Gen Z in the workplace: Everything you need to know

Firstup, the leader in employee communication and engagement, is deeply invested in understanding and improving the future of the workplace. That’s why we conducted an online survey of about 225 Gen Zers to learn more about what they expect from their employer and their work.

generation z workforce

Google “Millennials” and watch what happens. Prepare for an avalanche of millions upon millions of search results because Millennials are the most discussed generation since, well, ever. Their time in the spotlight isn’t going to be over any time soon, either. But an even larger demographic is just beginning to elbow its way onto the stage. This group is about to have a massive impact on the workplace:

Generation Z.

Who is Gen Z? These are people who were born between 1996 to the early 2000s. So, a large chunk of them today are either college students or just entering the workforce. That means you’ll be seeing them soon as your coworkers or employees. And heads up! They are a lot different from Millennials.

We conducted an online survey of over 200 Generation Zers to learn more about what they expect from work, and what we found is fascinating. We think you will agree.

Gen Z cares most about work-life balance and personal well-being. Income and brand reputation is the least important.

Gen Z Worklife Balance

We warned you that Gen Z thinks differently! Benefits such as paid time off, mental-health days, or activities that create a sense of community are essential for Gen Zers. That means when looking to attract and retain talent, organizations must consider what they can offer to Gen Zers that encourages a healthy lifestyle and greater well-being. Is your company thinking beyond traditional employee benefits? Are you fostering a culture that considers the whole person and not just what someone can accomplish eight hours a day?

Firstup Takeaway: Building a sense of community is more important than ever. Giving employees the ability to interact and communicate with one another on a digital platform can be a vital component in helping promote a positive culture. When Gen Zers believe they are surrounded by like-minded people who feel their effort has a purpose, work is less like a job.

Gen Z leans toward skepticism

Gen Z leans toward skepticism, lack of trust.

Gen Zers’ cynicism derives from growing up in a time of rampant misinformation, leaders they view as dishonest, and the constant negativity they’ve seen in the media and on social media. So, it makes sense that less than half of the participants would describe themselves as very trusting. This inherent skepticism explains their potential caution in the workplace around coworkers and employers. They are wary of being taken advantage of and mindful to not let emotions interfere with their work.

Firstup Takeaway: Authenticity matters to Gen Z, and they expect to see it in the way their employer communicates with them. They want to know what’s going on. They expect transparent, top-down communication from leaders that speaks to them as individuals, delivered directly to them on their mobile device. They’re used to getting information via video – and don’t mind if it might look a little amateurish without slick production values. Gen Z appreciates communication that feels real.

Download “The everything guide to motivating Gen Z in the workplace” today!

Gen Z wants to know what’s expected at work.

Gen Zers want to be deeply invested in their work and know their time and effort have real meaning. But they will be entering a workforce where there already are serious issues when it comes to employees understanding their role in the organization. For instance, only six in 10 people agree they know what’s expected of them at work, according to Gallup’s State of the American Workforce study. Also, only four in 10 people feel like their job is important, have a manager who cares about them, or have the opportunity to do their best each day. And just three in 10 agree that they have someone at work who encourages their development.

What Gen Z Expects

Firstup Takeaway: Clearly, organizations will have to change to meet the expectations of Gen Z. They must launch initiatives that reinforce the company mission, employees’ roles in achieving goals, and allowing people an opportunity to have their voices heard. Providing easy access to information and resources as well as giving employees a platform for two-way dialogue with leadership are ways to foster greater understanding about expectations in the workplace for these younger workers.

Gen Z is most interested in careers in business, healthcare, and tech. Manufacturing and retail are the least appealing.

No great surprise here, right? The findings are similar to Millennials, who have job-hopped toward technology, healthcare, and finance. Gen Z also is less interested in industries such as retail and government/education, according to this Yahoo! Finance.

Gen Z Careers

Firstup Takeaway: Gen Zers are interested in jobs that can place them in large, dispersed organizations where it’s often difficult to communicate with colleagues and have access to information they need. They also might be gravitating toward on-the-go jobs where they usually are not sitting in front of a computer. That means information needs to come directly to them wherever they are – on their mobile devices. (And that’s the way they’ve always communicated in their personal lives.)

On average, survey participants have experience with more than five types of enterprise software applications.

Office productivity tools (e.g., Microsoft Office, Google Suite), collaboration tools (e.g., Slack, Microsoft Teams), and business intelligence (e.g., Tableau) ranked as the top three applications that participants have used. Gen Zers are entering the workforce with an incredible knowledge of technology. Not only are they experts in social media, but they also are comfortable with high-level programs that are crucial at any workplace.

Gen Z Experience with Software

Firstup Takeaway: Gen Z enters the workforce already equipped with the knowledge and skills to use these applications. And they expect to use them in their jobs. They’re likely to be disappointed if they find their organization is behind the times from a technology perspective.

Gen Z Employee App

More than 50 percent of participants would be very likely to download an employee app like Firstup.

It makes sense that Gen Z would be willing to download an app that enables them to receive company news, access resources, provide feedback, interact with management and colleagues, and share approved content with their social networks. Many survey participants found a platform such as Firstup appealing. Participants said they saw the benefits of staying connected with the company and being able to have a two-way dialogue with their organization.

Firstup TakeawayGen Zers want to communicate at work the same way they connect with people in their personal lives. And they won’t be happy if they can’t.

So, why does this all matter?

Every generation communicates differently. Organizations need to craft internal communication strategies that appeal to all the different generations in the workforce so that everyone has what they need. One size doesn’t fit all. It’s important to deliver information where people are – and how they prefer it.

Gen Z is going to have far different expectations than previous generations when it comes to employee communication. These up-and-coming workers are going to want information coming directly to them – on their mobile devices. But even more important, organizations need to realize that Gen Z wants work to matter. Younger employees will want to invest their time in worthwhile projects and know that their efforts are making a difference.

The time to think about this is now.

Gen Z will be arriving in the workforce before you know it.

Gen Z will constitute more than 25% of the U.S. workforce in the next few years. Is your company prepared to meet the needs of this new generation of workers? Download “The everything guide to motivating Gen Z in the workplace” to get started!

Related resources

Picture of Dawn Heiberg

Dawn Heiberg

As Content Marketing Manager for Firstup, Dawn started out working in creative agencies, then transitioned to consumer brands, with experience leading projects for Wizards of the Coast and Disney theme parks. Now focused on the tech industry, her passion is planning, creating, and sharing engaging content that helps move the needle.

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