Decoding Gen Z: Navigating New Dynamics in the Workforce

Written by GAB YARED

Who is Gen Z?

As the generation born between 1997 and 2012 ages into adulthood, the number of Generation Z (Gen Z) employees is set to triple, and make them one-third of the workforce by 2030. Understanding what makes this group unique is critical to determining the best strategies for everything from recruiting to company culture and retention. Who are these young adults and what drives them in the workplace?

Digital tools as communication preference – Ping, don’t email

Gen Z is profoundly attached to digital technology as illustrated in the Snap Inc report. The applications and tools they use on a daily basis were never deliberately learned but for most of Gen Z, a natural process. Unlike any generation before them, Gen Z has grown up in an era where smartphones, social media, and instant connectivity are ubiquitous aspects of daily life. Their relationship with technology has deeply influenced their behaviors, attitudes, and expectations, particularly in the context of the corporate world.

Due to the total integration of digital tools, Gen Z feels comfortable adopting new tech for nearly every aspect of their lives, including education, social interactions, and work. As a result, Gen Z possesses a level of digital literacy and proficiency that sets them apart in the workplace. Their creativity using digital tools feels intuitive and they prefer a visual element to communicate ideas. That visual preference extends to marketing as more Gen Z leaders use Instagram than any other age group.

Technology plays a central role in shaping Gen Z’s communication preferences and social interactions. With the rise of social media platforms like Instagram, TikTok, and Snapchat, Gen Z has embraced visual and ephemeral forms of communication, favoring quick, bite-sized content over lengthy written exchanges. In the corporate world, this translates to a preference for efficient, informal communication channels such as instant messaging and video conferencing.

Sustainability, morals, values

Gen Z emphasizes corporate social responsibility in ways that far surpass previous generations. Not only do they hold increasingly divisive beliefs about the environment, social practices, employment, and capitalism, they expect companies to address the issues at hand.

These practices are as important to brand reputation as they are to recruiting and employee loyalty. According to one study by the World Economic Forum, over 40% of Gen Zers, compared to 24% of earlier generations, said they would stand up against sexism in the workplace, including debate, with the expectation of support from their employer.

DEI – Not Just Buzzwords

Diversity, equity, and inclusion aren’t just buzzwords to Gen Z – this is the most diverse group of Americans to ever enter the workforce. One in four are Hispanic, 14% are Black, and 6% are Asian. Though Gen Z are less likely to be immigrants (6% compared to 7% of Millenials) they are almost twice as likely to be the child of an immigrant. Gen Zers grew up in the changing ethnic landscape, with the internet making it even more accessible to learn about other cultures and ways of life. It makes sense that the generation on the leading edge of cultural and ethnic changes in the US has pretty strong feelings about DEI in the workplace.

When it comes to accepting a new role, 56% of Gen Z-ers state they would not accept a job without diverse leadership. For those already in the workforce, 68% say their employer is not doing enough to build a more diverse workplace (World Economic Forum). The Gen Zers put their money where their mouth is, literally.

Job Loyalty in the Post-Covid World

The older Gen Zers, in the workforce now, remember childhood during the 2008 recession. Many of their parents and loved ones were laid off by companies and institutions that had supported them for years. When Gen Z reached adolescence and young adulthood they lived through the Covid-19 shutdown, which further deteriorated their view of job stability. This “generational trauma” permanently shifted the perceived reciprocal loyalty between employer and employee. Due to this, many Gen Zers feel that multiple jobs, or “side hustles” is a natural way to buffer the risk.

Pairing this belief with the Gen Z fixation on morality and values means that employers really have to step up to retain their staff. Job seekers are looking for benefits that allow them to plan their futures. “Perks” like subsidized fertility and adoption benefits, investment and financial planning assistance, and mental health insurance is more likely to influence a potential employee, as long as their employer also walks the walk in terms of wellness benefits and access. Gen Z values balance and seeks work-life balance in the long term. Preparing for a generation who values their off time just as much as they value support from their employer requires structure and planning. Around a third of Gen Zs and millennials in full- or part-time work say they are very satisfied with their work/life balance, compared to only one in five in 2019.

Understanding the intricacies of Gen Z is imperative as they ascend into the workforce at an unprecedented rate. By embracing their preferences for communication, values, and work-life balance, companies can not only attract but also retain Gen Z talent, fostering a dynamic and inclusive workplace culture that resonates with the ethos of this emerging generation.

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