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Gen Z in the Workplace

March 10, 2020 by Jill Granberry

Every generation brings with it new energy into the workplace. Unfortunately, every generation also brings with it a new set of stereotypes. Where Millennials are sometimes labeled as “lazy,” and Baby Boomers are seen as “technologically challenged,” there is a middle ground to bring everyone into one focused and successful work setting—regardless of their age or generational category. That begins, however, with your organization’s dedication to change.

The newest generation to enter the workforce is known as Gen Z. These young adults were born after 1997 and have grown up with technology their entire lives. Where Millennials (born between 1981 – 1996) had varying levels of access to the internet (most of whom grew up with the dreaded buzz of dial-up internet on the family computer), Gen Z does not know a world where the internet wasn’t always available. Therefore, they always expect to have immediate access to information—and the workplace is no exception.

An example of this would be providing direct deposits to their bank accounts versus providing a paper check. Gen Z rarely steps foot in a bank (although the benefits of online banking know no age) and they usually Venmo or PayPal their friends and family when they owe a roommate or need to pay for their part of Mom’s birthday gift. Some small businesses are still cutting paper checks, and this may be a turn-off for Generation Z.

Consider Gen Z candidates for a start-up. These candidates use multiple technology devices regularly and are accustomed to processing a lot of information at once. Gen Z knows how to pivot quickly, address the most important task in front of them, and wear the multitude of hats required to be successful at a start-up.

Another important characteristic of Gen Z is that, despite (or because of) their frequent internet usage, they crave human interaction and prefer face-to-face feedback with their supervisors and counterparts. They are drawn to authentic connections and will quickly run in the opposite direction if authenticity is in question. In fact, your marketing department should be helping develop your brand as part of your talent recruitment strategy, so when Gen Z looks at your Instagram (or Snapchat, if you’re really cool), they think “this would be a cool place to work.”

They also crave feedback on their performance so they can reach their personal goals. Gen Z is open to massaging their skills to what is required for the job, as long as there are processes in place to support their development. This is another way that Gen Z may challenge a start-up to be more proactive and forward-thinking in how they mold their employees now and in the future.

Decades ago, previous generations wanted many of the same things that Gen Z does: financial ease, processes in place for growth, and authentic, stable connections. Be aware that Gen Z is not afraid to ask for what they want. You should expect Gen Z employees to drive culture and demand positive change in your business.

Of course, this system only operates successfully if Gen Z also adapts to the current marketplace and allows time before an organization (especially a start-up) has all of the traits desired by a Gen Z candidate. When Gen Z is onboarding, it’s important that they are mindful of how to adapt to their new role and to ease into the workplace successfully. In this growth period, Gen Z could provide input and possibly lead the development of these systems which, in turn, will help their current and future co-workers and the organization as a whole.

With Gen Z representing 26% of the population, companies can no longer ignore that this generation is a significant part of the new workforce and, as such, must embrace their values to secure the best talent. With the right leadership and openness, Gen Z will thrive in your organization and, in return, your business will benefit tenfold – both culturally and strategically.

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