20% of the US population is made up of Generation Z (those born between 1997 and 2012), otherwise known as “Gen Z.” The next wave of employees entering the workforce will feature a significant proportion of this demographic. Some predict that Gen Z will make up to 27% of the workforce by 2025. The best companies will understand and adapt to different workplace trends to attract and retain top talent from this generation.
Currently, there are many different generations in the workforce - Baby Boomers, Gen Xers, Millennials, and now Gen Zers. As the Baby Boomers enter retirement, we must understand the newest demographics taking their place. Adapting to multi-generational differences and new technologies can help companies remain innovative.
Companies that understand their employees can get higher employee engagement rates, with empathy being the key driver in finding ways for employees to handle their workload better. The teams will perform better, and in turn, these companies will see higher employee retention, increased productivity, and boosted employee morale.
However, understanding employees means recognizing that they have different strengths and weaknesses, and that their development needs to be more personalized. For example, Gen Z shares some similarities with millennials, but there are distinguishable traits that HR managers and leaders should know in order to engage them better.
Here is the employer’s guide to Gen Z in the workforce.
Who are Gen Z?
As of 2021, Gen Z’s ages range from 9 to 24. They are computer literate as they only know the post-Internet world. Unlike millennials, Gen Z was raised through a significant recession, doubly so. They experienced the 2008 economic crash and the Covid-induced economic downturn. Through these hardships, Gen Z has learned to highly prioritize education for better employment prospects and self-empowerment.
What Are Gen Z Desired Characteristics in the Workplace?
Every generation of employees has some notable characteristics in the workplace. From various research studies and surveys, we can see several things Gen Z employees prioritize in their workplaces.
Gen Z employees believe that adaptability and flexibility are the most important employee traits for business success. Many companies adopted new policies in response to the pandemic. They offered flexible working hours and work-from-home opportunities. Companies that transitioned smoothly have continued to thrive.
With great mentor programs, they can learn the skills and rise to the level of proficiency of senior workers. Gen Z will also adapt to new technologies quickly, as they grew up in a digital world. They respond well to different technologies that are essential for the remote or hybrid model. It will be easier for companies to adopt new technologies knowing they have digital natives at work.
To put a number on it, 40% of Gen Z employees see flexibility and adaptability as their most significant character trait as an employee. 26% feel that expertise and proficiency are the most effective traits to have in building a supporting a business. As a result, we may see some changes in how companies approach new employees, and it will be crucial to understand the purpose of mentoring to improve onboarding processes in order for Gen Z to acclimate to the workforce.
It is well known in management circles that young people are driven by financial security, a sentiment only exaggerated by the pandemic and recession. It’s pretty common to see younger people job-hopping. As a result, many companies and research centers believe millennials are a job hopping generation. They seemingly move every one or two years searching for a company that understands their worth and shares their values.
In a survey, Deloitte discovered that 50% of Gen Z employees see career prospects as their primary source of stress. In the same study, 40% of Gen Z respondents felt the economy would worsen.
Companies always wish to avoid employee turnover. It’s costly to replace employees. On average, a company can spend up to US$15,000 every time it faces employee turnover. Because Gen Z is financially driven, it will be important for companies to offer salaries and opportunities that meet this need. Your company can look at career pathing and employee development to incentivize the highest-performing employees to stay.
In recent times, employees have taken leave due to work-related stress and health concerns. According to the APA, Gen Z is more likely to report mental health concerns at work. However, there’s still a stigma in the workplace when considering health-related issues even as companies take steps to emphasize the importance of employee healthcare.
When hiring Gen-Z employees, many interviewer ask probing questions like, “how do you handle stress?” Such a question reveals how an employee responds in high-pressure situations. In response, companies can take active steps to improve employee wellbeing for both physical and mental health.
When companies put a focus on workplace wellbeing, employee performance can improve a lot.
Gen Z is the most diverse generation to enter the workplace ever. It is one of the generations fully embracing identity concepts that are now fully in the mainstream. Gen Z trusts that diversity is a positive step for society - these beliefs extending far beyond race, race relations, sexuality, and identity.
The ideas are unsurprising, considering a breakdown of the demographics. Almost 50% of Gen Z reported being a mix of multiple ethnicities. A large portion of the demographic represents expanding ethnic groups that have grown in each generation. It will be critical that your company knows the art of building a diverse workplace.
Companies increasingly prioritize diversity in the workplace. The companies that fully embrace it stand to benefit greatly. By hiring employees of diverse backgrounds, a company can expand its perspectives. Companies with diverse workforces tend to report increased creativity. They show better hiring results, reduced turnover, and increased profits.
Social Responsibility and Values
Activists like Greta Thunberg took the world by storm, and a large portion of Gen Z agrees with her. When surveying Gen Z’s, Amnesty International found that 87% of Gen Z worries about the environment. As a result, 93% of Gen Z believe brands should be obligated to work on solving environmental issues. Additionally, Gen Z employees will likely expect a certain level of corporate social responsibility from the companies they work in.
According to Forrester, 51% of Gen Z’s shop with companies that share their values. When the employee shares the values of the company, work is more intimate. We share the same goals, have similar ambitions, and expectations of each other and the work experience. Companies are not the only ones assessing people’s values; employees are also looking for companies to work for and buy from that align with their values.
Demonstrated by their shopping preferences, Gen Z avoids brands that do not align with their values. Employees will likely seek to influence companies to take active steps toward corporate social responsibility initiatives.
The Best Tech
Due to their experience with technology, Gen Z expects to work with high-end tech. While previous generations upskill to keep up with tech trends, Gen Z will be more adaptable to things like robotics process automation. As a result, it’s possible to remove your company’s POTS telephone in favour of modern solutions. You can also take on automated systems. You may even try new technologies and processes that will boost company performance.
Gen Z immerses itself in technologies. 95% own smartphones and 88% have access to laptops. These figures are relevant as companies look to improve and grow. Answer questions like, “what is process improvement?” and “how can we achieve it?” By tracking Gen Z’s behavioural patterns and keeping up with technology trends, companies may innovate in ways not before seen.
Prepare for Gen Z
Every generation brings its own set of priorities to the workplace. To paint a very simplistic picture, the millennials brought higher levels of collaboration to the workplace. They emphasized corporate social responsibility and incorporated their values into their work lives. As Gen Z enters the workforce, there are some key things for us to note.
Gen Z employees will be looking for growth opportunities. Therefore, companies should consider how to avoid great talents walking out of the door. By offering good career development opportunities, you can secure the best Gen Z employees long-term. Offer security and see how your values align. This way, work will be fulfilling for both parties.
Take corporate social responsibility into consideration. So far, Gen Z seems to value diversity and the environment, among many socio-politically related issues. Companies and employees need to share similar goals, values, and expectations. It will enable you to improve employee engagement. You will also authentically improve company optics. Address Gen Z’s priorities and achieve success together.
Grace Lau - Director of Growth Content, Dialpad
Grace Lau is the Director of Growth Content at Dialpad, an AI-powered cloud communication platform and video conferencing software for better and easier team collaboration. She has over 10 years of experience in content writing and strategy. Currently, she is responsible for leading branded and editorial content strategies, partnering with SEO and Ops teams to build and nurture content. Here is her LinkedIn.