The Gen Z Effect at Work

How the youngest generation is revolutionizing the ways we work.

As members of Gen Z continue to pour into the workforce, they’re bringing fresh perspectives and new expectations. Understanding Gen Z—and how it’s radically different than the millennial generation before it—is crucial for businesses. 

“If employers think they can continue using the same strategies they developed for millennials, that would be a mistake,” says Hana Ben-Shabat, founder of the research and advisory firm Gen Z Planet and author of Gen Z 360: Preparing for the Inevitable Change in Culture, Work and Commerce. “The millennials were all about teamwork and doing things together. This generation is independent and wants to do things on their own and control how they work.”

Businesses will need to adapt to this new reality. Here are five important facts that Gen Z employers must understand about their youngest workers, and how a workplace can best support them as they launch their careers during challenging and uncertain times.   

If employers think they can continue using the same strategies they developed for millennials, that would be a mistake.
— Hana Ben-Shabat, founder, Gen Z Planet

Gen Z workers adapt to new technology quickly and thrive in a social media world.

Eight in 10 members of Gen Z aspire to work with cutting-edge technology, and 90% say technology would influence job choice among similar employment offers, according to Dell.

TIP: Technology must be front and center throughout the recruiting process to attract the attention of  Gen Z workers. 

“The first thing Gen Z does when they’re looking at a company to work for is to Google the company and check out their social media,” says Bill Lyons, author of We Are HR: The Business Owner’s Definitive Guide to Professional Employer Organizations and founder and executive chairman of Lyons HR. “They want to see whether they leave a good impression in the digital world.”

Remote work has left Gen Z feeling disconnected and  unproductive. 

Workers under age 24 were the most likely to say their productivity has decreased since they started working remotely, according to Fortune, and 44% of workers under age 25 say they don’t have any friends at work. Remote work has been difficult for those who never had a chance to experience the camaraderie and mentorship that traditionally characterize the office experience.

TIP: Promote community among Gen Z workers with regular in-person meetings (when it’s safe to gather), off-site social events or remote mentoring.

“Gen Z craves community and a sense of belonging,” Ben-Shabat says. “It’s extremely important that the work environment actually promotes community and connection.”

They expect employers to prioritize diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI).

Gen Z is the country’s most ethnically and racially diverse generation. A full 99% of Gen Z say workplace DEI is important, and 87% say it’s very important, according to Tallo. 

TIP: Do more than just talk about DEI: Gen Z wants to see companies take action through initiatives such as active employee resource groups, diverse company leadership and unconscious bias training.

“Creating a culture of inclusion is not something that happens overnight,” Lyons says. “It’s a long process to create a true culture of diversity and inclusion, and some companies never get there.”

They value a job they love over salary. 

Seven in 10 younger members of Gen Z believe work is not worth doing if it’s not meaningful to them, according to the Springtide Research Institute. 

TIP: Help Gen Z employees understand the results of their work. Explain how even menial or repetitive tasks connect to a problem the company is solving or a customer it’s helping. 

“Employers need to find ways to communicate the value of their business in the context of the greater good,” says Candace Steele Flippin, a research fellow at Case Western Reserve University and author of Generation Z in the Workplace

They’re independent and have entrepreneurial aspirations. 

More than half of Gen Zers hope to run their own business in the next decade, according to EY.

TIP: Encourage that entrepreneurial spirit by giving Gen Z workers ownership over their projects and the ability to creatively problem-solve.

“Celebrating and rewarding creativity and innovation can help keep employees motivated,” Steele Flippin says. “Finding projects or problem-solving initiatives that can allow entrepreneurial employees to stay engaged and moving your business forward can be a win-win.”

4 Key Factors That Shaped Gen Z’s Worldview

1. The Great Recession 

During the slow decade-long recovery, Gen Zers saw parents lose jobs and millennial siblings move back home. 

2. The wealth gap

 From 2007 to 2016, those with the highest incomes saw increases 1,425% more than the low-income group  and four times the middle-income group.

3. Rising expenses 

Housing, transportation, food and healthcare costs have all gone up in their lifetimes.

4. Increases in tuition and student debt

Gen Z will have the dubious honor of being the most educated generation—as well as the most indebted.

Source: Welcome to Generation Z, Deloitte, 2021

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