To better understand the unique characteristics of Generation Z workers, we reached out to CEOs, founders, and other industry leaders for their insights. From valuing autonomy and freedom to seeking balance, meaning, and digital, here are 14 essential things employers should know about Gen Z in the workforce, as shared by these experts.
1. Value Autonomy and Freedom
Generation Z workers are those born between 1995 and 2015, making them the newest cohort of talent entering the workplace. Employers should clearly understand their particular needs when engaging with them. One example is that Gen Zers value autonomy and freedom more highly than past generations do; they wish to be given greater control over their work so that it feels meaningful to them. This means allowing for flexible working hours, giving feedback on projects often, or assigning distinct responsibilities that offer personal satisfaction. Forging these connections will enable employers to better connect with Generation Z and bridge any existing generational gaps in the workplace.
Michael Alexis, CEO, Virtual Team Building
2. Appreciates Authenticity
If there’s one thing that sets Gen Z apart, it’s their strong desire for authenticity. For them, it’s not just about the job itself, but also about the culture and values of the organization they work for. You’ll notice that they value and appreciate leaders who are approachable and show vulnerability when appropriate. They basically want to work in an environment where they can voice their opinions and ideas freely, without fear of judgment or repercussions. They’re really quick to catch on if conversations are insincere, scripted, or forced.
Larissa Pickens, Founder, Everfumed
3. Have Climate Crisis Concerns
Gen Z is acutely aware of the climate crisis and wants to see tangible efforts implemented in the workplace. One way of coping with eco-anxiety is connecting their jobs with their personal values. This means companies should make strides for sustainability both internally and publicly to attract Gen Z talent.
Alannah Hardcastle, Social Impact Manager, Random Acts of Green
4. Look for Growth Opportunities
Gen Z workers are highly career-focused and prioritize opportunities for growth and development. These workers often view their job as stepping stones to their next opportunity and will change jobs frequently in pursuit of their career goals. To attract and keep top talent from this generation, employers should offer opportunities for professional development and growth, such as training programs, mentorship, and career advancement opportunities.
Josh Amishav, Founder, Breachsense
5. Take an Innovative Approach
I work with and hire several Gen Z workers for my home cleaning business and have had an excellent experience in doing so. Mostly, Gen Z continues to be a hard-working generation that uses modern advancements to its advantage more than any other group of people I’ve previously seen. One thing employers should know about Gen Z workers is that they aren’t just going to adapt old methods because you want them to. Gen Z (and other younger generations) like to put their spin on things, and if they see a better way to do something they’re going to do it. Especially if it is more enjoyable, can help them finish things quicker, and also add a gamifying aspect to what they do. It isn’t always the best way, but sometimes it is. The biggest thing you need to know is that many Gen Z workers have this need to do things a little differently and they aren’t afraid to do it.
Yeonsil K., Founder & CEO, Home Spritz
6. Face Post-COVID Challenges
One thing employers should know about Gen Z workers is that their education and entry into the workforce have been negatively affected by COVID-19 the most out of all groups and were hit hardest by job loss and unemployment. Education-wise, Gen Zers had to deal with canceled exams, losing a traditional university experience as education was moved online, and lost graduation plans. Gen Zers should be given strong mental health and well-being support as they, according to the American Psychological Association, are more likely to seek professional help for mental health issues than past generations and before the pandemic have expressed higher levels of anxiety and depression than past generations. Education-wise, they may have more skill gaps than previous generations because of the reasons listed above, so employers and employees may need to have great patience with their change to the professional world and enhanced intergenerational mentoring and support.
Brandon Aversano, Founder & CEO, The Alloy Market
7. Balance Work and Side Hustles
Your Gen Z workers probably have a side hustle—or are building a full-on branded business in their free time. Growing up with social media as an integral pillar of culture, many individuals in this generation saw ordinary people build fame and wealth on platforms like Instagram and TikTok — and this inspires them to chase their own dreams. Because of this, Generation Z prefers to set clear boundaries for work and life balance to make time for their outside activities.
Lyudmyla Dobrynina, Head of Marketing, Optimeal
8. Leverage Tech Skills
Gen Z is the first generation to grow up fully immersed in digital technology and is completely natural with technology. They are highly adept at integrating technology into all aspects of their lives. This means that Gen Z workers are better at picking up new skills about tech tools, they’re more comfortable with multi-tasking, and they prefer more fast-paced and dynamic work environments. These are all valuable skills, as they can adapt to meet novel requirements more easily and they have a more innovative approach to problem-solving. It changes everything when employers recognize this and leverage their skills by placing them in pivotal roles across the company.
Adam Wright, CEO, Human Tonik
9. Prioritize Work-Life Balance
Generation Z workers bring a unique set of skills and qualities to the workplace that employers should understand. As tech natives, members of Generation Z have had access to more digital experiences than any prior generation, making them adept problem solvers who can quickly find solutions in multi-platform environments. They are also highly collaborative and eager to make an impact, welcoming opportunities to propose creative solutions or experimental ideas. An attribute that sets Gen Z apart is their priority on work-life balance; they place great value on having time for themselves outside of the office and strive to achieve a healthy equilibrium between both worlds. With this knowledge, employers must take measures to accommodate the needs of their Generation Z workers in order to keep top talent.
Amy Ling Lin, CEO, sundays
10. Prefer Benefits Over Pay
After negotiating with and hiring several Gen Z candidates over the last 18 months, it has become clear that individuals of this generation seem to care more about work-life balance, benefits, and flexibility than maximizing compensation. They will forgo a certain amount of money annually if it results in more control over their daily schedule, flexibility in who they work with, and other attractive perks. This is likely because Gen Z workers prioritize their mental health more so than Gen X and even millennial workers. With that said, the compensation package you offer must still be competitive as Gen Z workers have access to an abundance of pay data.
Janelle Owens, HR Director, Guide2Fluency
11. Respect Workers’ Rights
Generation Z workers value diversity, inclusivity, and social responsibility in the workplace, but they have some excellent examples from the previous generation of what not to do as an employee. It might seem pessimistic, but millennial employees have gotten very little for putting in the extra time and effort into the grind — a fact not lost on their Gen Z colleagues. They are much more likely to be more forthcoming about respecting workers’ rights and not doing work outside of their job description for no tangible benefit.
Onno Halsema, CEO, Contentoo
12. Desire Autonomous Work
Gen Z employees are much more independent than millennials. There are many more opportunities now for young people to make their mark and even pursue being an entrepreneur more so than any other generation. This means they have more of an independent personality, which can be both good and bad for Gen Z as employees. This is just something to keep in mind in their environment as it’s possible we might see more businesses implementing more autonomous work instead of focusing on mentorship programs and team effort.
Daniel Climans, Senior Manager, Digital Marketing & Partnerships, StickerYou
13. Demand an Inclusive Culture
Gen Z knows how closely a positive work culture is interlinked with mental well-being, job satisfaction, and growth. Therefore, they value a work culture that is inclusive, respectful, supportive, and encouraging. In an environment where diversity is celebrated, everyone is treated fairly and equally. This is one of the key indicators they look for that determines whether they will be valued at the company. This value and respect need to translate to a healthy work-life balance because this is also at the top of their list. Overall, companies that can give them a positive work culture that considers all these factors are more likely to attract and keep top talent from Gen Z.
Harry Morton, Founder, Lower Street
14. Seek Meaningful Work
A lot has been said about the technical nature of Gen Zers, but employers should remember that this generation also values relationships and meaningful work. They advocate for social justice and seek to make a difference in the world. They expect employers to provide meaningful work and will be more loyal to those that show integrity and social responsibility. This generation is highly independent, entrepreneurial, and career-minded. They value their freedom, seek new challenges, and enjoy being part of something bigger than themselves. Employers need to adjust their work environment and create an atmosphere that is conducive to learning, innovation, and exploration.
Karl Robinson, CEO, Logicata
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