Gen Z Malaysians expect a digital workplace, but still value human interaction

A study by Dell Technologies reveals Tech-savvy Gen Z Malaysians are eager to shape the workforce of the future by leading and helping others, but worry they lack the soft skills required

Generation Z is entering the workforce, bringing with it a technology-first mentality that will propel businesses further into the digital era while potentially deepening the divide amongst five generations in the workplace. According to Gen Z: the future has arrived, a study commissioned by Dell Technologies, post-millennials – those born after 1996 and known as Gen Z – have a deep, universal understanding of technology and its potential to transform how we work and live.

“It’s almost a given that these digital natives have advanced technology and data science skills, but what is surprising is the level of digital maturity they are bringing to the workplace,” said Danny Cobb, corporate fellow and vice president of Technology Strategy, Dell Technologies. “Yet we haven’t raised a generation of robots. Gen Z sees technology not only as a tool for enabling human progress, but also as a means for leveling the information empowerment playing field. Their combination of vision and optimism is remarkable.”

The survey of 4,331 – including 724 from Malaysia – high school and college students across 6 countries in Southeast Asia (SEA) – Malaysia, Indonesia, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam – reveals the younger generation’s outlook on technology and future jobs.

On the whole, the findings were similar when comparing Malaysian Gen Z-ers to their counterparts in the SEA region. According to the study, Gen Z-ers have strong interest in technology jobs, as:

  • 90% (in Malaysia and SEA) want to work with cutting-edge technology; of those
    • 41% in Malaysia are interested in IT careers (43% in SEA);
    • 44% in Malaysia want to work in cybersecurity (43% in SEA); and
    • 54% in Malaysia aspire to be involved in technology research and development (53% in SEA)
  • 98% (99% in SEA) have used technology as part of their formal education; in addition, 94% (95% in SEA) say the technology offered by an employer would be a factor in choosing between similar job offers
  • Understandably, in this day and age, 98% (in Malaysia and SEA) are careful of what they post on social media as it may impact the ability to be hired in the future

Notably, an overwhelming 91% in Malaysia (92% in SEA) recognise that we are entering the age of human-machine partnerships: 58% (59% in SEA) of those surveyed believe that humans and machines will work as integrated teams, while 33% (32% in SEA) see machines as tools for humans to use as needed.

Gen Z still values the human element

Although they have interacted with electronic devices practically since birth and grew up with social media, Gen Z-ers yearn for more human interaction in the workplace.

In Malaysia:

  • 81% (74% in SEA) expect to learn on the job from coworkers or other people – not online
  • 74% (72% in SEA) prefer talking to coworkers in person compared to text-based communication
  • More than half (55% in Malaysia, 53% in SEA) prefer to go to a workplace versus working from home, and 66% (63% in SEA) prefer to work as part of team rather than independently

“Today’s young professionals grew up in a collaborative educational environment and they are bringing those same expectations to the workplace,” said Maribel Lopez, technology industry analyst and strategic advisor at Lopez Research. “Though face-to-face communication isn’t always possible in today’s modern workplace, immersive technologies are enabling all types of workers to collaborate in both the physical and virtual worlds.”

Lack of experience, potential generational rifts

Having grown up as digital natives, most Gen Z-ers are confident with their technical prowess and are eager to share their knowledge. In Malaysia, 71% (76% in SEA) rate their technology literacy as ‘good’ or ‘excellent’. Nearly all – 98% (99% in SEA) – think that technology literacy matters, and this extends to their willingness to mentor a coworker who may be less experienced with technology (80% in Malaysia, 83% in SEA).

On the other hand, Gen Z-ers worry about having the soft skills and experience that employers are seeking:

  • Nearly all new graduates (97% in Malaysia and SEA) have concerns about future employment, ranging from not having the right skills to lacking work experience
  • Only 64% (60% in SEA) rate their education as ‘good’ or ‘excellent’ in preparing them for their careers
  • Only 27% (in Malaysia and SEA) are confident they have the non-tech skills that employers want

At the same time, senior professionals are concerned they are being outpaced and that a majority of leadership roles in the future will be filled by digital natives. According to previous Dell Technologies research, 87% of business leaders fear that their organisations will struggle to offer equal opportunities across generations.

With up to five generations now in the workplace, businesses must help workers find common ground as they push to create a digital-first culture. Cross-functional teams with complementary skillsets can encourage knowledge exchange and a fresh approach to problem-solving. Internships, rotation programs and other early-career development opportunities can help young professionals gain experience and develop soft skills on the job. And reverse mentorship programs can enhance technical competencies throughout an organisation, with Gen Z leading the way.

“In the era of human-machine partnerships, Generation Z Malaysians have demonstrated that they have an intrinsically digital nature, but at the same time place human interaction on an equal level,” said KT Ong, country manager – Malaysia, Dell EMC. “As a nation, we are at the cusp of a transformative future – one that will be led and shaped by Gen Z-ers. Organisations in Malaysia need to be cognizant of both the digital and human traits of this generation – and their concerns – finding ways to assimilate them into the business culture and philosophy to drive greater business success.”



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