How Gen-Z Is Bringing A Fresh Perspective To The World Of Work

As a millennial who has had the opportunity to work with Gen-Zers, Gen-Xers and Baby Boomers, I used to wonder if we made too much about the difference in attitudes between the generations.

It seems like these days so many articles want to focus on these differences between generations. I feel like every time I go to my feed, it’s always “Baby Boomers this” or “Millennials that.”

…But are we really all that different than our older or younger counterparts?

Well, in some important ways, we’re not so different. We all want the same things when you come down to it: happiness, fulfillment, appreciation, security. These are all universal goals that most of us share.

But when it comes to certain values, attitudes and expectations, there may be some significant differences in how members of different generations approach their lives, especially in the space of work.

A few years ago, I started to work with my first clients from Gen-Z who were entering the workforce. And I must say that to my surprise, many of my Gen-Z clients expressed very different attitudes about their careers then their Millennial, or even Gen-X counterparts.

The more I’ve worked with Gen-Z clients and observed the impact that their ideas and expectations are having on the world of work, the more I realized that this generation was shaking up business culture and work as we know it.

So what are the changes that Gen-Z is expecting, or initiating, in the world of work? Here are a few major ways in which Gen-Z workers are changing the game.

Before we dive in, let’s establish the boundaries around which most people define these generations.

Baby Boomers usually refers to the post-World War II generation, born between 1946 and 1964. Generation-X represents people born between 1965 and 1979 or 1980. Generation-Y, most often referred to as Millennials, span the birth years of 1981–1997. Anyone born between 1997 and 2012 is considered a member of Gen-Z, although certain data sets extend this to 2015.

Generation Alpha is most often said to include anyone born between 2010 and 2025. These generational parameters overlap and generally vary depending on the source.

Obviously, Generation Alpha is a long way from the workforce, but stay tuned in 15 years for my hot take on Gen-A’s workforce preferences!

Gen-Z’s expectations in the workplace are values-driven and aligned with their personal morals

If you’re like me and you are routinely shocked to find out that a person who you once held as an infant recently graduated from college, it may be difficult to imagine Gen-Z having a major impact on the workforce. But think again. Data shows that by 2025, Gen-Z workers will make up 27% of the workforce.

One major way in which Gen-Z workers are distinguishing their preferences from those of other generations is with a very values-driven approach to their careers and job prospects.

Spend five minutes on Twitter these days, and you’ll likely find someone accusing a member of Gen-Z of being “too woke.” But say what you will about the way many “Zoomers” chose to express their politics online, they are willing to back it up in their choices when it comes to the job market.

A telling article in the New York Times describes the “Techlash” on college campuses, detailing the difficulty that many with the tech sector had in attracting Gen-Z talent in the recruitment process.

Just a few years ago, an offer from a tech company was considered something of a “Golden ticket” for Millennial job seekers, promising high salaries and over-the-top office culture and benefits. In contrast, many members of Gen-Z seem to be put off by negative perceptions of the tech industry and the growing concern about the ethics of certain practices within the tech world.

While these sentiments are being expressed openly by certain members of Gen-Z in the workforce, they seem to reflect a broader shift in the way people view the technology sector. A Pew Research study found that the percentage of Americans who felt that the Tech industry had a positive impact on society dropped substantially from 71% in 2015 to 50% in 2019.

For some members of Gen-Z, the desire to evaluate companies based on a set of moral standards seems to extend beyond preferences in the workplace, and impact the consumer choices of Gen-Z as well. A survey found that 51% of Gen-Z consumers would ensure that a brand was aligned with their own values before making a purchase.

Diversity, equity and inclusion are highly valued by Gen-Z workers

Diversity, equity and inclusion are increasingly relevant in the world of work, and these issues are particularly important to members of Gen-Z.

Generation-Z represents the most racially and ethnically diverse generation in U.S. history. This no doubt contributes to the expectation among members of Gen-Z that their workplaces reflect not only their values, but also the diversity amongst their peers.

According to a recent study, 67% of Gen-Z workers reported having witnessed discrimination or bias based on race, ethnicity, sexual orientation or gender identity in a workplace setting. Additionally, 44% report having personally experienced such descrimination.

With so many having personally experienced bias and structural inequality at work, members of Gen-Z bring higher standards in their own expectations to the job market. Among Gen-Z workers surveyed, 69% stated that they would “absolutely” be more likely to apply to a job at a company that emphasized a racially and ethnically diverse workplace in recruitment materials.

Members of Gen-Z also expect frank and respectful conversations around gender identity. Eighty-eight percent of Gen Z workers felt that a recruiter or potential employer should solicit their gender pronouns, with 65% reporting feeling strongly that such questions should be part of the recruitment process.

Despite these expectations, only 18% report being asked about their gender pronouns by a recruiter, reflecting just one of the many ways in which the job market and the world of work have not caught up to Gen-Z values and expectations.

Gen-Z values economic security, communication and transparency

While many members of Gen-Z may be expressing workplace expectations closely aligned with progressive values, when it comes to finances and benefits, many want the traditional security most closely associated with older generations.

As members of a generation grew up in the midst of the Great Recession, and witnessed their millennial counterparts sidled with crippling student debt, many members of Gen-Z express financial opinions that favor security and saving.

Despite earning a reputation for being unmotivated or impractical by older generations, many in Gen-Z are certain willing to work hard for the financial security that they desire. A study found that 58% of Gen-Z workers were willing to work nights and weekends if it meant achieving a higher salary.

They’ll even pack a U-Haul: 67% of Gen-Z job seekers expressed their willingness to relocate for a job opportunity.

When it comes to a first job, 54% of Gen Z job seekers acknowledge that pay is their number one priority.

But it isn’t just money that Gen-Z workers seem to value; indeed they also have high expectations for proactive communication, strong connections and transparency in their place of work.

While they may earn the reputation of being glued to their phone screens, in fact, Gen-Z workers seem to highly value relationships and in person communication in a workplace. A study found that in fact, 90% of Gen-Z workers desire and value a human connection when it comes to their at-work communication.

What’s more, Gen-Z workers want clear expectations, evaluations and communications. When it comes to their job description, 60% of Gen-Z employees expressed the desire to have clarity on the expectations and parameters of their jobs. When it comes to feedback, 60% of Gen-Z workers want direct, frequent communications and check-ins with their supervisors for performance evaluation.

To circle back to what I said at the beginning of this article, I think that trying to evaluate the behavior of an entire generation can be tricky. Of course, everyone is an individual, and no one wants to be lumped in with millions of their peers purely based on the year they were born.

Nevertheless, I think that the research and data show that Gen-Z workers are bringing some fresh ideas and a strong work ethic to the world of work. I’m so excited to watch as things change for the better to catch up with the forward-thinking perspective of Gen-Z.

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