Employee engagement

Understanding Gen Z Employees: A Comprehensive Guide

Gen Z have shaken up the workforce and everyone's asking, what do they really want? In this guide we'll go through what Gen Z need to thrive at work.

Generation Z have been taking the workforce by storm and old-school ideas about work are feeling outdated. They're not just here to punch the clock – they want more from their employers, like a work-life balance that actually exists, opportunities to make a social impact, and chances to grow and develop their career. 

The future of work is shifting in ways no one could've predicted. So, the big question is: Is the business world keeping up with the times? According to HR News, Gen Z might seem like they have high expectations, but these expectations are something employers can't afford to brush off.

Their research tells us “two-thirds (66%) of large UK businesses are struggling to recruit employees with the skills they need”. Combine that with the fact that a Gen Z employee won't even consider working for a company that doesn't put their needs first and it's crystal clear that companies need to step up their game to attract and retain this diverse generation.  

To retain Gen Z workers employers are rushing to come up with innovative solutions to help them stay engaged at work. We’ve found that “Businesses with engaged employees report 23% higher profits than businesses with disheartened workers”. Let's discuss addressing what the new generation needs to fit in at the workplace, methods to keep your Gen Z team members engaged and the importance of building a community for Gen Z to connect and learn from previous generations.

Gen Z working on laptop

Table of Contents  

What are Gen Z Employees like? 

Born between the mid-1990s and early 2010s, Generation Z are the most diverse generation, bringing a fresh and dynamic perspective to the workforce. They are known for their unwavering tech-savviness which allows them to navigate fast-paced, data-driven demands of the modern workplace. They also advocate for a work life balance, mental health awareness in the workplace and social and environmental concerns addressed.

As we revealed in our employer branding webinar, “Gen Z care about ethics, sustainability and how you treat people. But Gen Z are not getting their information about your company from you. They are gathering their information from social media, forums and their peers”. Gen Z are tech savvy and using all the references they can find online to build a picture of the type of organization they are applying to work at. Alumni programs are closely linked with the future of work as they provide an obvious glimpse into a companies employer brand.

So, what are the defining characteristics that set Gen Z apart from other generations that make them an asset to the workplace? 

Gen Z team sitting in office working

#1 Advocates for Traditional Communication 

Although they are native to digital communication, Gen Zers value genuine human connections and recognizes the importance of face-to-face conversations and meaningful relationships. Their unique blend of tech-savvy skills and a desire for personal connections highlights their potential to enhance workplace dynamics and teamwork. 

#2 Autonomy Seekers 

They are self-starters who prefer managing tasks and making decisions independently. Having witnessed the gig economy's rise, they value flexibility and control over their work. Their desire to handle responsibilities autonomously contributes to their job satisfaction and offers organizations agile and self-reliant team members. 

#3 Digital Natives 

Born into a world immersed in technology, they have the ability to seamlessly adapt to new technologies and workflows. This digital fluency allows them to easily navigate fast-paced work environments. Their tech-savvy nature is an asset in boosting productivity and flexibility at work. 

#4 Stability-Driven 

Gen Zers have grown up in the most unstable economy the world has seen and are actively searching for stability and security in their professional lives. Job security, financial stability and good mental health are top priority, and they are committed to building secure, long-term careers. 

#5 Competitive Nature 

Generation Z is known to have a competitive side which fuels productivity and creativity. By bringing healthy competition and opportunities for professional growth to the workplace, you can harness their potential and create a work environment where innovation thrives. 

Gen Z Employees Impact on Traditional Work Norms 

It's no secret that Gen Z's innovative and disruptive nature is challenging the status quo. The 9-to-5 office is no longer sufficient, and they demand flexibility in both work hours and location. They will exclusively consider working at organizations that champion inclusivity and foster open communication. Modern work environments must now adapt to cater to these requirements.  

Gen Z team casually drinking coffee at work

A new tradition that’s being formed as a result of Gen Z is companies investing in alumni programs, as they help foster the inclusive and dynamic workplace that younger workers desire. Alumni programs show that conventional work models are outdated, and organizations are expected to commit to supporting employees in the career path they choose. They do not have to commit to one company for life to receive support in their career.

Alumni programs open the door for employees to boomerang back to their workplaces after some time away – whether this was to work at another company, travel, spending time with family or another personal reason for taking time out.  

Gen Z Employees Impact in the Workplace 

Gen Zers have certainly hit the working world with a boom. Their tech-savviness and competitive spirit drive today's innovation and productivity and it's no lie they are essential to the working world. Their key impacts on the workplace have been through the following:  

#1 Pressuring Employers to do better 

Gen Z's expectations for transparency, ethical practices, and inclusivity are pushing employers to adapt. They demand openness and socially responsible behavior, prompting companies to reassess policies and embrace diversity. They are advocating for more ethical organizational culture, mental health awareness and a more responsible and inclusive workplace that aligns with their values. 

#2 Influence 

Despite their recent entry into the workforce, Gen Zers have substantially influenced workplace trends and practices. Their tech-savvy, innovative and values-driven approach is doing a great job reshaping how organizations operate and businesses are adopting a more forward-thinking approach to workers. 

#3 Preference for Remote Work 

This has accelerated remote work trends, fostering innovation in technology and communication tools. Businesses are increasingly embracing virtual work setups, redefining the traditional office and opening new avenues for global collaboration. 

#4 Reliance on Freelancers 

Many Gen Z individuals opt for flexible, project-based opportunities. Their inclination towards freelancing reflects their desire for a more dynamic, individualized work experience that aligns with their changing aspirations and needs. 

What are the biggest Challenges for Employers? 

Employers now need to adapt to accommodate the more inclusive, adaptable, and tech-driven Gen Z without losing touch with older workers. Generation Z are reliant on more digital and informal communication systems, which can alienate older colleagues and could be costly to implement and difficult to enforce across the company. Employees are also more likely to leave a company if their needs are not met, which means employers could begin to struggle with talent retention. 

#1 Adapting to Expectations 

Employers must create a workplace that caters to the evolving needs and values of young workers while preserving the wisdom and experience of older generations. It's a delicate balance that requires thoughtful integration of new and traditional approaches. 

#2 Different Communication Methods 

Gen Z's preference for rapid, informal digital exchanges, like messaging apps and email, can conflict with older colleagues accustomed to face-to-face or formal written communication. Misunderstandings may arise, as concise, text-based messages might be perceived as lacking in depth or professionalism. 

#3 Higher Number of Resignations 

Generation Z are more likely to switch jobs or resign if they have a lack of cultural alignment with their employers. They prioritize values, social responsibility, and inclusivity. Their desire for better opportunities and adaptability contribute to their impulse to explore new career paths. 

What Can You Do to Attract Gen Z Employees? 

Attracting Generation Z employees may seem like science, but really, they’re a lot easier to understand than you might think. Employers must prioritize community-building within the workplace, foster an environment that encourages cross-generational mentorship and collaboration and blends tech-savvy skills with traditional wisdom. Keep your organization's values and that of the younger generations aligned by demonstrating a commitment to social responsibility, sustainability, and diversity.  

We can’t stress enough how important cross-generational mentorship is for younger employees, especially from alumni. Whilst Gen Z’s entrance into the workforce has been disruptive and they’ve been shaking up the regular way of working, they still demand to feel supported by their employer to grow within the company. They are eager to learn and are looking for organizations that are willing to provide the tools for professional development.  

Gen Z holding meeting on virtual reality software

#1 Promote Transparency 

Gen Z’s tech-savvy nature and access to vast information sources make transparency crucial for fostering trust, employee engagement, and alignment with the organization's goals. 

#2 Provide Career Pathways 

Clearly illustrate potential career progression routes. Gen Z will value having well-defined paths, tangible goals, and a clear vision of their professional growth.  

#3 Highlight Individual Impact 

Acknowledging individual strengths, ideas and efforts reinforces a sense of purpose and belonging, driving motivation and commitment to achieving shared goals. 

#4 Champion Autonomy 

Allow employees to take ownership of their tasks and decisions, not only to boost their self-esteem but to encourage innovation and commitment to achieving results. 

#5 Deliver Constructive Feedback 

Employers should regularly offer specific, actionable feedback to demonstrate a commitment to professional development. This practice reinforces a sense of value, growth, and engagement. 

#6 Foster Community 

Building community and connection is key to engaging and empowering employees. Fostering a sense of belonging and collaboration within the workplace not only enhances job satisfaction but also unlocks their potential for innovation and productivity. 

#7 Prioritize Holistic Wellness 

Prioritizing wellness, mental health days and employee wellbeing not only fosters a healthier, more supportive work environment but also underscores your dedication to the overall wellness of your workforce. 

The Future of Work with Gen Z 

As you can see, the future of work looks quite different to how work has been in the past, however Generation Z has been very clear about what they’re looking for from employers, and their demands are more than fair.  

They require additional attention not because they are lazy or want to work less, but significant life events such as the economic climate they grew up in, being native to the digital era and being more aware about social and environmental concerns means their demands from employers come from a place of working towards a better future.  

It is the employers' job to make sure they support their Gen Z workforce and stand at the forefront of the better future the younger generation are advocating for. Employers should ensure they are doing everything they can to close the gap between traditional workers and the newest generation, through mentoring, knowledge hubs and community building.  

Find out more about how alumni programs improve employee engagement. Alumni networks encompass the future of the world of work as they answer most of Gen Z’s workplace worries. Stability, growth and support are all natural outcomes from engaging alumni. It is also a place for current and former employees to share knowledge, learn from each other and get to know each other, in a setting that is digital savvy but designed for multiple generations.  

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