By 2020, Generation Z (Gen Z) will account for 40 percent of all consumers, according to a 2017 Accenture Report, and some estimate their current spending power to be anywhere from $40 to $140 billion depending on which report you read.
Born beginning in the mid-1990s through the early 2010s, the oldest members of Generation Z have recently graduated college and have joined the workforce while other members of this cohort are dispersed across college campuses and high school hallways throughout the nation and around the world experiencing internships and part-time jobs, and the youngest members of Gen Z just graduated kindergarten.
In my attempt to prepare employers for this cohort of future employees, I immersed myself in Gen Z in two ways. First, I reviewed surveys, studies and insights regarding Gen Z that were published globally. I then conducted extensive one-on-one interviews with members of Gen Z across the United States to validate the research and provide anecdotal commentary which I include in my research findings.
I interviewed more than 50 members of Gen Z across the United States ranging from high school freshman to recent college graduates, ages 13 to 23, to help inform and prepare employers for Generation Z which comprises approximately 65 million individuals in the United States alone.
The research consistently reinforced that members of Gen Z are tech-smart, entrepreneurial-spirited, community-minded, socially conscious and purpose driven, and they prioritize speed, immediacy and efficiency. Generation Z shared insights regarding trending topics, media consumption, favorite technologies and what they are looking for with respect to culture and mentorship when it comes to internships and jobs with future employers.
Here are ten ways Gen Z will transform the workplace over the next decade.
#1: Large Corporations Will Need To Become More Personal:
As Gen Zers enter the workforce, they are looking for large corporations with thousands of employees to offer them a more personal experience. “Ways to get involved, such as clubs and interest groups, is something that Gen Zers look for as they search for internships and full-time opportunities,” said Cole Butchen, Cornell University class of 2019.
“At work, we want to connect with colleagues beyond a specific assignment or one-off project. Large corporations can benefit from having communities that foster real connections and shared passions. Through smaller interest groups, we gain a greater sense of belonging and commitment.” It may be easier said than done, but making large companies smaller and more personal, is very important to Gen Zers.
#2: Employers Must Have A Purpose Beyond Profits:
Gen Z is looking for employers to have a higher purpose that goes well beyond a simple transaction and profits. “This is more than corporate social responsibility and donating money to charity,” says Mark Bonchek, founder of Shift Thinking. “It’s finding the deeper meaning of what you do every day. Go beyond doing something to or for your employees and create a shared purpose with them.” At the workplace, Gen Zers are looking for employers who have a purpose beyond generating revenue.
“Many of us value working one day for a company that serves a higher purpose, positively impacting causes and issues that are important to Gen Z,” said Shelby Fong, a member of the Rutgers University class of 2019. “In speaking to other Gen Zers, I learned that they are narrowing down their employer of choice to companies that give back to their community and the world.”
#3: Managers Must Evolve Into Mentors:
“I strongly believe in having mentors, especially in the workplace at an internship or in my first job out of college,” said Antonia Attardo, a communications major in the Rutgers University class of 2019. “Finding someone who I can trust to guide me through that first critical year or two out of college is much more important to my long-term career success than an authoritative manager who is focused solely on the day-to-day tactical execution.” Antonia is not alone. In a survey of 5,000 Gen Zers from more than 100 colleges by Door of Clubs, “37% of respondents noted health care benefits were the most important benefit, closely followed by a mentorship program (33%).”
Mentorship was even more important for Gen Z than time-off and being able to work remotely. A mentorship-driven agenda by Gen Z produces mutually beneficial results for not only the Gen Zer but the company for which they work. The new employee is inspired and empowered, while their company’s employee retention rates will most likely see a spike in a positive direction.
#4: Get Ready To Start Answering Why:
While previous generations in their first job out of college may have put their heads down and did what they were asked or told, Gen Z wants to understand the objective in the request and the “why” behind the assignment. “Anyone can accept an assignment, but Gen Z wants to go beyond the tactical instructions and understand the ultimate goal in accomplishing the task,” commented Kelsey Geisenheimer, a 2018 graduate of Syracuse University.
“Gen Zers are comfortable and confident enough to ask questions that go beyond tactics to answer why we are receiving the specific assignment. We want to better understand the strategy behind the ask.” Employers need to prepare themselves for a generation that will challenge them with questions. Gen Z is looking for a role that takes them beyond just being a cog in the machine.
#5: Life Work Balance Will Become A Greater Priority:
Previous generations in the past 20 years began to prioritize the concept of “work life balance.” For Gen Z, life outside the office, in many cases, is equally as important as work, and a shift is underway from a work life balance to a “life work balance.” “Work is a top priority for me especially since I just graduated,” said Kelsey Geisenheimer, a member of the Syracuse University class of 2018.
“However, a balance of family, friends and social experiences during the work week is what is going to energize and recharge me and allow me to exceed expectations at work. It’s important for our generation to work in a culture where we are not expected to be chained to our desk or cubicle and have the opportunity to get out of the office for dinner, happy hour, a concert or go to a museum with friends or mentors knowing we are going to be back at it the next day.”
#6: An Entrepreneurial Mindset Must Be Embraced:
“According to a recent study by Northeastern University, as a group, Gen Z tends to be ‘highly self-directed, demonstrated by a strong desire to work for themselves, study entrepreneurship, and design their own programs of study in college.’” Employers should recognize and embrace the entrepreneurial spirit of Gen Z.
“We are prosumers…we are consumers as much as any other generation before us, but we leverage technology and social media to produce, market and sell products as well,” said Katelyn Woebse, a member of the Montclair University class of 2020. “If I am an employer, I would create an incubator comprised of Gen Zers and have them utilize apps like Poshmark that are easy to navigate and let them realize the full potential of their entrepreneurial spirit.”
#7: Corporate Culture Will Become More Critically Important:
In a column in Inc. featuring what Gen Z seeks at the workplace, Rhett Power wrote, “Successful organizations today are not only building this rewarding culture but upholding it as a key identifier for their brands. For example, the media intelligence company Meltwater designed its culture around building and reinforcing an entrepreneurial spirit in its people.
This culture, represented by MER – which stands for Moro, Enere, and Respekt — is the Norwegian word for “more,” and it helps the company celebrate achievements without losing the passion to succeed.” Even more than salary, benefits and vacation days, workplace culture is critically important to Gen Zers.
“Based on my internships throughout college, I came to realize that the culture of a company or organization for me and many other recent graduates is perhaps the most critical component in what I am looking for in my first job, and more importantly, why I will stay or leave that job,” commented Sabrina Araullo, Montclair State University, class of 2018. “A large chunk of my life is going to be dedicated to my job and my employer, and I want to be passionate not only about the work I produce but the company I produce it for.”
#8: Nine-To-Five Work Hours Will No Longer Exist:
Gen Zers look at their world through a 24-hour, seven day-a-week lense. The nine-to-five mindset of previous generations is officially extinct for many Gen Zers. When discussing the workplace and jobs with Gen Z, very few advocated for the traditional nine to five.
“As we live our lives in more of a 24/7 tech world, the nine to five mentality just doesn’t exist with our generation,” said Jessica Ortega, a member of the Montclair State University class of 2019. “As we consider internships and jobs, we are looking for flexibility as it relates to when we arrive at work and when we depart as well as where we conduct our work. With today’s technology we can be highly effective and efficient anytime and anywhere.”
#9: Get More Flexible When It Comes To Working Hours and Location:
As the first Gen Zers graduate college and secure employment, corporate America needs to prepare themselves for a generation that is looking to work by a new set of rules. “When searching for jobs, we are looking for companies that offer flexibility when it comes to where they allow us to work and at what hours,” said Austin Sommerer, a 2017 graduate of Penn State University. “In our tech-centric way of working and living, we realize that our work will surround us 24/7, so we are seeking employers who have future-forward mindsets and offer the opportunity to work remotely and even non-traditional hours.”
While older generations have no problem with commuting for hours a day, each way, especially in major cities, Gen Z considers it an inefficient use of time. “We are wasting our time and the company’s time commuting five days a week,” said Quinn Heinrich, a 2018 graduate of Loyola Marymount University. “One or more days a week I can be highly productive working from my home. It offers me the flexibility to start assignments much earlier in the morning before I normally would arrive at the office, and by doing that, I can also carve out some time during the day for a workout or a lunch social and I return to my assignments more energized, excited and focused to meet my deadlines.”
#10: Gen Z Will Use Technology To Their Advantage:
“It’s just part of our lifestyle to adopt technology that allows us to collaborate anywhere, anytime efficiently. There is not enough time in our day to be inefficient,” said Katelyn Woebse, member of the Montclair State University class of 2020. “It’s second nature for us in college to quickly adopt tools and technology like Google Drive, GroupMe and Slack if it is going to make completing an assignment more effective especially as the college experience becomes more virtual and members of a group may actually only see each other face-to-face once a week,” said Quinn Heinrich, a 2018 graduate of Loyola Marymount University.
“As we enter the workforce, we are bringing these tools and technology with us and we won’t hesitate to recommend anything that helps get the job completed more efficiently especially if we work with teams that span multiple time zones.” Corporate America should be listening to Gen Z as they enter the workforce. They will be arriving with solid recommendations and tech-based solutions regarding how to conduct business in new and innovative ways and corporations and organizations should not resist.