Understanding Generation Z in the workplace

Discover what makes Gen Z unique, what they value and expect from their employer and how to manage them in the workplace effectively.
young woman standing at her desk, looking at her phone

Millennials (born between 1981 and 1996) currently make up the largest working population in the US. By 2025, Millennials will represent 79% of the global workforce, becoming the most powerful generation for companies worldwide. By 2030, it is estimated that the new generation, Generation Z (born between 1997 and 2012), will make up 30% of the US workforce.

With Millenials and Baby Boomers currently being in top executive and managerial positions, around 10.000 boomers retire each day. The shift in demographics is evolving the workplace. To understand this new Gen Z cohort and what their entry into the workforce means, employers need first to appreciate what Gen Z values, what drives their behaviour and what do they expect from their employers.

So, who is Gen Z and what makes this generation unique?

Generation Z is now the world’s largest population cohort, with 2.5 billion people. In the US, in 2020, Gen Z became the biggest generation in America, at 86 million, surpassing Millenials by almost 4 million.

According to Pew Research Center, in the US, Gen Z is the most ethnically and racially diverse generation in history, with one in four being Hispanic, 14% African-American and 6% Asian. They are also the first generation to have grown up wholly in the digital and social media era and are also on the track of becoming more educated than the previous generations, too. Besides, Gen Z is more conscious of systemic racism, holds non-traditional views of gender identity and is aware of issues of intersectionality.

To develop the next generation of leaders, organisations need to be asking: What do our younger workers value and expect from their workplace?

Gen Z values Professional Development

Members of this generation want to do more than just a job – they want to succeed, learn and matter and are more interested in doing work they love than just making money.

Organisations that invest in learning and skills development are more attractive to these young workers. Gen Z workers are highly motivated to grow their careers, with 76% seeing learning as the key to their advancement.

Mentorships and being supported by their manager are also incredibly important for them. In a recent survey of Generation Z workers, most respondents prefer to have job opportunities outside of what they were originally hired for (if you haven’t considered employee retention programs at your company, maybe you should).

They also enjoy learning new skills through a learning-by-doing style and prefer individual tasks over team-based activities. When it comes to training these employees, Gen Z likes learning via mobile apps, online tools or videos, but they prefer in-person training. Companies should take advantage of this generation’s desire to connect and learn from peers by incorporating social networks and communication tools like Microsoft Team and Slack.

Gen Z values work-life balance and diversity in the workplace

When looking for a job, having a work-life balance is one of the top priorities for this generation. Flexible hours, perks and benefits matter too. When looking to attract and retain Gen Zers, you need to think beyond traditional employee benefits. Benefits such as paid time off, mental health days, paid volunteering opportunities, student debt repayment, and company-sponsored education opportunities are some of the benefits Gen Z employees find most valuable.

Inclusion and diversity are also critical factors Gen Z considers when joining a new employer as this generation prioritises diversity – across race, orientation and gender – more than any other generation before them. Besides, to win the hearts of Gen Z, employers need to demonstrate their commitment to a broader set of societal challenges, such as sustainability, climate issues, inequality, diversity, equity and racial justice.

Gen Z values job security and financial stability

According to Staffbase, one of the driving forces behind Generation Z is also financial rewards. This is not surprising since Gen Z had the highest debt growth of any generation in 2019 and 2020, saw their Generation X parents struggle during the Great Recession and are highly interested in financial planning.

In addition to offering competitive salaries and good retirement plans, employers should consider educating Gen Z workers on financial strategies and provide Employee Financial Literacy Programs.

Gen Z employees are not completely different from their predecessors, but its members do approach the workplace in a different way than older generations. To appeal to these young workers, companies need to personalise career paths and opportunities, rethink their approach to benefits and processes, create a fostering work environment where employees feel valued, respected, and secure and be open to new ways of working.

In return, Generation Z will bring their digital savviness, will help businesses improve their company culture and transform their work environment, will bring new ways of working and help companies come up with new ideas that support work-life balance and employee experience.

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