Here’s How Gen Z Is Changing the Workplace — and What Experts Think It Means for the Future

Every generation comes with fresh attitudes and methods shaped by their unique period in history. Generation Z, born between 1997 and 2012, have grown up as truly digital natives, never knowing a time before the Internet and smart tech, with immediate access to much more information than any generation before them. According to an Ernst & Young survey, they are more interested in doing work they love than just making money; they are not as focused on marriage and family; and they are highly socially conscious, prioritizing activism and environmental issues. How will this passionate group of young people change the workplace…and the world?

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Improving Work-Life Balance

Gen Z is likely to push for changes that improve work-life balance, according to Diane Gayeski, Ph.D, professor and former dean at the Roy H Park School of Communications at Ithaca College.

“Gen Z has seen the toll that a work-centric life has taken on their families and is sensitive to physical and emotional health.  They want to work for organizations that they admire, and they want to build a life that gives them the time to relish family, friends, hobbies, and other interests.”

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Chelsea Cohen, co-founder of SoStocked, an SaaS company, agreed, “They’re also more likely to master separating corporate work from their personal life. This is a generation of self-aware individuals. They see the millennial workaholic lifestyle as a red flag because they’ve seen its adverse health effects. Overall, they’re a generation of observers and refiners – those are the people employers will be seeking soon to manage our technology-driven work culture.”

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They Are More Socially Aware

Gen Z’s lives have been dramatically affected by social events, such as COVID-19 and racial injustice protests, said Gayeski.

As a result, “Companies will see that they’ll have a difficult time recruiting new talent if [they] are not clear about their socially responsible practices and about the ways that they genuinely care for and value their employees.”

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This extends to an improvement in diversity, equality and inclusion, said Kurtis Forster, owner of Team Forster Real Estate.

“They are literally pushing the companies to ensure DEI — Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion. Sixty-eight percent of Gen Z have observed discrimination in the workplace and 44% themselves have experienced it from all sides like gender, ethnicity, race, identity and sexual orientation. Eighty-eight percent of Gen Z feels that it’s the right time to change the workforce with DEI in all companies with the right law. And the situation of change is already in progress.” 

They Push For Accommodations

 Gen Z individuals have also grown up expecting accommodations for their varying learning needs or physical or emotional disabilities, said Gayeski. “Most companies are not prepared to offer training or job designs that accommodate neurodiversity, health challenges and different cultural and lifestyle practices such as employees going through gender-affirming surgeries or needing accommodations for food or religious practices.”

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They Prioritize Mental Health

Along this line, Gen Zs care a great deal about mental health issues, said Phillip Kane, CEO and managing partner of Grace Ocean, LLC, a boutique advisory firm. Not only will they be more likely to discuss these issues openly at work, “they want more employer provided access to mental health services and benefits like access to therapy at work, paid time off for self-care and on-site meditation spaces,” he said.

Employers who recognize the importance of mental health to Gen Z workers will attract and keep the best of them. 

They Want Nontraditional Benefits

Whereas prior generations have typically been focused on medical benefits or compensation/income, Gen Z will usher in a new wave of nontraditional benefits, said Diane Cook, an HR Specialist with Resume Seed. “Items such as: mental health days, company-provided pet insurance — for all those fur-babies adopted during COVID — and the increasing ability to leverage working remote/work-cations.” 

They Look For Work Differently

Gen Z doesn’t use traditional channels like LinkedIn or Indeed to find jobs anymore, said Kane. “They love using the apps of their generation, like TikTok, both as their resume and to search for jobs. They also like talking to recruiters face to face. But they aren’t fans of Zoom interviews or pre-hire assessments. Their preferences are dramatically changing the way jobs are filled. And as Zs come into the workforce in numbers, old-school recruiting firms will need to change or die.” 

They Value Social Interaction

Generation Z values social interaction so much that, according to Kamyar Shah, COO and founder of a consultation firm that empowers SMEs, “51% prefer speaking to friends, family and co-workers face-to-face rather than text.” He recommends companies foster that spirit by doing the following:

  • Choosing video calls over phone calls.
  • Opting for recurring meetings to give Gen Z the human connection they crave.
  • Not skimping on feedback. Managers should check in often, offer thoughtful critique and set up weekly feedback and performance reviews.
  • Encouraging team bonding with social activities.
  • Reviewing your communication channels. Gen Z prefers email, text and social media for day-to-day communication.

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They Value Fun and Flexibility Over Structure

Because Gen Z have grown up in a world where technology is integrated into every aspect of their lives, they expect work to be equally easy, seamless and accessible at all times, said Morshed Alam, founder and Editor at Savvy Programmer. “Gen Z workers value flexibility over structure; constant connectivity over face time meetings; instant feedback loops for continuous improvement over lengthy performance reviews or annual review processes which only happen once a year. The result? A workplace where people are happy because they’re able to do their best work without being tied down by rigid schedules or office politics.”

They Prefer Remote Working

Though many people came to see the value and ease of remote working during the pandemic, Gen Z will continue to drive more remote work, according to Alvin Dy, a content marketing specialist, data scientist and co-founder of allhomerobotics.com

“While we can expect physical and in person work to still exist, I think the way to go is remote tasking. Plus, with COVID we saw a lot of improvement in the cooperation applications that make the tasking and hiring process a lot easier.”

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They Are Receptive to Technology

Generation Z has closely observed the growth of technology, which makes them more receptive to, and even pushing for, new technology, said Scott Spivack, marketing director at United Medical Credit. “In fact, 91% of Gen Z job seekers view technological sophistication as a defining factor in choosing a particular workplace. This technological affinity is forcing companies to tie in the latest technologies to emerge as a workplace of choice for Gen Z. “

They Have More Bargaining Power

As many Gen Zers enter the workforce for the first time during the Great Resignation, they find themselves with significantly more bargaining power than their millennial predecessors, said Dragos Badea, CEO of Yarooms. “So what does this mean for the modern workplace? Pay needs to get higher. Growing up with the specter of crippling student loan debt from their older siblings, Gen Z is much more likely to put financial reward as a top motivation for choosing a workplace unlike personal development that was so popular with millennials.”

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About the Author

Jordan Rosenfeld is a freelance writer and author of nine books. She holds a B.A. from Sonoma State University and an MFA from Bennington College. Her articles and essays about finances and other topics has appeared in a wide range of publications and clients, including The Atlantic, The Billfold, Good Magazine, GoBanking Rates, Daily Worth, Quartz, Medical Economics, The New York Times, Ozy, Paypal, The Washington Post and for numerous business clients. As someone who had to learn many of her lessons about money the hard way, she enjoys writing about personal finance to empower and educate people on how to make the most of what they have and live a better quality of life.

 
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