Welcome to the Workplace: How to be the Gen Z Expert

Share on Facebook0Tweet about this on Twitter

Move over, millennials–there’s about to be a new kid in the office.

Welcome, Gen Z. Loosely defined as the second wave of millennials, born between 1998 and 2012, Gen Z makes up a quarter of the U.S. population. While its members currently only represent 7 percent of the workforce, that number will rise to 30 million by 2019.

Since the oldest members of the group are just coming of age and the youngest are barely past their toddler years, researchers are beginning to put more time and energy into learning what makes this next influential group of young adults tick. Here’s what we know so far:

  • Their parents are Gen Xers. Gen X is a jaded group born post-Watergate and post-Vietnam that wants to give their children the safe and secure childhood they never had.
  • They’re the first generation born into the digital world. Never knowing a world without smartphones, 77 percent prefer to work with technology to help them accomplish their goals.
  • They’re the most diverse generation. Gen Z is 55 percent Caucasian, 24 percent Hispanic, 14 percent African-American, 4 percent Asian and 4 percent mixed race or other.
  • They live in multigenerational households. They’ve been raised in homes with retired grandparents and boomerang millennial siblings who have moved back in with mom and dad.
  • They take information in bite-sizes. Their attention span is only 8 seconds (down from 12 seconds in 2003). Researchers believe their brains have evolved to process more information at faster speeds.
  • They’re concerned about the world. Seventy-eight percent worry about world hunger, 77 fear children will die of preventable diseases and 76 percent are concerned about our impact on the planet.


gen z

But how will employers (who have spent significant  time and extensive resources learning how to effectively integrate and manage millennials) adapt their workplace to meet the needs of these new Gen Z interns and entry-level workers?

“Generations are increasingly separated along narrower age bands, requiring managers to juggle the needs and preferences of four or even five distinct generations working side by side,” said Jim Link, Chief Human Resource Officer, Randstad North America.

Luckily for you, we did a little research. Here is what you need to know to motivate, manage and communicate with Gen Z:

They have an entrepreneurial essence.

gen z entrepreneur

Born in a viral age of YouTube stars and app startups, Gen Z is surrounded by innovation and creativity. This is a generation that wants to build their own company — between 50 percent and 72 percent want to run their own startup.

“From the day you start recruiting them, you should be looking at retention,” says Paul McDonald, senior executive director of Robert Half. “These professionals appreciate stability, but they also want to make their marks, and if they feel like they have hit a roadblock on the learning curve, they’re going to look around for something better.”

To engage Zers, tap into their startup spirit by creating a culture that offers crucial training and connects the line between their contributions and the company’s success.

They value face-to-face communication.

gen z communication

According to a new study from the Pew Research Center, 92 percent of teens report going online daily — and 24 percent say they’re online “almost constantly.”

Contrary to this obsession with digital communication, a majority of Zers say they prefer in-person communications with managers (51 percent), as opposed to emailing (16 percent) or instant messaging (11 percent). Unexpected, perhaps, but it’s not just communication–Zers value transparency. Fifty-two percent believe that honesty is the most important quality of being a good leader.

Gen Z sees leadership as a privilege, signifying that  supervisors and managers must work to prove their honesty and integrity before they can win over any Gen Z hires.

They’re blurring the lines between work and play.

gen z at work

Zers reject the traditional nine-to-five work day more than any generation that came before them. In fact, allowance for flexible schedules is one of the top five attributes Gen Z will look for in a job.

Why? Well, it’s pretty simple. This group has never known a world where they couldn’t create valuable work at any time from a device stored right in their pocket–which means that they don’t understand the need to sit at a desk for eight hours straight.

While it’s pretty likely you aren’t ready to ditch the traditional workday all together, your office may benefit from releasing a few restrictions. Consider offering employees opportunities to work from home, lifting bans on social media sites and allowing for a more casual dress code.

They’ve been served a healthy dose of reality.

gen z work ethic

Born during the war on terror and the recession, Gen Zers are growing up in a time of fear and destruction. They’ve been bombarded with stories about unemployed college grads and warned about the dangers of drowning in student debt.

“Since Gen Z has seen how much Gen Y has struggled in the recession,” says Dan Schawbel, author of Promote Yourself. “They come to the workplace well-prepared, less entitled and more equipped to succeed.”

Seventy-seven percent believe they will need to work harder compared to those in past generations to have a satisfying and fulfilling professional life–and they’re starting that journey early. For the first time, nearly half of high school students are participating in internships for the purpose of advancing themselves professionally.

While they may be young, don’t be quick to write them off. Offer them a reasonable amount of responsibility, and be sure to keep them motivated by offering regular feedback and recognition.

It’s not all about the money.

gen z values

Gen Z understands the state of the world and feels the burden to change it– 66 percent believe that having an impact on the world is important to them in their jobs (compared to only 39 percent of millennials who were asked the same questions in that age range) and roughly a quarter are already involved in volunteering.

In fact, 30 percent would take a 10 to 20 percent pay cut to work at place that has a mission they care about. That’s huge, considering how much this group fears economic insufficiency.

In order to attract top hires, you’ll need to sell your company’s values and appeal to Gen Z’s altruistic nature. If your organization doesn’t align with their beliefs, they’ll find one that does.


At Quinlan, we’re all about welcoming young creatives to the ad world. Want to chat? Tweet me at @QuinlanCompany or @Grace_Gerass.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *