How Generation Z workers are different from everyone else

They’re diverse, educated, and resourceful. And while they’ve grown up with screens everywhere, they crave the human touch more than their predecessors.

Members of Generation Z, or people born between 1997 and 2012, will comprise 27% of the workforce by 2025. That means they will soon be working in your company if they aren’t already.

What makes this generation different from the ones that came before it? Statistically, a few facts are worth noting.

Gen Z is on track to be the most diverse and best-educated generation yet. More than 20% of its members identify as LGBT. Yet, they have little or no memory of 9/11.  Nearly every one of them owns a smartphone, at least in the developed world.

Perhaps most important is that a significant percentage of them began their professional lives during the COVID-19 pandemic. That may have an impact that reverberates for years.

I asked the experts on Qwoted to get some real-world perspective on people’s experiences with Gen Zers in the workplace. I got plenty of responses, and a few threads were evident.

Show the way

“They crave mentorship: someone to take them under their wing, show the Jedi way, have heart-to-heart talks, and provide a real, tangible, lasting relationship with a person who is interested in their betterment,” says Austin Fox, president of PeopleCaddie, a temp hiring agency.

Although this group has grown up with a screen always within arm’s reach, they crave human contact more than those who came before them, Fox says. “Millennials were all about text and emails; Gen Z is about video, face-to-face, and live interaction,” he says.

That isn’t surprising, perhaps, given that human contact was so rare during the early years of their careers.

TalentReef, a maker of a platform for high-volume hiring, posted advice on its blog earlier this year about attracting Gen Z talent.

Among its recommendations are to promote your company culture with fun, musical videos, make the application process fast and easy, hire promising candidates quickly and promote the causes your company supports.

Respect gender preferences

Gender identity is important to this group, experts say.

For example, Veris Insights found that “three-quarters of LGBTQ+ students said they’d find an employer more appealing if employers asked about their pronouns during an interview while 86% of LGBTQ+ students find it important to feel comfortable being out at work,” according to Chelsea Schein, director of university recruiting research at the recruiting intelligence and analytics firm.

Experts say that you might expect a generation that came of age during quarantines to shun office work, but the opposite is true.

A study by human resource software maker BambooHR found that 48% of Gen Zers feel more productive in the office compared to 30% of Baby Boomers, 32% of Generation X, and 45% of Millennials.

In fact, the study found that members of this generation are more interested in seeing colleagues in person than the four cohorts that came before them, the study found.

Not that they want to be chained to a desk.

“Gen Zers are the drivers of the Great Resignation,” says Ximena Hartsock, founder of BuildWithin, a firm that helps businesses manage apprenticeship programs. “They have seen the lack of work-life balance of their parents, and they want a better life for themselves. They had their first jobs during the pandemic and expect that work will be remote and flexible.”

A recent survey by IWG, a global provider of hybrid workspaces, found that Gen Z hybrid workers are the least likely to say their personal career growth has advanced due to hybrid work. Members of this group also have the lowest expectations for how much of a pay bump they would receive for returning to the office full-time.

Compassion matters

Although a good salary is table stakes for hiring in a market like this, Gen Z members are more inclined than their predecessors to expect additional services that support their health and mental well-being.

“Caring for employees needs to be the highest priority,” says Birk Cooper, chief marketing officer at  Fetch Rewards, which manages loyalty programs.

Among the services his company offers all employees are no-cost confidential counseling, legal support, mental health resources, paid parental leave, and child-care assistance.

“Aligning values is most important to this generation,” Cooper says. “Every company promotes Black History, LGBTQ+ and Women’s History agenda, but what are they doing on a 24/7 basis?”

Many Gen Zers may have started their careers during lockdowns, but that doesn’t make them any more or less resilient than others, says PeopleCaddie’s Fox.

“COVID has brought them through adversity; coming through adversity breeds confidence,” he says. “They’re resourceful. Because they’ve been so adept at finding things on their own, they can figure things out, but they still want a road map that shows what success looks like.”

That’ll be your job.

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