Gen Z In The Workplace: How Should Companies Adapt?

Every few years, a new generation joins the workforce, bringing with it its own set of qualities, traits, and values. For example, when searching for employment, Baby Boomers sought job security, Generation X sought work-life balance and professional progress, and now, Millennials and Generation Z seek everything from a company’s ethics to a decent work-life balance.  These distinctions have an influence on how employees interact and are managed.

Today, a large chunk of the workforce is occupied by Baby Boomers (19%), Generation X (35.5%), and Millennials (39.4%).  With over 10,000 Baby Boomers per day reaching the age of 65, in 2030, we’ll see Generation Z constitute about 30% of the workforce. Their fresh ideas on work and technology will soon impact our work environments on a greater level.

Generation Z (also called Gen Z, zoomers, iGeneration, and post-millennials), is the most diverse generation in history, responsible for shaping the workplace of the future. Gen Z, are those who were born between the years of the late 1990s and the early 2010s and are starting their careers during a time of growing inflation, mounting student loan debt, a housing crisis, and an impending recession. In addition, they have faced catastrophic occurrences like war, social instability, and an increase in gun violence. On the whole, Gen Z has been dealt a difficult hand, and it’s defining how they engage in work.

Previous ways of working + interacting between employers and employees are being disrupted by Gen Z’s entry into the workforce because of different expectations regarding atmosphere, culture, and support at work. At Hopkins, we deal with a lot of Gen Z students who are getting ready to enter the workforce. So, we want to break down their expectations so you are aware of discrepancies to help you manage your Gen Z team members even better! 

What changes will we see in the workplace with the introduction of Gen Z employees?

Greater Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI)

Gen Z values a far more diversified world than previous generations. Therefore, dedication to diversity and inclusion (DEI) in the workplace is not simply a “nice-to-have” for them, it’s an expectation. In a Tallo study of Gen Z respondents, 67 percent of respondents of working age claimed they had seen workplace discrimination based on race, ethnicity, gender identity, or sexual orientation, and 44 percent said they had personally experienced it. For Gen Z, diversity and inclusion go beyond issues of color and ethnicity. Gen Z embraces the right to freely express one’s gender identity. They are more at ease with non-binary identities and gender fluidity, and they want their employers to share this comfort. In support of this, a staggering 88 percent of Gen Z poll participants felt companies must inquire about preferred gender pronouns.

Gen Z looks at historical and social influences on opportunities and experiences and seeks out organizations and brands that do the same. For example, the World Economic Forum states that over 40% of Gen Zers, compared to 24% of earlier generations, stated they would debate sexism in the workplace, and they want their employers to join the dialogue and give inclusive perks.

Greater flexibility 

Gen Z employees believe that they are more than their jobs and they want their employers to know the same. However, they have indicated in polls that they are prepared to work hard even on weekends and evenings when necessary to develop their careers and achieve security. Furthermore, according to World Economic Forum research, 73% of Gen Z employees want permanent flexible work alternatives. A flexible work schedule is one that differs from the standard 40-hour, 9-5 work schedule. This can include a combination of at-home remote and on-site work, a four-day work week, or just allowing the employee greater freedom in deciding which hours they work. According to Fortune, 59.5% of employees agreed that remote and hybrid work increases productivity and reduces workplace distractions as well as many of the stressors that worsen Gen Z employees’ mental health difficulties like stress. Deloitte says that 34% of employees blame their workload, and 32% blame their poor work-life balance, for contributing significantly to their stress and anxiety, while one in four blames their inability to be themselves at work. Remote or Hybrid work drastically reduces these factors, allowing employees to have better mental health. 

Focus on ethics and social awareness of a company

Deloitte and NEW research reports that 77 percent of Gen Z respondents stated it was vital to work for a company whose values aligned with their own. According to Deloitte, “Gen Z no longer forms opinions of a company based solely on the quality of their products/services, but also on their ethics, practices, and social impact.” The same is true with prospective employers. Gen Z wants firms to demonstrate their principles by taking action on topics such as climate change and sustainability. For example, 39% of Gen Z respondents claimed they were very or extremely engaged in environmental concerns. As a result, firms that take initiatives to decrease their carbon footprints and publicly advocate sustainability can help employers attract younger recruits.

When companies are unable to cater to these expectations, Gen Z employees generally undergo tremendous stress and lack of engagement. 

Let’s take an in-depth look at some issues Gen Z employees face when their requirements are not met. 

Lack of engagement at work leading to lower retention

The likelihood of Gen Z and young millennials being “not engaged” at work is somewhat higher than that of more senior counterparts. Employee engagement refers to the strength of an employee’s mental and emotional commitment to their job, their teams, and their employer. According to Gallup, 54 percent of them are not engaged, which is slightly more than prior generations. This will continue to occur if a majority of young employees don’t have strong relationships with their managers, employers, or coworkers. Therefore, younger workers could be less inclined to “settle” for a less-than-ideal employer since they are always looking for better opportunities.

Higher levels of stress that hamper work performance

Compared to prior generations, younger workers report higher levels of general stress and burnout at work. According to Gallup 68% of Gen Z and younger millennials report feeling stressed out most of the time at work. Burnout and stress have an impact on long-term career progress and work performance. Burnout is also linked to threats to one’s physical health and strained interpersonal ties. Burnout is another reason why young workers “job hop”.

How can companies better appeal to and engage with Gen Z employees?

  1. Promote mental health awareness: Employees of Generation Z want improved access to mental health services, enhanced knowledge of mental well-being, empathic leadership, and a culture of wellness. Therefore, companies must establish stigma-free work cultures and integrate mental health across the business through policies and programs that care for people and respect their personal and professional wellness to achieve these interests.
  2. Promote diversity and inclusion: Lack of diversity and inclusiveness might make it difficult to attract and keep Gen Z employees. Making neurodiversity a fourth pillar of your DEI programs, alongside gender, race, and sexual orientation, provides a powerful signal of understanding and dedication to your organization’s Gen Z workforce.
  3. Encourage focus on career and growth: The Gen Z workforce is searching for opportunities to grow and advance in their jobs due to their need for financial security, entrepreneurial mentality, and competitive spirit. They actively seek guidance from a dependable boss, and training and development possibilities. Thus, companies that provide mentorship and training programs are generally preferred by Gen Z employees. 
  4. Improved communication: 51% of Gen Z prefer speaking to friends, family, and co-workers face-to-face rather than by text. Therefore, businesses can nurture this mentality by: 
    • Preferring video calls over phone calls. 
    • Choosing frequent gatherings to provide Gen Z with the personal connection they need. 
    • Having managers should check in frequently, provide insightful input, and schedule weekly feedback and performance evaluations. 
    • Organizing social activities that promote team bonding.
  1. Environmental, sustainable, and social responsibility accountability: Gen Zers are driven to make a difference and seek employment with organizations they believe share similar values to their own. Instead of only seeking financial gain, they seek to have an influence. Additionally, they will leave a job if it doesn’t fulfill them.
  2. Equal pay: According to Handshake Network Trends, 62% of college students and recent graduates said they would be more likely to apply to a firm if it was committed to equal pay. Therefore, companies that offer equal pay are more likely to see employee retention.

Today’s youthful employees are tomorrow’s CEOs. Therefore, companies must develop new strategies to cater to Gen Z employees. Although these changes are long-term and may require years to implement, the pointers mentioned here can help you manage your Gen Z employees better, thus allowing you to understand where they are coming from and how you can meet them where they’re at!

By Vibha Sathesh Kumar
Vibha Sathesh Kumar