Gen Z: The Most Diverse Generation in the Workplace

Generation Z, known primarily as Gen Z, is rapidly dominating the workplace and is changing the workplace norm as we know it.

As one of the most populated generations, Gen Z is also considered the nation’s most diverse generation yet. The generation is the most racially and ethnically diverse, and members of the generation are leaders within sexuality, religion, and gender diversity. They have also been named as the “most well-educated” generation.

Before we get into how Gen Z is changing the workplace norms for the better, let’s talk about how Gen Z differs from its predecessor–millennials–both inside and outside of work.

Gen Z vs. Millennials

As Gen Z’s presence is rising in the workplace, many wonder what factors truly differentiate individuals within Gen Z compared to the preceding generation–the millennials. These differences are important to highlight as they contribute to why Gen Z is considered more diverse than millennials and any other generation before it.

Pew Research states that 48% of Gen Z individuals between are considered “racial or ethnic minorities.” In comparison to a study of American millennials in 2002, only 39% of Millennials were considered the same. Some report that the difference in percentage is largely due to the rise in immigration over the years, which has resulted in an increase in first-generation births within the United States.

Gen Z has also impacted the diversity of gender and sexuality.

One in 6 Gen Z individuals have reported they are either transgender or queer compared to 1 in 10 millennials. On an inclusivity level, nearly 60% of Gen Z individuals believe there should be more “gender-neutral” options on online forms that ask for an individual’s gender, and 35% say they know someone who uses they/them pronouns–more than any generation before them. Regarding education, older Gen Z individuals are also reported to be far less likely to drop out of high school compared to millennials, therefore resulting in Gen Z individuals typically obtaining a higher level of education.

Nonetheless, the cultural differences between Gen Z and millennials should also be discussed as it affects how Gen Z is further perceived in the workplace. This discussion usually starts with the debate on when Gen Z truly begins and when the millennial generation ends.

A graphic describing statistics and qualities of Gen Z in the workplace

When Does Gen Z Start?

Some sources report that Gen Z begins in 1995, while others report 1997. Due to the demographic and cultural differences we discussed between the generations, this has also become a controversial debate between individuals who find themselves on the cusp of the two as they tend to relate to both generations. (Generally speaking, Gen-Z ends around 2012, but that may change as individuals born around this time grow to relate to Gen Z or the next generation–Generation Alpha–more.)

For example, Gen Z considers themselves:

  • tech-dependent
  • entrepreneurial
  • pragmatic as they grew up during The Great Recession
  • aware of social issues
  • highly aware of the power of diversity and importance of inclusion in the workplace

Meanwhile, millennials prioritize fair pay in employment, seek stability in their personal and professional lives, and are considered more optimistic as they were raised during an economic boom of the 1990s. Millennials value the power of diversity and inclusion in the workplace as well but have not been as vocal or passionate as Gen Z.

As someone who was born in 1997, I have been able to reflect on the differences and how it has been hard for me to identify with one generation or the other. Growing up, I was able to relate to the millennials as I spent a lot of my time with my millennial cousins, yet I have recognized that I was too young to fully grasp the millennial experience. Meanwhile, when I spend time with my younger Gen Z cousins, I feel out of touch with certain Gen Z trends (like using Snapchat and other visual mediums as a primary form of communication) but also find myself partaking in some trends (like Gen Z slang), too.

Although I continue to struggle with which generation I identify with, this is not a sole struggle. It is normal for those who are born at the beginning of a new generation and towards the end of an old generation to relate to both in a way that others may not. I also think people like myself can provide an interesting life perspective, and we may even consider ourselves in category outside of both generations.

Nevertheless, the diversity of Gen Z outside of the workplace has started to make its impact inside the workplace as Gen Zers enter the workforce.

Gen Z in the Workplace

We’ve seen that Gen Z is the most diverse generation yet, and a benefit of that is that Gen Z expects their employers to mirror their diversity. They hold employers to a high standard.

An ideal Gen Z workplace is one that has a desire for employers to not only understand their employees’ needs for a diverse and inclusive workplace but the need to implement it in real-time.

Gen Z is vocal when it comes to its collective focus on diversity. A comprehensive study conducted by LinkedIn found that 88 percent of Generation Z respondents felt that an employer’s attitude toward diversity and inclusion was a critical part of their job selection process.

A study by Monster landed on similar findings, with 83% of Gen Z individuals stating an employer’s commitment to diversity and inclusion is significant when choosing where to work. Another poll found that 75% of people in Gen Z said they’d reconsider applying to a company if they weren’t satisfied with their diversity and inclusion efforts.

This population-wide focus has forced companies to adopt diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging (DEIB) practices to stay competitive with other employers, including implementing strategies that create both equal and equitable workforces. Further, this movement has also resulted in employers creating more opportunities for different types of diversity within the workplace, such as Employee Resource Groups (ERGs) to welcome and retain diverse employees.

Gen Z has inspired companies, especially hiring managers and HR departments, to recognize and harness the power of diversity and inclusion in the workplace in numerous ways:

  • Drawing from a deeper and wider pool of talent
  • Spurring greater participation and innovation from unique voices
  • Gaining more insights from diverse consumer populations with unique internal perspectives
  • Improving overall business performance and productivity

As businesses continually strive to find new ways to ensure high employee productivity and stay competitive in their industry, they have increasingly found success by introducing a diverse and inclusive culture in the workplace.

Diversity of Thought Benefits Companies’ Brand and Decision Making

Including diverse individuals in conversations results in a diversity of thought, which breeds better overall decision-making.

Diversity of thought is a welcome byproduct of ensuring diversity and inclusion in the workplace. When you bring in individuals from different backgrounds, you will likely gain new insights from people with varied knowledge bases and experiences. It all boils down to gathering individuals who think differently to offer new perspectives.

Business leaders of today’s companies also must realize that diverse individuals feel comfortable making business decisions and vocalizing their ideas in a welcoming environment. These companies must also maintain a focus on building and nurturing a diverse and inclusive culture as an ongoing standard with powerful benchmarks for improvement in the future. A study found they are 35 percent more likely to financially succeed among and surpass their industry competitors, making DEIB a top priority for today’s HR teams.

A commitment to these practices will catch the eye of many diverse individuals in the workplace and secure better employee retention—especially the top, diverse talent within Gen Z.

Gen Z Employees Reshape How Companies Think and Behave

Gen Z continues to reshape how companies define the modern workplace. As the most diverse generation yet, Gen Zers are challenging those around them–both in and out of the workplace–to find the importance of a diverse and inclusive environment.

Note that an October 2022 study even found Gen Z and Millennial employees are more “inclined” to talk about politics at work, creating an open forum for everyone. With the open and candid conversations, companies have taken note and are listening and making meaningful changes.

Today’s businesses seek bold new ways to find, hire, and retain diverse employees, including the following:

  • Focus on job descriptions to remove unconscious bias and highlight top benefits upfront.
  • Spotlight your commitment to creating and nurturing a diverse and inclusive environment.
  • Gather inclusive interview panels to reflect your current diversity and inclusion efforts.

Related: Gen Z in the Workplace: 5 Things Managers Should Know

Gen Z Thinks Beyond Gen Z

It’s also important to note that Gen Z is inclusive of different generations. The welcoming and inclusive environment extends to older generations who have struggled with age-related discrimination. Employers are finding many benefits associated with age diversity in the workplace, such as lower turnover and boosted productivity stemming from an increased synergy and exchange of knowledge among employees of different generations.

This generational focus on inclusion doesn’t leave out younger generations like Generation Alpha, who will start entering the workforce en masse in 2030. It’s clear Gen Z has become a powerful voice in promoting and insisting on diversity and inclusion in the workplace and other environments, creating exciting and unprecedented opportunities for employees across the board.

Do You Need Help Diversifying Your Workforce?

Are your Gen Z employees vocalizing a desire for more diversity in the workplace, or has your team leadership decided it’s time to welcome new faces and voices? Regardless of what’s driving your desire to add more diversity to your workplace, we can help.

Contact us for additional information about DEIB or to ask any other questions you might have to foster a positive workforce.

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Updated February 15, 2024