Gen Z in the Workforce: What You Need to Know About the Next Generation of Graduates

Generation Z is one of the largest generations in the world and is set to surpass Millennials as the largest in North America. Comprised of those born between 1997 and 2012, these individuals are shaped by new factors. While Millennials came of age during the 9/11 terrorist attacks, grew up in the shadow of wars in the Middle East, and moved into adulthood during the Great Recession, Gen Z doesn’t have the same defining moments, which may cause a shift in their world view and affect their professional lives.

The slow start Millennials faced during the beginning of their careers may not be the fate of Gen Z. And while many generations adopted pragmatic and cautious business approaches due to the Great Recession, Gen Z may not adopt these characteristics. They will be shaped by their own nuances. Understanding the type of workers they will be is imperative for businesses hiring the newest members of the workforce: the graduating class of 2020.

Defined by Technology

While older generations remember a time before the internet and Millennials were shaped by rapid technological developments, Gen Z individuals were never without the web. In fact, the oldest Gen Zers were around 10 years old when the first iPhone came to market, meaning not only did they grow up with the constant connectivity of cell phones, but most of them grew up with the understanding of smart phone technology.

A study by Pew Research points out that “Baby Boomers grew up as television expanded dramatically, changing their lifestyles and connection to the world in fundamental ways. Generation X grew up as the computer revolution was taking hold, and Millennials came of age during the internet explosion.” All of these innovations have been part of Gen Zers from the start. And while coming-of-age Millennials adapted to constant connectivity, social media, and streaming services, Gen Z has never been without these technological advancements.

Always Connected and on the Go

Although technology is an important aspect of all generations, Generation Z is one of the most connected groups of individuals in history. According to a study by the Institute of Business Management, nearly three-fourths of Gen Zers spend their free time online, while 66% report using more than one internet-connected device at a time. They stay connected through smart phone use (75%), while using a laptop far less (45%). This enables them to stay connected by using their time to communicate with others (73%) and accessing entertainment (59%). Due to their high expectations of technology, 60% won’t use an app or website that is too slow to load. These habits help prepare Gen Z for the fast-paced world of the modern workplace, though their need for constant technological stimulation may cause issues with more seasoned workers who view their multi-tasking skills as selectively unfocused.

Gen Z in the Workforce

While Millennials became disillusioned during the Great Recession due to a lack of jobs upon graduation, more than one-third (35%) of Gen Z college students expect at least one job offer upon graduation (Yello Recruiting Study); in fact, nearly one-fourth of students begin their job search before their junior year. (Due to the current COVID-19 pandemic, these views may change in the near future.)

Additionally, where these young professionals lack in experience, they are more than eager to make up for it in skills. According to a LinkedIn survey, 59% of Gen Z say they will learn new skills if it helps them get higher pay from an employer. This generation’s unique traits and behaviors will shape the next several decades of how work is conducted. Deloitte explained the change in the workforce as a “return of the Renaissance figure: a person with many talents, interests, and areas of knowledge.” This will require employees with these four key skills:

  • Digital tools and technology skills
  • Comfort with analytics and data
  • Business management skills
  • Design and creative skills

How to Attract Gen Z Employees

According to Bloomberg, Gen Z surpassed Millennials in 2019 making up 32% of the world’s population. And while Millennials are still the largest generation in the workforce, this next generation will soon surpass that mark. This shift will make it imperative for businesses to adapt to the next generation of workers in order to attract, recruit, and retain those in the top talent pool.

Deloitte offers this advice for businesses to adapt to the changing workforce:

  • Develop the profile of a great employee, establish internal apprenticeship programs, or hire smart, talented people and then match them with a role once inside the organization.
  • Consider partnering at the university level to attract more female candidates for tech roles.
  • Create latticed career paths and multiple work formats.
  • Set up internal marketplaces to match projects with needed skill sets.
  • Leverage the expertise of Generation X, Millennials, and Baby Boomers to help mentor Gen Z into strong leaders.
  • Consider the attractiveness of the industry you are in and the reputation of your company and plan accordingly.

Pomp and Circumstance

Though there is still much to be learned about this young, bright-eyed generation, we can take insight from their traits up to this point. We expect them to change the way careers are shaped, as well as recruiting practices. Their quick-adapt approach to technology, and how well businesses embrace their skills, will prove to be a difference-maker. Although most of these graduates won’t walk the stage this year to the tune of “Pomp and Circumstance” due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and their transition from college to the workforce has been somewhat without the same fanfare as other graduations due to cancellations and social distancing, don’t let their quiet transition into professional life fool you. This group of individuals will change the workforce forever. Will your business be ready?

What skills and traits do you see Generation Z bringing to the workplace? How are you adapting to recruit this group of professionals? Let us know in the comments section below!

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3 Responses to Gen Z in the Workforce: What You Need to Know About the Next Generation of Graduates

  1. Cindy May 5, 2020 at 8:01 am #

    Amazing take on that next generation! I am excited to see it emerge! I will be sharing this with fellow HR Directors! Very well done!

  2. Frances Webb May 5, 2020 at 8:23 am #

    Thank you for this article. As planning is a big part of a successful business, receiving information like this will help us to anticipate the resources we’ll need to mentor and lead the Gen Z workforce.

  3. Lorenza Zapata May 5, 2020 at 11:40 am #

    Generation Z are smart and tech savvy. I have 2 grandsons. One is graduating this year and is currently doing an internship in a continuous improvement department working on technology to help manufacture product quickly and accurate every time. The other one is 14 and has discovered how to sell his families unwanted items, but still in good condition on the internet. He has expanded his sales by going to second hand stores and buying items at low cost and selling them for crazy amounts. He does all this by researching the items on his phone. buying them, then immediately listing them. Typically his mother would have just gave the stuff away to good will. I just think its incredible how they think.

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