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  • AJ Cheponis

Understanding Generation Z In the Workplace.

Entire industries and businesses will rise and fall in the wake of Generation Z. Yet few industries or organizations seem to be ready for it. Are you?



A new generation has arrived

Generation Z will soon surpass Millennials as the most populous generation on earth, with more than one-third of the world’s population counting themselves as Gen Zers. In the US, Gen Z constitutes more than a quarter of the population and, by 2020, will be the most diverse generation in the nation’s history.


As Gen Zers are about to step onto the world stage, the impact of their entry will be swift and profound, its effects rippling through the workplace, retail consumption, technology, politics, and culture. Radically different than Millennials, this generation has an entirely unique perspective on careers and how to define success in life and in the workforce.


To better understand the challenges facing this rising workforce and their impact on employers and the workplace, we worked with the Network of Executive Women (NEW) to explore the key events that helped shape Generation Z; dive into their individual behaviors, attitudes, and preferences; and separate the myths and stereotypes from reality.



So, who is Generation Z?

What are their behaviors? And what sort of impact will they have on the workplace, business, and the economy?


Given its experience growing up in the aftermath of the Great Recession, you might think Gen Z has emerged as a pragmatic, risk-averse, non-entrepreneurial group motivated by job security. Instead, a more nuanced picture emerged as we explored their career aspirations, career development, working styles, core values, behavior and character, education, and stance on diversity.


While salary is the most important factor in deciding on a job, Generation Z values salary less than every other generation: If given the choice of accepting a better-paying but boring job versus work that was more interesting but didn’t pay as well, Gen Z was fairly evenly split over the choice.


To win the hearts of Generation Z, companies and employers will need to highlight their efforts to be good global citizens. And actions speak louder than words: Companies must demonstrate their commitment to a broader set of societal challenges such as sustainability, climate change, and hunger.


Gen Z in the workplace


Diversity is the watchword for Gen Z:

Diversity matters to them through many dimensions, not just isolated to race and gender but also related to identity and orientation. Companies that can better represent the spectrum of differences in their external branding/marketing are much more likely to diversify their talent pipelines.



The future of work

As we draw insights from the preferences and behaviors of our newest generation entering the workforce, we need to also look at how “work” itself is changing and evolving. The new realities produced by these forces of change present us with complex questions to consider, including the ethics around human-machine collaboration, how to plan for 50-60 year careers, and how we unleash organizations through a continuum of talent sources.

The future of work will call for a return of the Renaissance figure: a person with many talents, interests, and areas of knowledge. It will require a fusion of four key work skills:


  • Digital tools and technology skills

  • Comfort with analytics and data

  • Business management skills

  • Design and creative skills



What does this mean for employers?

We think Gen Z will have the ability to demand greater personalization in how they move along their career journey. For organizations to attract and retain the best and brightest of the generation, it will require a different mindset.


To attract Gen Z, employers must be ready to adopt a speed of evolution that matches the external environment. That means developing robust training and leadership programs, with a real and tangible focus on diversity.


Develop the profile of a great employee, establish internal apprenticeship programs, or hire smart, talented people and then match them with a role once inside the organization.


Consider partnering at the university level to adopt top female talent to attract more women candidates for tech roles.


Create latticed career paths and multiple work formats.


Set up internal marketplaces to match projects with needed skill sets.


Leverage the expertise of Gen X, Gen Y, and Boomers to help mentor Gen Z into strong leaders.


Consider the attractiveness of the industry you are in and the reputation of your company and plan accordingly.


What drives people?

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