people of different cultures (ethnicity/origins) is the most important element to a team.

In line with results from last year’s IILC survey, having a millennial manager remains the preference over a Gen X or Baby Boomer for 77 percent of Gen Z; this is an increase from the 67 percent who agreed last year. Additionally, more than two-thirds (68 percent of females; 67 percent of males) prefer to have managers of the same gender.

The majority of respondents are optimistic about the future, with 65 percent citing that they feel confident they will be better off, both financially and in happiness at work, than their parents. Overall, Gen Z will bring an open-minded and resilient, yet optimistic, outlook with them to the workforce in coming years.


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