Generation Z in the Workplace: Meeting Them Where They Are

Generation Z in the Workplace: Meeting Them Where They Are

Generation Z in the Workplace: Meeting Them Where They Are

Last updated on March 21, 2024 at 06:49 am

Generation Z is already shaking up the way we work. Although Gen Z is now the largest generation globally, they’re still a relatively small percentage of the workforce—about 12%. While some companies are worried about adapting to the most tech-savvy generation, this is actually a great opportunity. I think having Generation Z in the workplace will be a catalyst for positive change. They will help our cultures and ways of working evolve in ways we can’t even predict yet. But it’s the companies who take the time to adapt and learn more about this workforce who will be the most prepared for the future of work. 

Let’s talk about how you can meet Gen Z where they are.

Get to know Generation Z

Generation Z (also commonly called Gen Z or Gen Zers) is the first generation to never know a time without the internet. Having grown up completely immersed in technology, with social media and smartphones, they have a very unique perspective on the world and work.

With unlimited access to information and the 24/7 news cycle, they are highly connected and often have strong convictions about how things need to change.

a group of four generation z people in the workplace crowded around a laptop and someone showing something on their iPhone

Who belongs to Generation Z?

Gen Z is the generation immediately after Millennials, including those born in the late 1990s and early 2010s. 

This cohort is also starting to join the workforce, with the oldest among them being in their young twenties. As such, they’re starting to shake up how we work and make us question norms such as flexibility, purpose, and how we use technology in the workplace.

What makes Gen Z different in the workplace?

Let’s talk about some facts about Gen Z:

  • Gen Z will soon surpass Millennials as the largest generation. More than one-third of the world’s population belongs to this generation.
  • This generation “values salary less than every other generation,” but don’t misunderstand…salary is still the most important factor for them when deciding where to work.
  • To win over Gen Zers, you need to have a strong purpose and focus on social issues.

Like with any generation, there are countless studies you can find to determine what motivates Gen Z, what they want, how they want to work, and so on. But if you truly want to support Generation Z in the workplace, we recommend asking them what they want. But this is a best practice for all your employee groups, not just Gen Z.

While a generation can be studied at a high level, it’s important to avoid generalizations. Your Gen Z employees might have vastly different needs than those who work at another organization. But don’t fall into the trap of stereotyping them. You have to make an effort to get to know the youngest generation of workers joining the workforce.

So, gather the feedback of Generation Z as they join the workplace. And look at their feedback as an opportunity, not an obstacle or a disturbance to the “way things are.”

  • Are there better ways to onboard them? 
  • Has your digital transformation been lagging, and now you have no choice? 
  • Is it time to rethink your purpose and who you are as a company?

graphic depicting a young gen zer using her smartphone with the text "gen z technology preferences"

What does Generation Z care about in the workplace?

As we’ve mentioned, your stance on key social issues is going to become a sticking point for Generation Z. And, frankly, you should thank them for their persistence on these issues. One of the big ones is going to be diversity, equity, and inclusion.

Another huge sticking point for this generation is going to be workplace technology. The reality is that these employees grew up with technology and want to use it at work for a good reason: it’s easy! 

And since 97% of US adults own a smartphone (PEW Research), smartphone ownership and BYOD aren’t a generational thing anymore. But it will be something younger generations expect at work. So, if you haven’t yet, it’s time to embrace the digital revolution!

What type of technology does Gen Z prefer?

As digital natives, Gen Z wants access to all the tools they use in their personal lives at work. That means they generally want:

  • Mobile devices. Remember that Gen Z grew up with Smartphones being mainstream. As such, they are very adept at using mobile devices for work and communication.
  • Collaboration and communication tools. Gen Zers are used to being able to easily communicate with their peers. And they highly value being able to easily collaborate, even remotely.
  • Social media platforms. This is a generation of influencers and people who are well-versed in using social media platforms. But they aren’t as interested in the social media of the past (sorry, Facebook). They want the newest and most cutting-edge platforms, like TikTok and Discord. So, if you have a social intranet that isn’t keeping up with the latest trends, it might fail to engage this generation.
  • AI tools. Generation Z will help lead the charge into the future of work. These employees are very open to using automation and artificial intelligence to work smarter.

graphic that says "Gen Z comms styles" with an image of wooden blocks connected by lines

What type of communication style does Gen Z prefer?

Gen Z’s preferred communication style is influenced by their digital upbringing. Unlike Millennials who are app-crazed, Gen Zers generally prefer the expediency of texting and instant messaging for communication.

Generation Z is also focused on maximizing efficiency with brevity. They don’t want fluff. They want straightforward, to-the-point communication.

This generation is also partial to using visual communication whenever possible. While they enjoy using GIFs and memes to react to conversations, they mostly care about how visual elements can add depth and context to their communication.

But remember, when it comes to communicating with any group of people, you have to learn their unique preferences. The best way forward to cater to all the generations working alongside each other is to create a flexible and inclusive environment.

How can you support Generation Z in the workplace?

To meet this new generation where they are, there are a few key things you can do:

  1. Ask them what they need and want. The worst thing you can do is make assumptions about generations or groups of employees. Start by getting the facts right about your specific employees. And asking employees for regular feedback has an added benefit: it helps employees feel cared for and valued.
  2. Take that intel and reflect on your current systems, processes, and ways of communicating. An internal communications audit might be needed. Do you have the comms channels this group prefers? Are your communications shared in multiple formats to accommodate different learning styles? What do your other employees think about potential new ways of working? 
  3. Get creative. There’s nothing wrong with trying something new, as long as you’re testing and tracking your success with data. 
  4. Keep advocating for your employees. Internal communications teams have always had a good finger on the pulse of the needs of employees. It might be up to you to start the internal conversation about new ways of working, the importance of DEI, and realigning on purpose. Use your expertise to help your company evolve as your workforce changes.

two employees sitting together holding cutouts of speech bubbles

Meet employees where they are

Remember that all people, regardless of their generation, want to be valued and respected. So, don’t just focus on surveying and starting focus groups with Generation Z because they’re the new kids. Try to learn:

  • Do you understand the needs of all your employee groups? 
  • Have you focused on the needs of frontline workers in addition to your deskbound teams? 
  • Do you understand the needs of employees in different departments? Or in different geographical locations? 

Even if you surveyed each group and generation before, remember things change. Keep asking!


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