Gen Z Smashes Workplace Norms


Generation Z, or Gen Z, is comprised of people born between 1996 - 2009. This is the first generation to not be aware of life before the 9/11 attacks, to not know a world without technology or social media. It is the first generation to have high diversity rates, to have lived most of their lives with a black president. This generation was raised by their cynical Gen X parents, who they have more in common with than Millennials even though the latter is closer in age. Early studies on the generation referred to them as the Selfie generation or iGen - but neither of those titles fit who they are now or becoming as adults. 

The oldest Gen Z population is now graduating college and entering the workforce. Drastically different than their idealistic millennial counterparts, they are going to smash established systems in the workplace. We’ve put together five key desires Gen Z is looking for in the workplace.

  1. Financial Stability and Security

    In a recent survey, 75% of this generation are more worried about starting a career and getting a good job than they are about finding their soulmate. They watched their parents and Millennials struggle through the recession, some of whom are still climbing out of it. They don’t want to end up in that boat, and with another recession on the horizon, their need for financial stability is even greater. Millennials were concerned about their finances when they started out in their 20’s, but they were willing to sacrifice pay for fulfilling their idealistic passion. This generation is almost averse to that concept. While there is a desire for a strong work/life balance, they are more than willing to take higher paying jobs that require nights or weekends, in fields they may not truly love. They may settle for a job with a large corporation rather than a small startup company, for the security of a strong brand. This also means they are willing to job-hop until they find the right balance of work/life and salary.

  2. Independent Workspaces

    Gen Z hates open workspaces, and to be honest, so should everyone. Studies over the last few years have found that open workspaces actually caused less peer interaction and created more distractions. More people wear headphones and interact infrequently with those around them when they’re in a shared workspace. This doesn’t mean fabric lined cubicles need to be the new fad, but investing in quiet rooms, small meeting spaces, and other innovative architecture may be key to low turnover and higher productivity. Gen Z values privacy, which makes sense given their constant connection to social media. Providing them with offices or even flex time to work remotely will allow them the privacy and independent workflow that they greatly treasure.

  3. Social Interactions

    Even though they hate open workspaces, they love social engagement. They, like Millennials, want to feel engaged with their workplace. They want a culture, a team spirit, a reason to thrive together. But unlike Millennials, they value face-to-face interaction over texts, emails, and even social media. In a world of fake news and deepfake technology, honesty is everything. If something important needs to be discussed, they want to see your face. Even remote workers want to feel connected and engaged. Weekly or monthly video chat is a great way to keep your remote workers engaged.

  4. Honest Feedback

    Because honesty is so important, they see feedback as a learning tool. Even failure is a positive learning experience, a way for them to improve. Like their Gen X parents, this generation has a similar desire to win. Regular feedback from their superiors is viewed as a way for them to get better and hone the skills that can set them apart. This feedback can be monthly, weekly, or even daily. And with their need for face-to-face interaction, a congratulatory or condemning email won’t do. They want to see on your face that your feedback is honest and true.

  5. A Voice

    While they desire to work independently on daily tasks, they still want to be part of the decision making process. They want to help shape and create new ideas and systems. They want to lead a group or be placed in management quickly. Their drive to succeed in the workplace and need for financial stability fuels their passion for workplace involvement and creativity. The more opportunities these entry level and internship employees have, the more successful they will become, and the more vital they’ll be to your company.

This new generation grew up surrounded by social media and technology from day one. Because of this, their need for face-to-face interaction, honest feedback, and independent work is what really sets them apart from Millennials. They also want to feel engaged and important in the workplace, so finding ways to bring a team together or have group discussions on new and exciting concepts will surely keep this new generation engaged and successful. Change always requires research and hard work, but it is a welcome change.


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