As this generation enters the workforce in significant numbers, it's crucial to grasp their unique values, expectations, and aspirations. Organizations and HR have a pivotal role in fostering harmony among multi-generational teams, making it imperative to empower managers with the tools to bridge generational gaps effectively. Generation Z is the near future, and understanding them requires a proactive approach from HR and managers.
7 Defining Characteristics of Generation Z as opposed to millennials
Generation Z is a generation marked by financial pragmatism and strong expectations concerning the workplace. Their experiences and values, shaped by particular economic and societal challenges imprinted on their minds by digital media, set them apart from previous generations and provide valuable insights to engage with this generation.
1. Financial Pragmatism 💰
Generation Z is acutely aware of financial realities. Our recent career study highlights their emphasis on money, which is unsurprising given the economic challenges they've faced. This generation grew up after the 2008 recession and during the COVID-19 pandemic, leaving them with a heightened concern for financial security. The fact that 50% of Gen Z individuals in our study (Europe) fear not being able to pay their bills underscores their financial pragmatism.
The current global economic climate plays a significant role in reinforcing these concerns. Factors like inflation and rising living costs for students and young people contribute to their worries about financial stability.
2. Less value on interpersonal relationships 😔
Gen Z places less value on interpersonal relationships than other generations. A quarter of Gen Z reports feeling lonely. In medium-low incomes this amounts up to 33%. Combined with their worries about financial insecurity this makes them particularly vulnerable to mental distress at home and at work. This may also explain why Gen Z expects mental health to be addressed by the workplace. Some even say Gen Z is experiencing a “loneliness epidemic.”
A report from Cigna found that young adults are much more likely to experience loneliness than the generations before them.
“A staggering 79% of Gen Zers reported feeling lonely, compared to 71% Millennials and 50% of Boomers.”
3. Gen Z is optimistic about their careers 😊
Despite their concerns about the broader economy, our career study reveals that more than 80% of Gen Z in Europe remain optimistic about their future career paths.
4. Gen Z are “architects” of tomorrow 🏗️
Gen Z has a lot of expectations from the workplace. They expect purposeful work. They are tired of toxic management. They expect social causes to be embraced. Yet, they also recognize the importance of active workplace participation and are eager to contribute their efforts to drive change. Unlike millennials, who sought radical upheaval, Gen Z aims to reshape organizations by requesting structural adjustments.
5. They value creativity 🌟
Generation Z places a high value on creativity. They are more inclined to seek careers that align with this value. They prioritize creativity and curiosity much more than other generations.
Our career study shows that Gen Z also identifies creativity as a key soft skill sought after by recruiters to succeed at work.
6. Digital Natives 📱
Growing up in the digital age, Gen Z is incredibly tech-savvy. They have access to an abundance of tech and media tools, which allows them to find inspiration and creative outlets easily. For example, 66% of GEN Z say they have advanced social media skills as opposed to 55% of millennials and 38% of gen X.
7. Global Perspective 🌎
Gen Z is more globally connected than previous generations, thanks to the internet and social media. This global perspective influences their outlook on work and life, making them more open to diverse experiences and perspectives.
3 practical ideas to build future-proof organizations together with Gen Z
Here are 3 practical ideas to build upon Generation Z's unique qualities that can easily be applied in any organization:
- Foster a creative work environment: Recognize and encourage Gen Z's strong inclination toward creativity. Create spaces and opportunities within the workplace for innovation, brainstorming, and collaborative problem-solving. Incorporate creative thinking into company culture and projects to harness their innovative potential fully.
- empower purpose-driven initiatives led by Gen Z: Align organizational goals with Gen Z's desire for purposeful work and social causes. Implement corporate social responsibility initiatives that resonate with their values, and involve Gen Z employees in planning and execution. Show how their work contributes to meaningful, real-world impact.
- Leverage digital savviness: Capitalize on Gen Z's tech-savvy nature by involving them in technology-driven projects and digital marketing efforts such as social media management (after all they do have the most advanced social media skills at the moment). Encourage knowledge sharing between Gen Z employees and other generations, facilitating cross-generational learning. Create opportunities for Gen Z to lead in digital transformation initiatives, tapping into their expertise.