Generation Z in the workplace

by Sabine Steiner in — April 2021
Over the last few years, I’ve observed a great wave of interest in generation theory. It’s discussed everywhere: What values do generations have and how they influence on their lifes? How to sell to different generations? What impacts their demand? What is their motivation?

Working in HR industry, I think this question is really great concern for us as future employers for the next generation to join the labour market, digital natives, Net Generation or Generation Z. They were born from 1990s up to 2010 according to different theories.

Changing Values

Gen Z was born and grows in really interesting time when life is changing as fast as never before. So they have to evolve and adopt to this macro trends extremely rapidly. And of course reasonable questions: What shall we wait from the digital natives? What world will they create in the future? Who are they and are we ready to accept them as they are?

Let’s see what results the surveys show. In fact, sometimes they are like poles of one quality. For instance, some psychologists/sociologists describe them as more autistic (pre-morbid form) and cruel, but others stress on their socializing skills and volunteer eagerness. I think this is just the uniqueness of such a large and varied population, approximately 2 billion globally. But almost all the researches describe the following major characteristics of Gen Z.

Characteristics of Gen Z

Gen Z1

First of all it is lightning speed at observing, filtering (8-second filters) and analyzing. Gen Z just glances at lots of new incoming information, scans it and goes further if it is not their interest. But how deeply can they analyze it? They are considered unable to evaluate it from top to bottom. But some researchers found, and I believe it’s true, that they are incredibly knowledgeable about their passion. Especially as they have another accompanying quality - quick learning ability. And there are lots of resources for study: online courses, online books, articles, video and so on. At one click you can access any information and don’t even need to recall it later, just look for new one, by the way, already updated. And you know, thanks to all this abilities they are more talented in making smart and creative decisions. We’ll see the results in the nearest future. May be they create new jobs to apply their knowledge and skills? Virtual jobs?

Another major quality of Gen Z is being kidults: a less responsible, sometimes negligent attitude to work, but waiting for unconditional positive responses. I think it stems from an over-caring and over-indulging parenting style. Consequently Gen Z is confident they will accomplish greater results. They are impatient when achieving their targets. But facing obstacles in real life they act fragile and indecisive. They look for leaders’ opinions and help in conflict situations, like a baby looks for parents to solve their problems.

Moreover they are not persistent enough at achieving long-term results. They can do job if it’s interesting but they feel exhausted quickly and need more motivation to continue. As a result, not being involved in the process for long period leads to weak practical skills.

Nevertheless, mostly Gen Z is pragmatic about their future career and looks for good job that gives interesting challenging tasks, stability and decrease anxiety. Surveys show that money is the second criteria after job itself. So they are more ready to do altruistic jobs. Anyway, good additional motivation for them will be untraditional working conditions: creative environment, not typical working week, horizontal management style and so on. But for just graduated people in such economic situation to find a job is a real challenge. So there is another cohort who looks for opportunity as entrepreneurs. Now a variety of options is suggested: platforms for freelancers, start-ups courses, co-working spaces and so on.

Worklife of Gen Z?

But how they demonstrate themselves at work? Some researchers say that digital natives are team players, others – they are not. Gen Z is social networkers, very fast in communication and connected even more than any previous generation. But it doesn’t mean to be a team-player. I think they are team-oriented individuals. They prefer individual work in projects to realize and to establish their self. Special characteristics of team work: no hierarchy – everyone wants to be leader. So they are more competing for special prize: to be listened to and accepted as adults. In this situation, if you are a team leader for Gen Z team, you should be really extraordinary and influential, and should prove honesty and integrity.

Well, I think it’s early to make strict conclusions now as the world’s changing and in 5 years macro trends can be completely opposite to that we have today. But looking at this amount of Gen Z surveys I think we are trying to be prepared. And I’m looking forward to the future with interest. Let’s see what world these smart, quick and competing altruists will create.