Written by Alexandra Wells, Consulting Associate
There has been a lot of talk about Gen Z in the workplace lately as the generation moves onto the world stage. Generation Z is typically defined as those born between 1997 and 2012, making them young teenagers to young adults currently. It is estimated that by 2030 Gen Z will make up about a third of the workforce. The oldest members have entered the workforce, starting their careers amidst a global pandemic where stability was hard to find. Even with this unusual set of circumstances that the elder members were handed, it didn’t take long for the impact of Gen Z in the workplace to be felt and for the older generations to take notice.
Growing up as Gen Z
Growing up as a member of Gen Z, I can say one of the main generational differences is that we have always been fully immersed in technology. We do not remember a time before the internet and it has shaped the way we learn, communicate, and interact with the world.
Social media is deeply engrained in our lives, having always had multiple platforms at our fingertips. This has allowed us to connect with people all over the globe, while also introducing us to the complexities of online interactions and digital privacy at an early age. Unlike the generations before us, many of our baby photos are posted on blogs or to Facebook pages. Our internal dialog is in Threads on Twitter, and our silliest moments are posted on TikTok. We are used to being visible, and showing up as our true selves, making our communication style much more personal and informal.
Our childhood was marked by significant cultural shifts. We saw progress being made for LGBTQ+ rights, as well as gender and racial equality. We’ve seen the impact global warming has had on our environment and how the Great Recession of 2008 affected our families. Some would think that would make us very risk-averse and more likely to choose ‘safe’ options instead of rocking the boat. However, the lesson we learned early on is that there is no ‘safe’ choice so we might as well work for positive change. If there is one thing Gen Z is not afraid of, it is change.
Gen Z in the workplace
Gen Zers expect and deliver authenticity. What motivates Gen Z in the workplace is a desire to make positive impacts on society, and we appreciate regular feedback and recognition for our work. We highly value diversity and inclusion perhaps more than any other generation. Knowing how we impact the world is core to who we are as people, and we want to see it reflected in our work.
Given the fact that the majority of Gen Zers launched their careers during the pandemic, this has had a large impact on how they view work. We saw firsthand how many jobs could be done effectively without stepping foot into an office. As a result, we got to experience how much time we saved without commutes, the ability to have flexible working hours, and being able to work from anywhere. What Gen Z wants in the workplace isn’t just to have a job; we want work to work for us.
To keep Gen Z engaged in the workplace, opportunities for advancement, rewards for good work, and new challenges should come quickly. We are unlikely to ask for these things as we believe it is part of management’s job to be aware of and fully understand their employees’ value. It is up to the company to identify high performers and provide them with things like robust training, leadership programs, and mentoring. Programs that provide instant gratification, such as cash bonuses, recognition, and wellness initiatives will help Generation Z in the workplace feel their effort is being seen and appreciated.
Benefits of Gen Z in the workplace
We are digital natives, having used smartphones, social media, and the internet almost from birth. When new tools or platforms are introduced, we can quickly get up to speed on how they work and how to use them most efficiently. We have a deep understanding of how people interact with social media, allowing us to keep up to date with the latest trends.
Gen Z is committed to continuous learning and personal growth. We’ve seen how quickly the world changes around us and we are always running to keep up. Because we are so accustomed to change, we often look for opportunities for innovation within our roles and can easily pivot to embrace new technologies or work processes, especially when they are more efficient.
While Gen Z is known to enjoy and capitalize on the advantages of remote work and tend to prefer texting or messaging over video calls and emails, we still value collaboration. We are open to a diverse range of perspectives, and we enjoy working with colleagues from different backgrounds. We value those diverse perspectives and are committed to diversity and inclusion initiatives. We make it a priority to do our part in creating more inclusive and equitable work environments.
Challenges of Gen Z in the workplace
No generation is without its faults. One of the biggest challenges of Generation Z in the workplace is a lack of patience. If we see things that are inefficient or simply not working, we want to fix them. Not being able to do so can lead to frustration. While older generations seem to have difficulty adapting to new technologies, we see it as second nature. We view technology as a basic life skill and it is baffling to us when others struggle with it to any degree. This can cause us to see older generations as clueless and at times, unworthy of their higher-level positions. Imagine your boss who makes significantly more than you do constantly asking for help with something that we view as very simple such as sending an email, setting up a meeting, or making a web call. Who wouldn’t eventually become frustrated?
Gen Z in the workplace has already proven that we are more likely than previous generations to job hop even with our short tenure. While we are young, our connection with each other and current events have left us jaded to some extent. Many of us see work as a two-way relationship and a lack of promotions, raises, and flexibility is often perceived as a lack of company loyalty to employee well-being. Our connection with our peers means we are keenly aware of companies that provide the better benefits and opportunities we crave, and therefore are not afraid to leave and pursue other options at any time.
Gen Z has quickly made its presence known upon entering the workforce as is typical any time older generations welcome younger counterparts into the fold. Moving forward, I see our digital dexterity, authenticity, and drive for positive change becoming the hallmark that defines Gen Z in the workplace and differentiates us from the millennials, Gen X, and baby boomers who came before us.
Editor’s note: As with most thought leadership content, its purpose is to share perspective and generate further discussion. Because everyone’s individual experiences vary, not all experiences and opinions will be the same for each member of Gen Z.