Hiring managers who have worked with Generation Z employees entering the workforce over the past few years have found several differences that distinguish this group from previous generations. Gen Z employees (those born in 1997 and later who became adults in the second decade of the 21st century) have shown that they are not always aligned with Millennials (adults born between 1981 and 1996) in many of their attitudes about the workplace.
While employees of varying ages and life experiences usually experience some degree of tension while adjusting to one another, experts point out that age diversity on workplace teams confers far more advantages than disadvantages. They also note that the fresh ideas Gen Z brings to the workforce are especially well-suited to helping everyone better navigate the fast-changing world we live in.
While descriptions of any specific generational group are broad generalizations, the points listed here emerge time after time when industrial psychologists and other experts study Gen Z.
One of the most noteworthy things about Gen Z (also known as “Zoomers”) is that they are largely the first cohort to openly bring their personal values to work. Members of this generation are much more conscious of the inequalities, inequities, hierarchies, and class structures built into society, including the workplace. They are more likely to take a pro-social justice stance on the issues of the day and express these positions through their social media and in-person interactions. They also are more likely to refuse job offers when a company doesn’t align with these values.
While plenty of Millennials were happy to accept high-paying jobs in Silicon Valley a decade ago, it’s proving harder for Silicon Valley to attract and retain highly qualified Zoomers with degrees from major universities. A lot of this “techlash” has to do with the younger group’s more cynical attitude toward Big Tech. As we learn more about the large-scale harm that social media companies and powerful search engines can produce, more Gen Zers are declining jobs offered by Facebook, Google, and the like. Others who do take these jobs are doing so intending to change the culture from within.
At home with diversity
As a group, Zoomers are also extremely comfortable with human diversity and with the expression of personal identity in the workplace. This group tends to be more accepting of people who differ from them in ethnic heritage, sexual orientation, and gender expression than their older counterparts.
After all, this is the first generation raised during the administration of a Black president of the United States and at a time when gay marriage was legal and widely accepted across most strata of society. Gen Zers are also statistically more likely than previous generations to have grown up in single-parent or multi-racial households. Diversity, in other words, is their default idea of what drives the world.
In one recent survey, almost 70 percent of the Zoomers surveyed reported that they were “absolutely” more inclined to apply to a company with a strong commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion. Meanwhile, 88 percent said they preferred it when a recruiter ask them about their gender pronouns, and 65 percent said this question should be part of the hiring process.
Savers, not spenders
Gen Z knows what the threat of scarcity looks like. As young adults, they are experiencing a global pandemic and supply chain lags, and they were in middle school or high school during the global recession of 2008-09. Many saw their parents struggle financially, and many even lost their family homes in the foreclosure crisis.
This makes Zoomers, much like the Millennials who were looking for their first jobs during the Great Recession, more skeptical of the promises of traditional competitive capitalism.
While they are more disposed to view socialism in a positive light, Gen Zers are also more likely to yearn for the traditional job security and benefits that their grandparents and great-grandparents often enjoyed. Many Zoomers have already prioritized saving and building their nest egg over the thrill of spending. Close to 60 percent of them recently reported a willingness to work long hours if it meant a substantially higher salary, while 67 percent would relocate for a job.
Wired for human connection
Zoomers, despite the popular image of being wired and on social media 24/7, report that they look for opportunities for substantive in-person discussion at work. They are also looking for proactive communication and transparency from their leadership and for work instructions and performance evaluations that are clear and meaningful. Ninety percent of those surveyed said they place a high value on making genuine human connections at work.
They also seek a healthy work-life balance and want their employers to prioritize wellness, paid time off, community-building activities, and mental health. Zoomers also want to be seen and respected as complete individuals. If your company hasn’t updated its employee benefits policies and finds itself struggling to attract younger team members, that may be one of the reasons why.
Projections show that, by the year 2025, Gen Zers will comprise 27 percent of our workforce. As they begin to populate more and more C-suite offices, we can expect to see the world we live in and work becoming more understanding, effective, and successful.
The 2021-22 edition of U.S. News & World Report’s Best Hospitals report named Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles one of the Best Hospitals for Geriatrics. Cedars-Sinai is among the top 10 in the nation, with the publication highlighting its “exceptional” quality of care. The magazine’s widely respected annual evaluation considered more than 1,500 hospitals to settle on the 50 that showed the highest quality of care for senior adults 75 and up, being cared for in terms of a wide range of conditions.
U.S. News gave Cedars-Sinai a national ranking across a total of 11 adult medical care specialties, listing it overall at No. 6. Also among the top 10 were two other California hospitals: UCLA Medical Center in Los Angeles and UCSF Medical Center in San Francisco.
A 360-degree view of care
Cedars-Sinai’s renowned programs and treatment plans for seniors address the needs of people who remain actively employed and who live entirely independent lives, as well as those with disabilities and major medical conditions that severely limit their mobility and independence.
The hospital’s geriatrics team addresses long-term wellness and preventive healthcare needs, along with specific medical issues that include dementia and other types of age-related cognitive impairments. Its team has developed expertise in a wide range of other medical and emotional issues that affect senior adults, notably osteoarthritis, hypertension, depression, and social isolation.
The older adults that the hospital serves enjoy the benefits of access to free immunizations and diagnostic screenings. They can also take advantage of Cedars-Sinai’s free classes focused on nutrition, physical fitness, and the management of their health.
In addition, Cedars-Sinai’s Leveraging Exercise to Age in Place (LEAP) is an innovative program with a notable research component available to adults 50-plus in its local community. Working with a preventive focus, the LEAP fitness classes work on strengthening bones and bodies to correct balance problems and prevent falls while also enhancing social bonds among participants. The LEAP program offers virtual exercise classes, which are particularly appreciated during the COVID-19 pandemic that has kept many older adults at home.
A plan for addressing major health issues
An overview of just one notable Cedars-Sinai geriatrics program can illustrate the dedication, expertise, and care that goes into each of its service components geared toward older adults. Patients served through the orthopedics department’s Geriatric Fractures Program have benefited from shorter hospital stays, lower costs, and a higher quality of overall treatment experience.
The issue of fractures in older adults is of increasing importance in the world of medical care, as an aging population in the United States requires increased attention to both prevention and treatment. With more people living longer and staying alert and involved in life to a later age, they need high-quality support to help manage their health and wellness, in addition to any acute or chronic age-related conditions that may emerge.
Demographers estimate that, by the year 2060, 23 percent of the US population will be made up of adults 65 and older. Meanwhile, recent figures show that 60 percent of senior adults in the country are living with at least two chronic health conditions. These include cancer, diabetes, heart conditions, and ongoing problems with emphysema and other lung diseases.
The Cedars-Sinai orthopedics team notes that the number of hip fractures in adults around the world is anticipated to reach more than 6 million by the year 2050. Experts estimate that about 50 percent of women and more than 20 percent of men will experience an osteoporotic fracture at some point in their lives. Fractures can be life-altering, resulting in long-term mobility problems. They can even be fatal. The complex needs of these patients are best addressed by a multidisciplinary team.
One recent Cedars-Sinai-led study, published in the journal Geriatric Orthopaedic Surgery & Rehabilitation, centered on a cohort of geriatric patients who participated in a “pluralistic” treatment environment that included private physicians, hospitalist groups, and academic medical faculty members. The researchers found that this type of “mixed practice” fracture prevention and treatment program—as implemented by Cedars-Sinai—reduced the wait time before surgery, lowered overall hospital costs, and significantly cut the number of days hospitalized.
Cedars-Sinai is taking part in a growing trend among major hospitals: using a multidisciplinary approach to develop 21st-century senior-focused care. Its efforts, including its LEAP program, have resulted in Cedars-Sinai being named an Age-Friendly Health System – Committed to Care Excellence by the Institute for Health Improvement, a partnership between the John A. Hartford Foundation and the Institute for Healthcare Improvement.
The organization specifically cites the hospital’s commitment to sustaining its targeted “age-friendly” healthcare system, particularly in the areas of putting a focus on seniors’ mental health needs, offering easy access to the most appropriate medications available, and supporting increased mobility at every stage of later life.
Vista Del Mar Child and Family Services, a forward-looking social, educational, and mental health services provider in the Los Angeles area, has served as a trusted presence among often-neglected communities for more than 100 years. Originally founded as a home for Jewish orphans, the organization has expanded its reach over the generations to offer broad-based assistance to people from all backgrounds.
Basing its work in a trauma-informed approach that uplifts the dignity and value of every individual, Vista Del Mar today offers access to counseling, adoption services, intensive-treatment foster care, psychological and educational assessment, parenting education, and more. It also offers one of the best school programs for youth from kindergarten to age 22 who need special support for cognitive, social, behavioral, or emotional challenges.
Individualized goals for learning
Situated on an 18-acre campus and accredited by the Western States Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC), the Vista School works closely with students and families with a variety of special needs to build Individual Education Plans (IEPs). These state-mandated learning plans are designed to foster optimal academic, emotional, and social growth for students with special needs, such as severe emotional and behavioral issues, intellectual and learning disabilities, and other challenges. The school has established particular expertise and a lengthy track record of working with young people on the autism spectrum.
For elementary school students, the Baron School Program offers high teacher-student ratios in smaller classes, with individual attention paid to each student’s learning style. Activities include music lessons focused on a chosen instrument, art and enrichment programming, and physical education programs centered on tennis, basketball, and swimming in the school’s heated indoor pool.
Older students in the Vista School’s middle and high school programs also receive education and support services geared to the social and behavioral needs of their age groups.
Vista School maintains smaller class sizes into these older grades as an additional way of providing individualized instruction and guidance. At the same time, the school works to bolster tweens’ and teens’ self-confidence and sense of independence through the use of elective classes and greater room for self-directed scheduling.
Assisted by extensively trained academic and clinical staff, middle and high school students learn science concepts in the school’s new state-of-the-art laboratory and participate in the full range of other required courses. They can choose from among electives like gardening, woodworking, sports, ceramics, and the performing arts.
Building secure adult lives
The Vista School is proud of the fact that 65 percent of the students who graduate from its high school program go on to further their academic or vocational education. The school’s efforts to prepare students in its young adult division for academic and social success include added courses to support vocational training and independent living skills. The eBay program is a flagship real-world learning track for transitional students, and the school also offers other employment and volunteer work opportunities.
The value of special education programs
Special education as we know it today developed in the 1960s with the strong support of the Kennedy Administration. This administration declared, for the first time in American history, that young people with disabilities have the same right to a full education as their non-disabled peers.
As educators and the public gained more understanding of the needs of youth with disabilities and challenges, the 1975 Education for All Handicapped Children Act and the 1990 Americans with Disabilities Act further codified these principles into law. Students with disabilities were required to be offered an education equivalent to that of non-disabled students, and to have access to full participation in all aspects of society.
Today’s quality special education programs, as exemplified by those at the Vista School, are tailored to the distinct needs of each student with a disability. Through IEPs as individual as each student is, schools like the Vista School work to provide early intervention programs and adaptive technology support designed to bring out optimum development of students’ physical and intellectual abilities.
A recent study, conducted by researchers at the University of California, Davis, and Cornell University in New York, showed that even students with mild-to-moderate learning disabilities who lose access to special education programs are at higher risk of being thrown off-track in achieving their life goals.
The study’s cohort of Texas students were 52 percent less likely to complete high school and 38 percent less likely to enter college than peers with ongoing access to special education. This study also revealed significant equity issues: students of color and those from lower-income backgrounds suffered the most drastically from loss of special education programs, since their parents often did not have the resources needed to offset these service losses.
High-quality special education programs like those at the Vista School bring students into contact with peers and instructors who form a supportive community, helping them to make the transition to adulthood with as many tools as possible to pursue further education, thrive on their chosen career paths, and meet positive, self-set goals.
Images of gas stations jammed with absurdly long lines of cars flooded social media just a few weeks ago. For an onlooker unfamiliar with the situation, it appeared as though a natural disaster was just hours away, and people were desperately trying to fill their cars and evacuate. That, however, was not the case, and this “panic buying” of fuel heavily contributed to further shortages.
Currently, gas stations in London and other parts of Britain are struggling to maintain a steady fuel supply for consumers. But unlike the global energy crisis of the 1970s, the current fuel shortage is primarily due to a growing lack of trained drivers, not a lack of available fuel. And this shortage is not just affecting fuel supply; restaurants and groceries stores aren’t able to obtain food or stock shelves.
The Road Haulage Association, a trade association of road transport operators, estimates that Britain lacks around 100,000 drivers needed to keep their economy moving forward. And the solution is not as simple as just hiring more drivers.
When we think of truck drivers, an image of an older man pops into mind. And for the most part, yes, truck drivers do tend to be older men. Haulage companies say the average age of HGV drivers in the UK is 55. But now, those older men are retiring or have moved out of the EU altogether, and any young and hopeful new drivers are hitting roadblock after roadblock while trying to get licensed for work due to the pandemic. Additionally, Britain’s withdrawal from the European Union has further exacerbated labor shortages, thanks to a referendum that signaled it would impose limits on immigration. These limits have made it nearly impossible for companies to hire drivers overseas.
Today, there are 30,000 fewer truck drivers in the U.K. than there were just one year ago.
According to data collected by Transport Intelligence, Poland was short of more than 120,000 drivers last year, while in Germanyup to 60,000 drivers were needed. Drivers have several reasons for leaving the industry, including long hours away from home and poor roadside facility conditions. Those same reasons serve as a major deterrent for attracting new drivers.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson denied that Brexit is the cause of driver shortages, and instead, placed blame on the trucking industry for underinvesting in things like salaries, truck stops, and overall conditions. But experts say that Britain’s exit from the EU shrunk the labor market, and the Road Haulage Association reported that of the shortage of 100,000 drivers, 20 percent left after the U.K. voted to leave the European Union.
Unfortunately, we take the privilege of having access to what we need for granted without recognizing what it takes, or the people involved, to get supplies from point A to B. For whatever reason, we assume that someone else is taking care of the matter. In this case, we assumed there would always be ample truck drivers ready for work when in reality, applications for such jobs have been dwindling for years. And because of the pandemic, driving test centers had to close, leaving thousands of potential drivers stuck without a way to qualify for work.
The U.K.’s fuel crisis is the most visible impact of the driver shortage, and with the holidays right around the corner, there’s a race to fill those empty truck seats. In recent weeks the government has moved to grant temporary visas for up to 5,000 overseas drivers, extending their duration until the end of February. But only dozens of visas have been approved so far.
The Ministry of Defense examiners are allowing more foreign workers into the U.K. and are offering free intensive ‘boot camps’ to train 5,000 people to become HGV drivers, with an additional 1,000 to be trained through courses funded by the adult education budget. To further their efforts, the government is writing to nearly one million drivers who already hold an HGV license to encourage them to come back to the industry.
In the event the situation worsens, the military is on standby. The government’s reserve tanker fleet is delivering fuel to help ease the shortage, and there are already signs the situation is improving.
Diversity, equity, and inclusion (commonly abbreviated as “DEI”) have surged to the top of most CEOs’ lists of necessities for building and growing companies. And there are solid reasons why.
As shown by an accumulating body of studies, a workforce diverse in terms of age, abilities, racial and ethnic heritage, gender identity and sexual orientation, experiences, and perspectives is a more productive and successful workforce. The best companies thrive on new ideas, new insights, and new ways of problem-solving.
Furthermore, a diverse team helps forge international connections, opens new possibilities for reaching domestic and foreign markets, and enhances a company’s reputation as a forward-thinking and ethical leader among its peers.
A strong commitment to DEI in a company’s hiring and employee development program gives that company a competitive edge, simply because it has a broader range of talent to draw on.
Lack of diversity – a pre-existing condition
But even before the full economic impacts of our current pandemic were known, female employees, employees of color, and others not part of the traditional majority remained underrepresented—particularly in positions of top responsibility—in proportion to their numbers in the general population.
While it is sometimes challenging to get accurate DEI data from private companies, research clearly shows inequities. According to studies widely publicized in mid-2020, about 64 percent of employees taking entry-level positions were white, while 85 percent of C-suite jobs—including those at Fortune 500 companies—were held by white males.
We’re in it together, but some of us are falling farther
Now, we must reckon with the continuing fallout from the pandemic. Almost every employee in the world, of every background, has felt the impact of office closures, relocations, shifts to remote or hybrid work, or the threat—or reality—of layoffs or reduced hours. Almost all have felt some degree of anxiety about juggling responsibilities and roles in this new world of work.
Yet it’s become clear, from both studies and a wealth of self-reported evidence, that employees from non-traditional backgrounds are experiencing the worst of the struggle. These employees are asking their companies for additional support and a healthier way to balance work and family responsibilities. Frustratingly, these pleas are often only partially fulfilled at best.
The need for access to high-quality mental health resources has emerged as an increasingly acute work-related issue, as numerous employees from diverse backgrounds report feeling marginalized, overworked, or that they are at greater risk of firing or career derailment when their employers’ finances are on shaky ground. In fact, a 2020 study showed that only about 1 in 6 employees who come from diverse backgrounds reported feeling adequately supported by their employers.
It’s not only women, employees of color, and LGBTQ+ employees who are having an especially hard time. Working parents of all backgrounds are feeling the economic, emotional, and time-crunch impact of our COVID-19 world.
The pandemic’s widening gender gap
Women have been affected in a way that ties directly to their gender. The pandemic has disproportionately affected women who are mothers, women of color, and women in upper management positions. Women, more so than men, have had to make hard choices about whether to continue working or care for children or elders during the pandemic. Limited or no access to daycare due to closures added an enormous problem to many women’s already precarious situations.
One pandemic-era survey asked 1,000 female-identified employees in the US how they felt about their career trajectories. More than half responded that pandemic conditions have set them back. A study from late 2020 showed that 25 percent of full-time female employees, often burnt-out from their jobs and a disproportionate share of household responsibilities, were considering quitting. Other data showed that more than half of female managers considered leaving their jobs after March 2020.
For women of color and single mothers, who often fill lower-wage jobs that are the sole support of themselves and their families, this crisis has long passed the point at which it could be described as “acute.”
The burden on people of color just intensified
Black Americans, Latinos, and Native American employees of all genders are over-represented in lower-wage, “essential” service jobs, even as these groups tend to have higher rates of pre-existing conditions that can exacerbate the lethality of COVID-19.
Additionally, employees of color (notably including Asian Americans), whether they have personally been targeted or not, are living under the stress of an upsurge in violent, racially motivated attacks. The fear that people in these situations live under daily may be scarcely imaginable to white CEOs. Pre-COVID research demonstrates that both direct and vicarious exposure to law enforcement violence of any kind measurably diminishes the ability of employees of color to fully engage at work.
Small steps forward, future progress in doubt
If there’s any good news in all this, it’s that 40 percent of the international cohort of companies responding to a recent survey reported that they are increasing their investment into DEI programs, even in cases when they are being forced to trim other parts of their budgets amid the pandemic. Close to all the companies surveyed reported putting some type of COVID-19-related programs in place to support all their employees.
Even so, 90 percent of the CEOs in the survey noted that they were experiencing roadblocks to the full implementation of their DEI development strategies.
So how can employers help?
According to a consensus of experts, there are a few ways:
- Maintain and step up company efforts toward not only diversity but inclusion. Three out of five employees from diverse backgrounds have reported not feeling they could be their real selves at work.
- Make the work environment more human-centered with meaningful opportunities for team-building and personal interaction, whether remote or in-person. While building these connections, don’t forget that employees experience different impacts from the pandemic, and some may need more or a different type of support than others.
- Avoid “color-blind” public statements that minimize the distinct challenges faced by women, people of color, LGBTQ+ individuals, and other especially vulnerable populations among your employees. Stand up for your employees by challenging racist, sexist, and other biased behavior.
- Empower employees to take care of themselves. Experts estimate that emotional trauma sustained during a disaster outpaces physical harm by a rate of 40 to 1. Ease red tape and lessen any culture of stigma to make it easier for employees to take time off if they need it. Prioritize the most essential tasks in case anyone needs unexpected time away.
Ask employees what they need, rather than making assumptions. Ask them how they’re doing in a way that invites real conversation. One of the most productive questions can be “What do you need from me right now?”