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30 Jan 2024

The challenges of managing Generation Z in the workplace

With Gen Z set to make up 30% of the workforce by 2025, employers need to understand what makes them tick – and how to get the best from them

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By 2025, 30% of the workforce will be comprised of Generation Z, or people born between 1997 and 2012. While often criticised for being digital natives or having radical social values, their progressive nature makes them assets to any company that values innovation.

Information is highly available to them and they often use their devices to learn new skills and research topics of interest.

While Gen Zs are often mocked for reliance on mobile devices or affinity for social media, the perspective that they are ‘less than’ because of their habits or differences is problematic. Older generations were never critiqued to the same degree for taking advantage of the resources available to them.

Diverse, inclusive, and progressive

Generation Z is the most diverse generation in American history. Not only is there more racial, gender, and ethnic diversity in this generation, but more individuals in this age group also self-identify as LGBTQ+ than ever.

For these reasons, Gen Zs have more progressive, inclusive values and political leanings than many of their parents and grandparents. These individuals are often passionate about social and environmental justice.

As a result, Gen Zs tend to be purpose-driven, both in their personal and professional lives.

Gen Z employees tend to value diversity, equity and inclusivity more than employees from prior generations. They seek out workplaces that value individual contribution and expression, have diversity in leadership and emphasise the importance of employee resource groups.

Many are also drawn to companies that care about climate change and monitor their carbon footprints, aligning with their vision of a brighter future and better world.

  • Authentic, transparent, and independent

Born advocates and activists, these free-thinkers are strong, opinionated, and unafraid to fight for what’s right. They deeply value authentic communication, transparent dialogue and being able to function independently, especially in professional settings.

  • Health and wellness-conscious

Many Gen Zers do not drink alcohol or smoke tobacco. They were also privy to more consistent, accurate information about nutrition and exercise from a young age, leaving behind the yo-yo diets and health crazes of previous generations.

Generation Z is also known for speaking openly about struggles regarding mental health, especially depression and anxiety.

  • Pragmatic and focused on finances

The Gen Z workforce values different elements of their careers than many employees from older generations. These young employees have specific needs at work due to the differences in the world they were raised in. To attract and retain Gen Z employees, employers need to foster a workplace culture aligned with their values and catering to their strengths.

Gen Z’s unique needs in the workplace 

To attract and retain Gen Z employees, employers need to foster a workplace culture aligned with their values and catered to their strengths.

This can include:

  • Top-of-the-line technology

Gen Zers don’t like to waste time fumbling with archaic tools or workflows and often seek out professional settings where they have access to the newest devices and programs. They also value the automation of menial tasks and often leverage technology to help them work more efficiently and accurately. 

  • Learning and development opportunities

Gen Zers deeply value learning new skills and progressing in their careers. In fact, 76% of Gen Z respondents reported that they’re looking for professional training and development opportunities. Nearly one in five workers say they are more likely to stay with an employer that offered reskilling and education as part of their professional development.

  • Strong employer brand

Members of Generation Z are more concerned with an employer’s brand presence than previous generations. As job seekers, these young people are more likely to assess a company’s social media presence and impact, as well as their values and organizational culture.

  • Mental health support

Most of the Gen Zers surveyed reported not feeling like they had adequate mental health support in the workplace.

Less than half of the employees surveyed agreed that their boss helps them maintain a healthy workload, while 28% reported that they struggle with their mental health, both in and outside the workplace.

Offering mental health services to employees through an insurance plan can be a great way to make these individuals feel cared for.

  • Alignment with lifestyle and values

While Gen Zs value job security, they also believe that their career development and success is within their control and dependent on their actions. While they value professional and financial stability, they’re also unafraid of entrepreneurship and taking risks. .

Common challenges of managing Gen Z employees

Just as Gen Z employees bring unique strengths, they also bring their own set of challenges. Understanding these can help managers tailor their leadership styles to better manage young employees. Some common sticking points may include:

1. Desire for praise or validation

Because of the culture Generation Z was raised in, many of them are used to being praised for participating in activities rather than ‘winning’. This was a conscious effort by Gen X parents to help their children build self-esteem and feel included without a constant pressure to perform.

However, as a result, many Gen Zers are used to more praise or validation than other generations and may seek this out in professional settings.

2. Need for professional autonomy

Because they so greatly value individuality and self-expression, many Gen Z employees also deeply value professional freedom and autonomy. They tend to feel most at ease when they can be independent and fully express their ideas and creativity. Gen Zers are particularly sensitive to being micromanaged.

3. Accustomed to simplicity and instant gratification

Because they grew up in a digital world with so much available at the touch of a button, Gen Zers are used to seamless experiences and instant gratification.

As a result, some employees from this generation come across as entitled or impatient simply because they’re accustomed to a faster pace of life. However, this can also be positive, as these employees are sensitive to wasting time and like to work as efficiently as possible.

4. Less company loyalty

Members of previous generations were more inclined to stay with companies for longer periods. In the prior world of work, this was seen as a choice with high esteem and often brought benefits such as pensions and other perks.

However, now that these benefits are no longer as common, many younger employees switch jobs every few years, which enables them to earn at a higher level than staying put.

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