How Gen Z Is Changing the Workforce

With the influx of young Gen Z workers into many fields, new trends will evolve into lasting impacts on the future of work.

Young person working at computer

Over the last few years, a lot of digital ink has been spilled comparing the ideas and values of different generations, from "OK, boomers" (born 1946-1964) to critiques of millennial (1981-1996) attitudes, to Generation Z (1997-2012) shaking their virtual heads at both groups. While some of this commentary feels like silly stereotypes and reductive ideas, there are some definite general differences in attitudes expressed by Gen Z, known colloquially as Zoomers. It's becoming clear that Gen Z is bringing a fresh attitude and a slew of new ideas to the workforce.

With the influx of young Gen Z workers into many fields, there are some new trends that we can expect to evolve into lasting impacts on the future of work.

They Ardently Stand for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion

One clear way Gen Z is making its impact known is by pushing companies to commit to diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI.)

A recent survey Gen Z found that 67% of respondents had personally witnessed discrimination based on race, ethnicity, gender identity or sexual orientation, and 44% indicated that they had personally experienced this type of discrimination. Gen Z expects employers to be up to date in their approach to equity and to be inclusive. Eighty-eight percent of Gen Z job seekers felt that it was important for a recruiter or potential employer to ask about their preferred gender pronouns.

This heightened awareness of institutional bias among members of Gen Z strongly impacts the choices this generation make about its careers: Sixty-nine percent of those surveyed said that they would "absolutely" be more likely to apply for a job if the recruitment materials promoted a racial and ethnically diverse workforce.

This attitude is certain to push companies to make DEI a priority. Data shows that this will be beneficial not just from an ethics standpoint; it is also good business. A McKinsey study indicates that companies with more culturally and ethnically diverse executive teams are 33% more likely to outperform competitors.

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They're Budding Entrepreneurs — Even More Than Millennials

Gen Z has demonstrated an independent mindset toward careers. This entrepreneurial spirit is evident in the fact that Gen Zers are 55% more likely to start their own business than their millennial counterparts. This should be no surprise given that 45% of Gen Z students believe that they will invent something that changes the world.

Many are approaching their future entrepreneurship with the same socially conscious attitude that they direct toward their hiring preferences.

While you might attribute this independent-minded approach to the hubris of youth, look no further than Tiffany Zhong, who launched her career as a venture capitalist while still in college.

It's clear that Gen Z is rewriting the rules and following its own path.

They Value Financial Security

Although Gen Z is often the first to critique baby boomers on Twitter, it would seem that it has something in common with those a few generations prior: the desire for financial and workplace security.

The impact of growing up during the 2000s financial crisis, as well as watching millennial siblings struggle with student loan debt, has certainly impacted the mindset of many in Gen Z. This might explain why 70% of Gen Zers reported that money and pay were their top motivators in a work context.

Gen Z has taken the hard lessons of the struggling economy of its youth to heart, and this is evident in its approach to its own finances. Two-thirds of Gen Z high school students reported that they had already opened a bank account, and they were also three times more likely to have taken a finance class. They are also wary of student debt: 70% think that it will make it harder to save in the future, and 24% plan to pay for their own college education through savings.

And while their salary expectations may be high, on average expecting to make over $57,000 one year out of college, they are also willing to put in the work to earn their keep: 77% believe that they will need to work harder than members of previous generations in order to lead a fulfilling professional life. Fifty-eight percent are willing to work nights and weekends in pursuit of a more competitive salary, compared to 41% across other generations.

They Don't Know a World Without Elegant Technology

Gen Z is the first generation to be described as "digital natives," meaning that it grew up after the internet revolution, never knowing a world without instantaneous digital connectedness.

Gen Z's comfort with and investment in technology certainly impacts its role in the workforce. It also has an impact on Gen Zers' expectations in their job searches, with 91% of Gen Z job-seekers reporting that technological sophistication would positively impact their desire to work at a company. As crazy as it might sound to those of us outside the tech world, 32% of Gen Z even expects to use VR at work within the next five years.

While all this may have you thinking that most Gen Zers would prefer to have their whole worklife concentrated in the four inches of their phone screens, think again: 83% said that they favored in-person meetings with supervisors to email or messaging.

Taking a close look at Gen Z's attitudes and expectations within the workforce, it's abundantly clear that the youngest generation to join the workforce will continue to bring major changes to how we approach the world of work.

This generation has adopted this pleasant mindset that represents a blend of all generations: the mindset of financial security and hard work that was a hallmark of the baby boomers and an appreciation for technology and social goodwill it shares with its millennial counterparts.

This all begs the question, what are we to expect when Generation Alpha finally comes of age?

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