Updated: Mar 1
Generation Z is steadily entering the workplace and has created a ripple of changes. Born after 1996, Gen Z is a group of digital natives. They have never lived in a world without technology, so they bring new technological experience and expectations to the workplace. According to CNBC, 61 million Gen Zers entered the workforce in 2018. Currently, Gen Z makes up 24% of the global workforce.
The way that Gen Z grew up directly affects the way this generation thinks, acts and works. Growing up during the Great Recession, Gen Z has seen the widening wealth gap contribute to greater income inequality, and they have seen their parents struggle financially during this time. Their higher education rates have sharply increased, yet their college enrollment rates have already surpassed those of previous generations. All of these elements bring life to a new mindset that is already transforming our workplace.
A study done by Deloitte shows that Gen Zers are likely to be loyal to organizations that have a positive workplace culture. Equal pay and career advancement opportunities are the top two factors that Gen Zers say help them build trust with their employer. Inclusion and ethical behavior are also vital when choosing an employer. For women, an inclusive manager is more important than for men, but the majority of Gen Z women and men in the US (83%) cite ethical behavior by their manager as a “very important” factor in building trust. In the past, having an inclusive boss did not make or break choosing a new employer, but Gen Z is changing the game. Employers have shifted from hiring full-time employees to build an organization, to actively building ever-changing organizations, ecosystems and networks. The depth of the workplace has grown deeper and more meaningful.
Gen Z views flexibility as an essential value in the workplace. The traditional 9 to 5 “cubicle” environment doesn’t entice them. Gen Z needs flexible schedules and remote work options. This does not mean they are lazy or they want “easy” work – it is quite the opposite. This younger generation is willing to work hard and knows how to blur the line between their work and home lives, but they want to do so under flexible conditions.
Gen Z is more likely to increase productivity when working in modern office spaces with natural light. Closed-in, artificially lit workspaces do not appeal to them. As they are accustomed to modern technology, they expect their workplace to be as well. They expect to have the tools they need to get the job done, and to be able to take their work with them wherever they go – just one of the perks of technology. Gen Z’s impact on our workplace environment has already began to transform tradition. Working from home is now quite common, and employers are prioritizing having a modern office space. This is another aspect of workplace culture that is vital to Gen Z. A study that began in 2017 surveyed 10,000 human resource and business leaders across 140 countries. 60% of respondents rated building the organization of the future to deal with rapid and disruptive changes as very important. Gen Z wants to work for an employer that is ready to deal with these changes and that will transform the office into a workspace that everyone can be excited about.
Millennials are major team players and put emphasis on collaboration in the workplace. Gen Z is a little different. While this generation is great at working with others, they’re more interested in pushing themselves independently. They thrive by learning and being competitive with their peers. This is another leadership skill that sets Gen Z apart from the rest.
While Gen Z was not personally affected by the Great Recession, many of them are old enough to remember seeing their parents struggle. The grew up constantly connected to the world, learning from their phones. Because of this, they’re more pragmatic and want financial security for themselves. Gen Z is okay with shaping their own futures and seeking an entrepreneurial career at a young age. This drive for stability is great leadership material and will push Gen Z to reach its highest potential. It also changes the workforce entirely. With Gen Z gravitating to starting their own businesses rather than starting a traditional 9 to 5 job, changes to workforce expectations are inevitable.
Making a Difference
Gen Z is very interested in changing our world for the better and making key social changes that previous generations have not. For example, climate change and its negative environmental impacts are among Gen Z’s top concerns. Nearly three-quarters (more than 70%) of Gen Z respondents to a Harvard poll said climate change is a problem and two-thirds (66%) think it is “a crisis and demands urgent action.” Gen Z believes climate change is a global problem, and wants to be part of a business that has a hand in social change.
Retaining Gen Z Employees Aside from creating changes in the workplace, Gen Z is also creating new standards that employers must recognize and take into consideration when attempting to retain their Gen Z employees. A study performed by LinkedIn shows that Gen Z is more than three times more likely to change jobs, with 20% of them averaging four or more jobs over the short period of time they’ve been in the workforce, compared to Baby Boomers who average just 2 jobs in the past ten years. This indicates that Gen Z is on the hunt for the right job that aligns with their values. According to the same study, Gen Z is looking for an employer who:
Uses eye-catching branding in recruiting methods
Invests in tech upgrades and looks for ways to integrate connectivity with technology
Offers education options
Provides constructive feedback to employees
Integrates flexible work options
Prioritizes promotional opportunities
There is much to learn about Gen Z and its ability to modernize our lives as a whole. Organizations that meaningfully prioritize the gender pay gap, ensure all employees have an equal path to promotion, and take a stand on social concerns such as climate change can expect to have more success at harnessing and retaining Gen Z talent as they enter the workforce. As more Gen Zers begin their careers, our society will see more change to our leadership structure and the way technology is used to further a productive work environment.