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.