Gen Z in the Workplace: 5 Things Managers Should Know

More and more members of Generation Z (or Gen Z) are entering the workforce every year, and despite their very recent introduction to the world of work, they’re already shaking things up.

This cohort of workers brings a fresh set of expectations and habits to the workplace. And because Gen Z is on track to make up a third of the workforce by 2030, managers should take time now to better understand how to work well with this new generation.

Let’s start with some of the defining values and characteristics of Gen Z in the workplace, plus take a look at five tips to be a great manager to this group of workers.

Defining a Generation: Who is Gen Z?

Gen Z refers to people born between the years 1997 and 2012. Perhaps more defining than their age, however, is their relationship to technology. These folks were born after the advent of the internet and grew up alongside the rise of social media and smartphones, earning their title as one of the world’s first “digital natives.”

Their early exposure to the constant connectivity and opportunity offered by modern technology has gifted members of Gen Z an entrepreneurial spirit. In fact, recent surveys show that:

But there’s much more to Gen Z than a tech-savvy, resourceful nature. They’re actually the most diverse generation to date, with members from different racial, ethnic, and socioeconomic backgrounds. And that means that it’s important to treat every single one as an individual and not make hiring or management based on blanket statements about any generational group.

As a group, Gen Zers tend to accept diverse identities, value inclusivity and equality, and are heavily influenced by (and often take part in) today’s social and political movements.

Overall, the people of Gen Z place greater emphasis on mental health and self-care than previous generations, are environmentally conscious, like to work independently and on their own terms, value flexibility in their professional lives, and center mental health and self-care in their lives.

What Does This Mean for Managers of Gen Z?

The characteristics of Gen Z aren’t necessarily new (and what we’ve outlined above from various resources certainly isn’t limited to just Gen Z), but they are a focus for this cohort, and require awareness, if not understanding, from leaders to make for a more harmonious workplace.

5 Effective Strategies for Managing Gen Z in the Workplace

To attract and retain the newest generation of workers, you need to know what makes them tick. So, what are some strategies that managers can employ to attract and retain Gen Z talent?

Let’s explore five things to keep in mind as their presence in the workforce grows.

1. They Want Ownership Over Their Career

As a notably entrepreneurial generation, many in Gen Z are looking for work that offers growth.

Having grown up amid the Great Recession and its oldest members entering the workforce during the COVID-19 pandemic, Gen Z tends to be pragmatic about work and concerned with job security. Many desire a wide range of experience and skills to make them more marketable, which can help them succeed in a rapidly changing professional landscape.

Tip for Managers: Offer your employees upskilling and reskilling opportunities if you’re able. This shows that your organization is invested in your employees’ professional growth and stability, and you’re more likely to retain them for this reason.

Young Gen z Employees Around Table Having Discussion

2. Value Alignment is Important to Them

Gen Z is seen as a more socially conscious generation, and many want to work for companies and teams that have a positive impact on society.

For example, Gen Z is the most diverse generation in U.S. history and has grown up in a time where social issues are at the forefront of public discourse. For this reason, members of Gen Z want to work in environments that reflect the diversity of society, are inclusive of all identities and backgrounds, and advocate for equality.

Also, many members of Gen Z are concerned with climate change and are an environmentally conscious bunch. They’re more likely to participate in waste-reducing activities such as recycling, and they want their companies to do the same.

Many will want their employer to be aware of their environmental footprint and take real action to reduce it. Some will even make employment decisions based on these factors.

Tip for Managers: Work to identify areas of focus when it comes diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) and set concrete goals and objectives for your workforce. Consider providing opportunities to engage to make a positive impact at work. This can be done through volunteer programs, sustainability or community initiatives, and participation in DEI programs or workshops.

RELATED: How to Promote DEI in the Workplace

3. Many Prefer the Latest Technology

Their digital upbringing means Gen Z has high engagement with (and expectations for) technology. Many want access to the latest tech and tools in the workplace, and some may feel frustrated by systems or processes they see as outdated or impeding their workflow.

Tip for Managers: Does it make sense for your business to adopt the latest software, devices, and platforms? For some industries, it won’t be a top priority, but for others adapting at the speed of technology is key to success. That responsiveness may appeal to your Gen Z employees—and may help to retain them if they feel they’re on the cutting edge at work.

4. Their Mental Health is a Priority

Gen Z reports high rates of mental health struggles. According to one survey, 55 percent of 18- to 24-year-olds have received a diagnosis and/or treatment for a mental illness. Older generations (like Generation X and baby boomers) reported lower numbers.

While Gen Z’s results may be due to de-stigmatization of talking about mental health challenges and increase in awareness of difference conditions, it’s apparent that mental health is important to Gen Z, and they’re not afraid to vocalize their feelings.

Tip for Managers: Fostering a culture of wellness is important for any generation. Look at how you can promote healthy habits, offer wellness programs, and encourage your employees to take care of themselves, both physically and mentally. And, if you’re comfortable with it, perhaps share your own experiences with health and wellness personally and in the workplace.

5. They Want Work-Life Balance

More and more employees are placing work-life balance at the top of their professional wish lists, with Gen Z part of the younger cohort making this a focus.

Seeking work-life balance doesn’t imply a desire to work less or with reduced effort, nor does it entail complete separation between work and personal life. For Gen Z individuals, it’s about seeking flexibility to find fulfillment in both personal and professional spheres.

So, what can this type of balance look like in practical terms to them?

  • Being clear about expectations and policies from the get-go.
  • Supporting and accommodating personal commitments, like family events or medical appointments.
  • Giving the option to work remotely or on a hybrid schedule when needed.
  • Making sure there are systems in place to handle emergencies or urgent situations, reducing stress when unexpected issues arise.
  • Establishing realistic work expectations and fostering a culture that allows room for mistakes and personal growth.

Tip for Managers: Be intentional about letting all your employees know that their time is respected—no matter their role or generation. Encourage them to take breaks when needed throughout the day, offer flexible work arrangements where you can, and encourage open communication! Again, it benefits you and your employees to be open about expectations during the interview process and as they grow within your company.

RELATED: 5 Trends Shaping the Way We Work in 2023

Gen Z is a Progressive Force in the Workplace

Like every generation before it, Gen Z has already influenced workplace norms with their ideals, values, and expectations. And as more members of today’s youngest working cohort join your team, it’s essential to create an inclusive, supportive work environment that meets the needs of all your employees!