Generation Z in the Workplace – Part 1

Before diving into the mystery of the people labelled as the Generation Z, let’s first take a look at all the generations we are most likely to find in our workplaces.

Defining the Generations

There are five major generations in the modern workforce:

  • Traditionalists, born between 1930–1945
  • Baby Boomers, born between 1946–1964
  • Generation X, born between 1965–1980
  • Millennials, born between 1981–1997
  • Generation Z, born after 1997

Generation Z are more diverse (in every way), more technologically advanced, young and mobile. Though millennials and members of Generation Z are close in age, their belief systems are stunningly different.

Generally speaking, Generation Z tends to be more independent, and they view their world with a healthy dose of skepticism—something their Generation X manager may appreciate (but that their Gen X parents would certainly appreciate), but a trait that the group-minded baby boomers and millennials may misunderstand.

How people, managers and HR leaders engage this new batch of professionals will determine whether they create an amazing organizational culture that benefits both employee and employer—or if they completely miss the mark.

Common Characteristics of the Generation Z

They are Pragmatic Entrepreneurs

Being raised in the shadow of the largest economic downturn since the Great Depression, and by Generation X parents who passed along their street-smart sense of self-reliance, Generation Z has become a very pragmatic, entrepreneurial generation. They’ve seen challenging financial issues first-hand from at a young age: the loss of a parent’s job, a foreclosure or the inability for a sibling to find work after college graduation, for instance.

They don’t want to take chances on a self-fulfilling career (34%) path that could lead them into debt, instead preferring financial security (66%). They understand they will need to work hard to get what they want. Shows like Shark Tank have inspired members of Generation Z to look at entrepreneurship favorably.

They’ve also seen how technology can be leveraged to create exciting—and lucrative—business opportunities with relatively low overhead. So it makes perfect sense they’d like to be in charge of their own career.

This means going lighter on more traditional command-and-control tactics and heavier on understanding individual motivations (e.g. desires for flexibility, recognition, meaning, etc.). It means avoiding micromanagement—instead building an environment where creative individuals can take chances and innovate without fear of recrimination.

They are Disruptive in the Best Ways

Raised during the most disruptive decade in history has taught them that change—real, significant change—is entirely possible. It’s also taught them the world has many flaws. As a result, Gen Zs are geared toward fixing, changing and creating new solutions and opportunities in hopes of finding a better way to do things.

They are the Majority

Just this past year, millennials outpaced baby boomers as the largest generation. But that won’t last long. Gen Z is a very large group and will surpass their boomer and millennial counterparts in numbers very quickly.

They like Social Networks But love Face-To-Face Interaction

Even though Generation Z is the first fully digital generation, they want human elements at work. In fact, 72% of Generation Z want to communicate face-to-face at work. When the topic of discussion is important to them, they want to see transparency, authenticity and truthfulness which are all much easier to ascertain face-to-face.

Knowing this, it makes sense they’d prefer Snapchat over some of the other available social apps. In this way, Snapchat mimics face-to-face interaction.

Engaging with Gen Z requires a balance between traditional interactions (face-to-face) and online social engagement. Both are important and Gen Z needs to feel satisfied in both ways to become fully engaged.

They are Interested in Meaningful Social Change

Perhaps more than others before them, Generation Z has a chance to change the world for the better—and they’re taking it.

In general, Generation Z wants to be part of designing solutions to the problems they face, whether that means volunteering for the cause or something greater. Social media allows them to have a voice in our political system even before they can legally vote.

Just look at the 16-year-old climate change warrior, Greta Thunberg, who kicked off a political movement around climate change when she skipped school and protested outside the Swedish parliament.

The Generation Z is here to stay and they want their presence to be felt all around them, most especially in the workplace. Next time, we will dive into how you as an employer or employee can accomodate the Gen Z into the workforce and motivate them to work. Visit our website for resources and advice concerning the modern workplace.

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