Make way for a new wave of young professionals entering the workforce! Gen Z has arrived and they’re ready to make their mark. This young generation tends to get a bad rap with older ones who characterize them as lazy, entitled, and coddled, and while it’s never fair to paint any generation with a broad brush, the vast majority of this young crowd is flipping that script on its head by paving the way as a group of socially aware, ambitious, collaborative, and entrepreneurial individuals.
Turbulence and instability define the upbringing of these digital natives. From growing up in the aftermath of the Great Recession to entering the workforce amidst a global pandemic, these experiences shaped how Gen Z views and reacts to the world around them. And those perspectives are helping them transform the workplace as we know it.
Despite being the new kids on the block, Gen Z is already making a positive impact on the work world by:
1. Placing more value on meaningful work.
In a recent study conducted by Handshake, a student job site, Gen Z women and non-binary individuals ranked meaningful work as the first and second most important factor when searching for and staying in a job. They want to be excited about their work and make a difference in some way.
While some might find a job description that aligns with their beliefs right off the bat, others might consider taking initiative to assume new responsibilities that interest them in their current position. Job crafting is a valuable way to expand a current role and shape it into one that feels more exciting and fulfilling.
2. Expecting diversity, equity, and inclusion.
As the most diverse generation to date, the majority of Gen Z expects their workplace to mirror that diversity. And that extends beyond race and ethnicity – they want to see diversity of age, religion, sexuality, and disability. Employers should ask about gender pronouns and showcase a racially and ethnically diverse workplace in their marketing materials.
An ongoing commitment to DEI initiatives is essential. Go beyond hiring for diversity and help people understand and overcome unconscious bias, promote equitable pay, and ensure equal access to talent development opportunities. Spend time evaluating your current DEI practices to ensure that all employees feel safe, connected, and heard.
3. Prioritizing mental health and overall well-being.
The pandemic increased the prevalence of stress and mental health issues, which made talking about them more common at work. But there’s still work to be done to reduce the stigma around these issues. Gen Z spearheaded this movement early on by speaking openly with their peers about their own struggles and journey to seek help. They bring this increased awareness to the workplace and expect employers to prioritize mental health, too.
Organizations might offer benefits such as mental health days, trainings focused on stress management and resilience, and insurance that supports counseling. Consider how to implement sustainable work practices that lead to work-life fulfillment, too. This generation values spending time with loved ones, working on passion projects, and making time for other personal pursuits. Flexible work hours and some autonomy around when and how to complete projects helps cultivate a greater sense of balance and a more positive work experience with well-being at the forefront.
4. Seeking opportunities for growth and advancement.
Gen Z is debunking the myth that they are unmotivated and complacent. Most of this innately curious generation values upskilling and lifelong learning to feed their desire to advance their careers. And this doesn’t necessarily happen through serial job-hopping. When an organization actively invests in their development, through mentoring programs or providing access to trainings for example, they will stick around and actively champion success. If they don’t feel invested, then they’ll leave.
Conduct a career development audit. Examine the learning opportunities that your company currently provides and identify any gaps that need to be filled. Could you pay for your employees to have access to LinkedIn Learning courses? Start a mentorship or peer coaching program? Provide opportunities to attend trainings or conferences?
5. Embracing company culture and community.
Beyond working a job that fulfills them, lots of Gen Z’er’s want to feel aligned with a company’s values and culture. As a group driven by social justice movements, they appreciate when organizations commit to taking action to mitigate climate change or support the LGBTQ+ community. This doesn’t mean your company has to take up every cause, but having a mission statement alone isn’t enough. They want to see organizations practice what they preach and take measurable steps to make the world a better place.
On the organizational culture front, this generation values building relationships and opportunities to connect in-person. Many Gen Z’er’s are experiencing an increasing amount of loneliness, so while they appreciate the flexibility to work from anywhere, they want a chance to collaborate and team build, too. Making time to meet up quarterly as a team or co-work with local peers can be a great way to foster this sense of community.
We might not be as different from our older or younger peers as we think…as Gen Z isn’t necessarily the first or only generation to take these attitudes into consideration. However, these values are a true hallmark of the youngest generation in the workforce. They expect the work world to change its traditional ways – and they’re willing to seek new opportunities if it doesn’t.
Building a generationally diverse workplace is a major key to organizational success, but it isn’t always easy when you have five generations working side by side for the first time in history. If you could use some support as you navigate generational differences in your company, learn more about our Generations Matter session here!