Generation Z in the Workplace

Generation Z are those people defined as being born between 1995 (roughly) and the mid 2000s. This means that the first wave of Gen Z is just about to or has just hit employment. (Those born in 1995 are now 24 years of age, meaning that they have either been in the workforce for at least five years or they have just graduated post-secondary schooling, or are in the process of doing their post secondary studies). Generation Z is, like any other generation, unique. In this case, this generation is the first one to be entirely raised in a world that has always had the internet. They don’t remember a time of dial up and certainly not a time where there was no internet at all. This means that they have a particular outlook on life, as well as expectations of what it will be like to work. For both employers and other employees, understanding this wave of employees will be critical for many businesses to continue operating, as well as harmony in the office.

(As a side note, this entrance also marks the first time where many companies will have up to four generations all working side by side: Boomers, Gen X/Y, Millennials, and Gen Z. That will come with its own set of challenges; however, that is not the focus of this article.)

There are a number of things which this generation will expect to see, will want to see, or will push to have in the workplace. It’s important to understand that most of these things are just a natural extension of what Millennials and Generation X/Y already started, as well as the overall changing nature of employment today.

Work-Life Balance

A major focus for Generation Z will be the need for work-life balance and harmony. The number of employees who feel burned out at work and end up leaving because of it has been on the rise and there is more awareness now around the importance of balancing work and home. Technology, particularly cloud technology, facilitates the ability to work from anywhere and since Generation Z has always been ‘connected’, the idea of working remotely is not only intriguing, it’s practically assumed in many careers.

However, don’t confuse this with thinking that generation Z will be able to work on weekends. Guided by Millennials who wanted little to do with this, Gen Z will see flex time as normal and weekends as ‘their time’, not company time. (Weekend not necessarily being Saturday-Sunday, but rather any time they aren’t on the clock, they will recognize that they Should Not Be on the Clock and will act accordingly). 

Back to Face-to-Face Connections

Millennials were absolutely fascinated with technology and also suffered through frightening recessions and crashes that made it more likely they would work until they burned out in order to make ends meet. Generation Z is fighting back against this with the notion that they should be getting fair and more pay for work and that the human element is more important than the technological. This means that Generation Z is not only using technology to connect to each other and others, but they are going back to the importance of face-to-face. For employers, when properly managed, this gives companies the best of both worlds with Gen Z conversant in YouTube, Instagram, and Snapchat, as well as wanting to spend time working on collaborative projects.

The need for face to face also translates to a greater desire for more feedback from supervisors, managers and/or CEOs with two thirds of Gen Z’ers stating they want feedback from their supervisor every few weeks rather than every few months or once a year. This feedback can be quite quick though: an emoji texted to an employee or sent by email, a quick comment on how someone is doing, or a handshake is usually enough to keep employees feeling as though they are on the right track. And 63% of Gen Z feel that it is most important to work with people who come from a diverse education and skill background with an additional 20% think that having people of different cultures and ethnicities is the most important element of a team. Diversity also seems to drive whether Generation Z employees stick around: 77% of Generation Z said that a company’s diversity affects whether they will work with that business or not.

More Self-Directed Learning

Generation Z also has more self-directed and independent views towards learning, and they enjoy problem solving and knowledge sharing. We will be looking more at this when we look at classroom learning vs online learning in a later post. For now, it’s important to note that both Millennials and Gen Z enjoy continual learning and often want to learn on their terms, often using technology to assist. In fact, one of the best ways to promote the loyalty of these younger workers is to find out what they want to learn and help them learn it, even it’s not directly related to their job.

The Job Post Must Match the Job!

Younger employees, driven by the need to go back to face-to-face and relationship-based work, are also driven by trust. In fact, one of the big things that causes young employees to quit a business is a lack of trust. Nowhere is this seen more plainly than in the job post. If the job post doesn’t match the job that you give an employee, it’s more likely they will quit, feeling duped and frustrated. The job description in other words, better be the job that the person applied and interviewed for!

For example, if a young millennial or generation z employee interviews and lands a job as a recruitment officer for the company, they expect to be trained and doing recruiting, not something like IT or marketing. If the discussion of doing these things comes up and everyone agrees to it, that’s fine, but dumping marketing on your new recruiter is a fast way to have them leave because they will feel like they got the job under false pretence.

If your company has been struggling with turn over, check your job descriptions and see if they need a rewrite before going out again. The take-away from this is that Generation Z requires the following in order to be great employees: trust, technology, face-to-face communication with each other and with supervisors, continual learning opportunities, and work-life balance. In return, Generation Z employees bring effortless technological savvy, loyalty to the company, a love of learning, and the ability to bring innovation to any business. Millions and millions of new workers are coming: are you ready for them?

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