Workplace Evolution: Generation Z Is On Board

Your company has just become accustomed to working with Millennials and learned how to meet their needs. Congratulations! Now it’s time to move on and get ready to meet their successors – Generation Z. Demographers usually define Generation Z as people who were born between the mid-1990s and mid-2000s. Also known as post-Millennials, the iGeneration, and the Homeland Generation, Gen Zers are entering the workplace. Does this mean that Gen Z will bring new challenges for employers? Will the title “the worst generation” pass from the Millennials to Generation Z?  Let’s see how Generation Z differs from its predecessors.

Generation Z in a nutshell

It makes sense to assume that Gen Z is somewhat similar to the Millennials since the time gap between these two generations is not very long and both generations are highly influenced by technology. So if your company shares a common language with your millennial workers, a lot of techniques you use to recruit and manage your millennials will work for Generation Z too. However, to understand Gen Z better it is important to see how they are different from their parent generations, the Millennials.

  1. Natural multitaskers

Like millennial employees, Gen Z was raised in a world flooded with technology. If you were annoyed by Millennials constantly checking their phones while they were working, wait till you see Generation Z! Yes, they can be easily distracted, and their attention span lasts only about 8 seconds. However, responding to multiple stimuli all at once comes naturally to them – and will not influence their overall productivity. Moreover, Gen Z has very blurred boundaries about where their work time ends, meaning they can work as they travel back home, at lunch, or while watching TV. This vague delineation could bring changes to the workplace in the coming years.

  1. DIY and FOMO experiencers

Generation Z belongs to a DIY (do it yourself) culture. They prefer to discover the world themselves. Barbara Kahn, marketing professor and director of the Jay H. Baker Retailing Center at Wharton, explains this phenomenon:  

Unlike millennials, [who were] the children of boomers, [Gen Z’s] parents—Generation X—are not helicopter parents. They don’t seem to be quite as involved in every detail of their children’s lives, which is probably a good thing. The criticism of millennials is that they got too much attention, they have a greater sense of entitlement, and they never grow up and never leave the nest. You won’t expect to see that with Gen Z.

Jonah Stillman, a member of Generation Z who helps his father, David Stillman, to do research on generational differences, mentions a form of social anxietyFOMO (the fear of missing out) that greatly influences Gen Z’s  lives:

We’re the first true digital natives. We have only known phones that are smart and have been able to get our hands on any bit of information 24/7. While this makes us very resourceful, it also creates challenges in that we suffer from FOMO—big time. Gen Z is always worried whether we are moving ahead fast enough in comparison to everyone else.

  1. Practical, pragmatic and realistic

Unlike the Millennials, who were told that they were special, that they could change the world and make their every dream come true, Gen Z is far more pragmatic. They have been taught to work hard if they want to be successful. “I was told that there’re winners and losers, and if I’m not willing to work my butt off there are 70 million other Gen Zers that are going to come right up behind you and take your job,” says Jonah Stillman. Also, representatives of Generation Z are more cautious and thrifty than Millennials in terms of education and student loan debts. Gen Z doesn’t see advanced college degrees as a 100% guarantee for career success, as compared to 71% of millennials. That means that the majority of Gen Z value practical skills more than formal education. If Gen Z sees an efficient, fast and cost-effective way of learning new skills, they will choose it instead of the traditional route of higher education.

  1. Entrepreneurs and moonlighters

Gen Z is 55% more likely than millennials to start their own business. In fact, 72% of Gen Z would like to be entrepreneurs in the future. Here’s what David Stillman, author and generations expert, says about this tendency:

Gen Z is very entrepreneurial. Ideally, leaders will find ways for Gen Z to own their projects and become more entrepreneurial. However, a lot of Gen Zers figuring out how to create [job] security on their own will pursue hobbies that can generate income on the side. The difference with this generation is that they won’t see getting a job or pursuing these income-generating hobbies as an either/or. They will likely try to do both. Sure, this happened with other generations, but it was kept quiet and referred to as moonlighting. Today it is known as a side hustle. From Uber driving to selling stuff online and beyond, Gen Z will for sure have side hustles.

  1. Culture creators and customizers

According to Wildness research, 80% of Gen Z consider creativity to be important. Here’s an extract from the report.

What we’ve uncovered in our research is that this is a generation of CCs (Culture Creators) that are redefining entertainment, consumption, the workplace and marketing. The CCs are empowered, connected, empathetic self-starters that want to stand out and make a difference in the world. They have created a new Cultural Currency that values uniqueness, authenticity, creativity, shareability and recognition. What’s different for this generation is not as simple as the internet or technology. Technology is an important component, but what’s changed is this generation’s relationship with culture.

David Stillman also emphasizes that personalized experiences will play an even greater role in the future, pointing out that Generation Z is all about customization.

For Gen Z, everything has always been about standing out from the crowd. Therefore, it will be important that each Gen Z recruit feel that the job being offered to them is unique. Our national studies show how Gen Z is looking for customization: 56% of Gen Z would rather write their own job description than be given a generic one, and 62% of Gen Z would rather customize their own career plan than have the organization lay one out for them.

  1. Independent and competitive

Gen Z does not favor an open office workspace and prefers to work alone, in contrast to Millennials who value teamwork and a collaborative spirit. In fact, 35% of Gen Z would rather share socks than office space. Jonah Stillman connects this strong desire for independence with competitiveness, giving the following explanation:

Where Millennials were raised by self-esteem-building, optimistic Boomers, we were raised by tough love, skeptical Gen Xers. At a young age, we were told by our Xer parents that there are winners and losers, and that more often than not, you lose. In addition, we grew up during the Great Recession, so we’re pragmatic, independent and in survival mode when it comes to looking at our future careers. Being in survival mode has made us very competitive. In fact, 72% of Gen Z said we are competitive with those doing the same job.

  1. Proponents of diversity

Gen Z was born during the technology boom and also in the age of diversity. Nancy Breiling Nessel, the founder of, says that Generation Z is ethnically diverse and its representatives easily embrace differences. “They are inclusive. They are accepting. This is a unique quality that separates them from prior generations, and a quality these prior generations will learn from Gen Z.”

How to train and engage your Gen Z workforce

To manage Generation Z most effectively it’s necessary to understand what they want from their job, especially when it comes to these four factors:

  1. Job security and financial stability. The consequences of the Great Recession of the late 2000s influenced both Millennials and Gen Z, even though the latter were children. They saw their parents lose their jobs – that’s why they want job security. Due to the financial stress their parents experienced, Generation Z wants to make sure their life is secure and that they get a decent financial reward for the job they do. Unlike Millenials, who want to make a difference and change the world, Gen Z also cares about personal financial issues.
  1. Intrapersonal and independent learning. Gen Zs’ independence and practicality is reflected in the way they want to learn. They prefer hands-on training that can be applied right after they have learned the new material. Jonah Stillman mentions a new tendency in the way gen Z-ers see the learning process:

For my generation, we will look to Google and the Internet for answers. We still need our teachers’ help sifting through and analyzing answers, but it has changed their role. The new model is “guide on the side.” This might cause problems with our future bosses when we don’t look to them for all the answers.

Since the material can be easily accessed with the help of modern technology, the emphasis should be put on the quality and accessibility of the content that comes with adaptive learning technologies.

  1. Professional development and career advancement. Guided by financial stability and job security, Gen Z is more loyal than Millennials. Similar to Millennials, your Gen Z workforce thinks about their aspirations and the way they can move up within a company. They are eager to face challenging tasks and want to learn continuously. If they have tools to succeed in your company, they will stay. Moreover, as Jonah Stillman mentions, “We believe those workplaces that can handle our side hustles will find increased retention and loyalty amongst Gen Z.” If you allow them to work on side-projects that won’t influence their productivity in your company in a negative way, you will increase the chances of retaining your Gen Z employees.
  1. One-on-one communication. Though this generation can’t live without social messaging apps, 84% of Gen Z prefer interpersonal communication. They value fairness and transparency. Point out their mistakes, express gratitude for what they do, and make their voices heard while making job-related decisions to establish a real connection. Even if they work remotely, make sure to have those one-on-one calls to catch up with your Gen Z employees. David Stillman explains it in the following way:

Having seen so many organizations and leaders called into question as well as struggle in the recent recession, Gen Z is looking for honesty above all. Only 5% of Gen Z said they were motivated by a company’s reputation. In order to find that honest and transparent workplace, they want to be able to look their leaders in the eye.

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