What does Gen Z mean for our workplaces?

Press enter to search
Close search
Open Menu

What does Gen Z mean for our workplaces?

By Sarah Alter - 12/27/2019

A new generation has arrived and is entering the workforce, so let’s get to know Gen Z. By the numbers, its members make up 23.4% of the U.S. population and a third of the world population. It’s undeniable that they’re going to make a huge impact on the world, the economy and the workplace.

Anticipating this, Network of Executive Women, in collaboration with Deloitte, recently released its Generation Z Report. Based on data from more than 1,500 Gen Z respondents, the report separates the myths about Gen Zers from the facts and takes a deep dive into how members of this generation will impact our workplaces.

Most of us aren’t total strangers to this rising generation. Many of us have — or until recently had — Gen Zers in our homes. In fact, my own children are Gen Zers and that’s one of the reasons why I’ve found this generation so fascinating: The world they know is vastly different from the one that I came up in.

They grew up totally immersed in technology; they watched their parents struggle financially during the Great Recession; and, as they’ve grown, they’ve been cognizant of the rising cost of living and higher education.

What I love about the findings presented in this report is that they give a three-dimensional and nuanced look at who Gen Zers are and how they think about the world of work. Here are some of the key findings:

• Gen Zers don’t want to be put into a box: One key difference between members of Gen Z and those of past generations is that while they’re willing to sacrifice some level of personal fulfillment for financial stability, they aren’t interested in a job that puts them into a box. They want to expand their skills and actively seek opportunities to do so. 

• Gen Zers are diverse: Gen Z is the most ethnically and racially diverse generation in history, but its members are also diverse in their sexual orientation and gender identity and expression. They prioritize diversity and look at it as more than just a box to be checked and expect diversity in marketing and business.

• Gen Zers care about education: Gen Zers consider a traditional four-year college education highly important and are quickly becoming the most educated generation in history.

One of the most interesting findings is that Gen Zers are the generation most likely to demand a shift in the power dynamic between employees and employers. The report predicts that shrinking talent pools, combined with the need for next-generation skills, will put incoming employees into a position to ask for the things they want out of the workplace.

Gen Z is different from previous generations. Gen Zers don’t want to start their own businesses or work from home like the millennials who preceded them. What they do want is to lend their skills to companies that will offer them flexibility and the chance to act entrepreneurially in personalized, rather than cookie-cutter roles. These young people are attracted to opportunities that will keep them interested, while allowing them to continue developing their skills.

Many Gen Zers look to tech as an industry where they can attain these things. Out of the 1,500 surveyed, 51% of respondents ranked tech as a top industry to work in. Interestingly, only 34% of Gen Z females seek technology roles, compared to 73% of Gen Z males. This will certainly have implications for tech companies aiming to bolster diversity among their ranks.

Organizations that want to attract young talent are going to need to change their approaches to hiring, developing and retaining their workforces. They’ll also need to focus on creating diverse and inclusive workplaces. They may even need to create latticed career paths with multiple work formats or introduce internal marketplaces to match projects to needed skill sets.

This sounds like drastic change, and if you know me, you also know that I’m not afraid of change. Businesses should be prepared to make changes to create workplaces that attract all kinds of employees and keep them happy, too.

As I’ve toured the country and discussed this groundbreaking report, I’ve thought a lot about the impact that Gen Zers are making on the world of work. There’s something very admirable about following one’s interests, staying true to one’s beliefs, and asking for what one wants in life. At work, too. Those are the hallmarks of this new generation, and I couldn’t be more excited to see what they’ll bring to the workplace.

Sarah Alter is president and CEO of the Network of Executive Women, a learning and leadership community representing 12,500 members representing 900 companies and 22 regional groups in the United States and Canada. Learn more at newonline.org.