A tidal wave is about to hit the workplace. Are companies ready for a new type of worker?
PUBLISHED OCTOBER, 2023
Much like prior conversations about Millennials, organizations are looking to know more about Gen Z. Born between roughly 1995 and 2010, the demographic currently represents one-fifth of the U.S. population and will make up 24 percent of the workforce by 2025.
By 2030, the youngest Boomers will turn 65, and older Gen Xers will begin contemplating retirement. By that time, Gen Z will make up the majority of the workforce. With major changes coming, employers recognize the importance of identifying Gen Z’s diversity and their contradictions.
Raised by non-conformist Gen X parents who value education, Gen Z is a demographic that prizes learning and discovery and has a willingness to learn new skills. With screens present since their earliest days, Gen Z demonstrates more comfort with technology than with pen and paper. Their status as true digital natives allows them to smoothly integrate into digital hiring platforms and navigate video interviewing practices with ease. They are also comfortable doing their own research, visiting YouTube and TikTok with questions. This proficiency with technology may also translate into an expectation among employers that Gen Z can work from anywhere.
Yet the technology so centric to this generation can also be a double-edged sword. The tech provides a welcome hit, like dopamine, generating feelings of newness and discovery, but it has also left the generation saddled with imposter syndrome, stemming from the constant comparisons viewed on social media throughout the day.
Learning Goes Both Ways
Raised with education as a priority, few Gen Z held jobs during their teenage years, and only four in 10 entered the workforce directly after high school. Yet, at the same time, this demographic and their parents possess very real economic fears that a college education may no longer make sense financially.
While members of Gen Z prize learning, they also want others to learn from others. This means traditional management techniques may not work well with this generation. Gen Z employees are looking for roles, people, and organizations that help them connect with what they are passionate about. The value of learning is highly prized and sought after, but it’s also an earned form of respect.
Gen Z views self-motivated learning as highly beneficial to their career, but these online methods of self-learning may not be valued by upper management, recruiters, or human resources personnel who still want proof of learning through a degree or certification.
New Career Dreams
Gen Z also continues to shake up the workplace with its unique employment demands. Bucking tradition, this group is less likely to place compensation first. Even more important than compensation is working with a company that cares about their well-being. The “right” job includes group benefits that stretch beyond the norm, with prioritization given to mental and physical health and diversity practices.
This generation is in search of an employer willing to make an investment in the individual and their future—37 percent look for career-advancement possibilities in the job posting. and 30 percent look for verbiage on career or leadership development opportunities.
And if the job experience is unsatisfactory or if it has served its purpose, Gen Z is OK with quiet quitting, the act of putting in the least amount of work needed to not get fired. Some also see quiet quitting as a way to set boundaries and avoid job-related burnout. The propensity to look for a new role is significantly higher for Gen Z and younger Millennials than it is for Gen X and Boomer employees.
Flexibility may be the No. 1 thing for most employees, but flexibility is defined differently by each employee, every generation, and every organization. For many Gen Z employees, flexibility is more than a deviation from an 8-to-5 workday. It’s also the ability to change the tasks one performs within a role. This demographic seeks out new experiences, so they are less likely to stay in a job that requires the same tasks to be done day after day. Gen Z’s version of the future also includes an understanding that work and job positions will ebb and flow and a side hustle will be the norm.
Gen Z looks to bring one’s best to a job with the intention of leaving the organization better as a result before moving on to the next experience. This will likely largely eliminate the climbing of the career ladder, negating longer-standing concepts of striving for promotion at the same company before eventually retiring.