By 2025, Generation Z is projected to make up over 30% of the global population. Gen Z consists of people who were born between 1997 and 2012, and holds the distinction of being the first generation to grow up with access to the Internet, social media, smart phones, and other types of digital devices. In comparison, Generation Y, or Millennials, were introduced to such technologies later on in their lives, which means they may not be as digitally literate as Gen Z. Due to this distinction, members of Gen Z have been referred to as being “digital natives.”
In addition to being the first generation to experience the Internet and other digital technologies since birth, Gen Z is all too familiar with economic uncertainty, social unrest, and the lingering effects of the Covid-19 pandemic. As such, Gen Z is often viewed as being more socially conscious and forward-thinking than previous generations. A high percentage of Gen Z has already reached working age, and within several short years it will make up a large portion of the global workforce. With an unprecedented upbringing and a focus on innovation and inclusivity, Gen Z has the potential to have a major impact on the way we work.
In the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic, many companies have adopted hybrid or entirely remote work paradigms. With this new way of working, a large number of individuals are experiencing a far better work/life balance, and Gen Z is no different. Members of Gen Z have no doubt witnessed their parents suffering from burnout, or being “too tired” (or stressed) to engage in activities outside of work. This observation has caused many members of Gen Z to seek employers that place special emphasis on a fair work/life balance, and that provide flexible schedules and adequate PTO.
With rising inflation and an ever-increasing cost of living, Gen Z’s salary expectations are often higher when compared to previous generations. Compounding this, Gen Z has witnessed first-hand the economic hardships and struggles of older generations. Members of Gen Z are more willing to job-hop in search of a higher salary, which might make them seem less loyal in the eyes of potential employers. Nevertheless, as job-hopping for higher salaries becomes more widespread, companies will have no choice but to find ways to attract loyal, hard-working talent.
Gen Z is also seeking employers that are socially and environmentally responsible, and that have diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives in place. In addition to this, employee well-being and mental health resources in the workplace are priorities for Gen Z. In the absence of such practices, it will become increasingly difficult for employers to hire talent as Gen Z matures and takes up an even higher percentage of the workforce.
There seems to be a fair amount of negativity directed at Gen Z workers and job-seekers, typically with regards to a perceived lack of work ethic or interest in their work, or with regards to demands such as a better work/life balance or higher wages. Of course, every generation has had its own pain points, desires, and dreams, and more times than not, people have strived for a better quality of life in comparison to the generation that came before them. In the present it’s really no different, and a few, loud, bad apples can often create a hysteria that is then attributed to an entire generation at large. The mass media does nothing to quell the negativity either, often opting to publish materials that paint Gen Z in a negative light, perhaps in hopes of angering previous generations or widening the gap between older and younger people. Whichever the case may be, the fact is that Gen Z will be the majority of the workforce in several short years, and employers will have to decide if they're going to meet them halfway in order to remain profitable.
It’s also worth mentioning that each generation has experienced new and exciting innovations that have made their lives easier, which inevitably leads to a “get it now” mentality in which people often seek instant gratification; whether it’s through a dopamine release from social media likes, or a new product that reaches your doorstep within 24 hours, all without having to leave the comfort of your home. Gen Z grew up in the maelstrom of these innovations at no fault of their own, only learning exactly what their parents and society taught them or showed them.
All success comes with taking risks, and Gen Z is doing just that by challenging the way we think about work. Do employers have to bend to each and every demand? No, and they should only do so within reason, but they should also seek to understand the source of Gen Z’s pain points so that they can continue to attract loyal employees and foster a decent workplace environment that promotes a good quality of life, long into the future. Thus, the question of whether Gen Z will change the way we work weighs more heavily on employers themselves, and how much they’re willing to change to meet the demands of the younger generation.
Gen Z is far different from even the Millennials that came before them. Our way of life has vastly changed in a just a few decades, and each generation has had its own unique set of challenges, successes, and failures. We all must put in the work to bridge the gap between generations, to come to a basic understanding. Through this, we will achieve success in all its forms, and we may yet see a new age of prosperity, both inside and out of the workplace.
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