How Generation Z Will Shape the Workplace

by Anastasia C. Valentine on October 4, 2017



Many companies are just beginning to grasp and adapt to the nuances of the Millennial generation in their workplace. However, Generation Z is steadily making its entrance into the workforce. According to The Center for Generational Kinetics (“The Center”), Generation Z was born from 1996 through 2015 with the ending birth year still up for debate. Researchers at The Center concluded that each generation is defined by a historic event. September 11th, 2001 is the event that separated the Generation Z and Millennial generations. Millennials have an authentic emotional connection and they remember it firsthand whereas Generation Zers have only learned about 9/11 through history class or watching a video online.

As Baby Boomers continue to retire over the next decade, subsequent generations will move up to fill the gap. This includes Generation Z, the youngest of whom will likely never work at a company where Baby Boomers are still employed. In order to prepare for the future of their workforce, companies must be aware of how the expectations and perspectives of Generation Z will shape the workplace.

Career Expectations of Generation Z

Author and Generation Z researcher David Stillman reveals that Generation Z grew up with the understanding that you either win or lose, and that you will lose more times than you win. This is a stark contrast to Millennials, many of whom grew up receiving rewards for effort, even if they lost. It is this win-lose perspective, instilled in them by Generation X parents, that gives Generation Z much more realistic expectations of the workplace.

A study from PwC reveals that many older Millennials made compromises in compensation when accepting job offers, opting instead for career paths where they could make a difference, gain work-life balance, and grow professionally. Though Generation Z shares many preferences with Millennials, the recession that occurred during their adolescence has made them more cautious about their personal financial health. As a result of this, it is no surprise that 12 percent of Gen Zers are already saving up for retirement.

Aside from their financial motivation, an extensive survey from EY (formerly Ernst & Young) reveals that this generation is highly independent and entrepreneurial. Furthermore, they are true digital natives, having grown up with the Internet at their fingertips to answer any question they ever had. They also prefer to work independently, valuing their own do it yourself (DIY) spirit more than collaboration. This independence also makes Generation Z highly competitive and prone to comparison. Career growth is extremely important to them and they want to achieve that growth as quickly as their peers.

Generation Z and Technology

Generation Z has never known life without technology. It is no surprise then, that Stillman’s research shows 91 percent of them say technological sophistication impacts their perception of a career opportunity. Another EY survey finds that 76 percent believe new technologies will transform how they work, particularly in terms of productivity and in adding more value to their work. In fact, 85 percent of Generation Z watched at least one online video in the past week just to learn a new skill, according to The Center.

It goes without saying that companies who are not ahead of the curve in technology will risk alienating many members of Generation Z.

Furthermore, it appears to be a shared perspective among Generation Z that older generations have “overcomplicated things,” a phrase used by Stillman’s son, Jonah Stillman, who teamed up with his father to speak on the subject. Many see technology as the way to streamline processes and achieve overlooked efficiencies. Companies that are falling short of this vision or, worse, overcomplicating business processes with technical redundancies and disparate systems, will likely experience hiring difficulties as Generation Z steadily becomes a larger portion of the workforce.

Finally, it is important to understand how Generation Z’s high level of technical literacy will impact their communication skills. Interestingly, despite their dependence on technology, research from HR executive network Future Workforce reveals that face to face communication is the preference for this generation.  According to The Center, 57 percent of Generation Z believe that communication is the most important skill for succeeding in the workplace with problem solving at 49 percent. Surprisingly, skills such as reading and mathematics were not featured at the top of their list.

Generation Z in the Workplace

Employers will be pleased to hear that Generation Z appears to be much more loyal than the Millennial generation. A Deloitte survey reveals that just 31 percent of Millennials plan to stay with their current employer for more than five years. Conversely, Stillman’s research shows that 61 percent of Generation Z see themselves staying with an employer for more than 10 years. This is a generation that highly values stability, and if a company can fulfill their ambition for advancement, they are more likely to stick around.

However, it is also important to recognize that members of Generation Z, more than any other generation, are likely to have side jobs that turn hobbies and passions into income opportunities. Their ambition drives them to fulfill multiple roles, and many will try to do the same thing within a single position at their place of employment. If they are equally interested in marketing and finance, it makes sense to them to follow both paths simultaneously. Should companies with siloed departments push the envelope to allow for such diverse roles within their infrastructure?

Overall, according to the survey from EY, Generation Z believes they will achieve more financial reward and happiness in their careers than their parents have. The research has also shown they are more realistic about the workplace than their predecessors. Generation Z also has expectations about technology and their role as employees. Companies must consider and adapt as this generation enters the workforce in greater numbers.

As companies begin to grapple with Generation Z in the workplace, Resource 1 is ready to navigate this shift. We have spent the last 35 years leveraging our expertise in the evolving IT marketplace to deliver top talent to our clients. Our focus on non-transactional relationships and our passion for innovation are just part of our strategy for managing generational differences in the workplace and continuing to identify key players for your hiring needs. Contact us today.