Generation Z’s numbers are increasing in the workforce. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 70.9% of the civilian noninstitutional population between the ages of 20 and 24 are in the civilian labor force. Pew Research Center defines Generation Z as individuals born between 1997 and 2002, although there are differing cut-offs depending on who you ask (some people use the 1995 cut-off for example). Older Gen Zers, such as myself, are starting their professional careers and we bring a different perspective to the workplace.
But how is Gen Z different from their tenured counterparts? I love discussing career goals and priorities with friends and colleagues my age. However, I don’t usually see many articles on professional development from professionals my age. That said, let me give you a glimpse of the Gen Z perspective.
Work & Personal Life Balance
Gen Z brings a unique perspective to the workplace in many ways. One of the most notable is their approach to work-personal life balance. We will work hard during the workday, but we are also less likely to answer work emails after hours or on the weekend unless absolutely necessary. Gen Z is very open when it comes to prioritizing mental health and personal well-being. By establishing clear boundaries, we increase our chances of maintaining the proper balance between meeting our career ambitions and goals and needs outside of a professional work setting.
This is probably my biggest consideration when looking for jobs, and I am not alone. It seems to be a consistent trend when I talk to other professionals my age. I value my time. If I devote my time to a company, I want my contributions to be meaningful. This means we are less likely to stay at a job for years at a time for just the pay. If we do not receive that sense of accomplishment in our work, we are not shy about going elsewhere!
Pay and Benefits
This will seem like a direct contradiction to the previous paragraph but hear me out.
As I mentioned, job fulfillment is incredibly important to Gen Z, but to quote one of my friends I discussed this article with, “You gotta be able to live.” Gen Z is less willing to accept the “You have to have the heart for it!” approach. This sentiment is often a justifier for low salaries and wages. Generation Z and Millennials have been more vocal about calling for higher wages. At the end of the day, it truly is a balancing act of doing what you love while also standing up for yourself to make sure you are being fairly compensated.
At a leadership development event I attended recently, we discussed the two elements that younger workers often choose over loyalty to a company: genuine connections with the individuals they collaborate with and passion for the work itself. This trend originated with Millennials and is now embraced by Generation Z.
There are many factors that come into play when discussing a company’s work environment. People, generally speaking, want to work for ethical companies with a clear mission. Gen Z specifically places emphasis on a work culture that allows for organic collaboration and authentic relationships. We like it when managers have enough confidence in us to work on tasks without being micromanaged. This strengthens the rapport of work teams, builds employees’ confidence, and provides a sense of fulfillment in their roles.
Diversity is another critical piece of an employer’s work environment. Since Generation Z is one of the more diverse generations, it is important that such diversity is reflected and represented within any given company. This is more than just meeting the numbers of a diverse employee base. It includes making sure all employees feel like their concerns are taken seriously and can exist authentically within their work environment.
In terms of the physical work environment, it may surprise many that many Gen Z workers are wanting more in-person interactions. While we are generalized (albeit somewhat fairly) as a generation that is constantly online, we are fatigued from constantly having a large chunk of work engagements online. Personally, I 100% agree with this sentiment. We are ready to be in person and start building professional relationships!
We are used to fast-paced working and educational environments. After all, many of us had to teach ourselves to some extent during the pandemic. We embrace a challenge and are self-sufficient in expanding our skills. From an employer standpoint, it is worth getting to know your employees and knowing what types of learning opportunities they are interested in. This gives them the ability to personalize their role and bring a holistic perspective to your company.
What Do You Think?
This by all means is not a comprehensive list; rather a collection of observations both personal and from my peers. As a Gen Z worker, what considerations did I miss? If you’re an employer of young professionals, what are some perceptions that you have or had of the Gen Z workforce? We would love to hear your thoughts!