All about Generation Z

Updated 26 April 2023

Gen Zs make up an estimated 20% of the workforce in 2020. Many Gen Z individuals may currently be experiencing significant disruption to their education, internships and plans to enter the workforce due to COVID-19. Like other generations, Gen Zs often share certain values and qualities that characterise how they function in the workplace. Understanding the influences and behavioural patterns of this demographic can help you build more successful working relationships.

In this article, we’ll explore the common characteristics of Generation Z and the jobs they might typically seek.

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What is Generation Z?

Generation Z includes individuals born after 1997. According to Pew Research, while there is no universal formula to decide how long a generational span should be, the boundaries between Generation Y (Millennials) and Generation Z can be set by identifying factors that impact their formative years such as major political, economic or social events. Based on those criteria, Gen Z is often defined by the idea that most of the demographic wouldn’t likely remember the events of 11 September 2001.

It’s possible that some who were born before 1997 might share characteristics with Generation Z even though they are technically categorised as Gen Y or even Gen X. It should also be noted that while Gen Z makes up an estimated quarter of the workforce, many of them are just beginning their careers, so fewer studies seem to exist on their workplace preferences and habits than previous generations.

Generations snapshot:

The Silent Generation/Traditionalists

  • Born before 1946

  • Seek comfort and financial security, traditional, loyal

Baby Boomers

  • Born 1946-1964

  • Strong work ethic, disciplined, focused

Generation X

  • Born 1965-1980

  • Entrepreneurial, value work-life balance, independent

Generation Y/Millennials

  • Born 1981-1996

  • Value work-life balance, confident, tech-savvy

Generation Z

  • Born after 1997

  • Independent, entrepreneurial, competitive

Common workplace characteristics of Generation Z individuals

This generation typically shared a group of common personality traits and behaviours. While not every Gen Zer will have these characteristics or values, you might often notice the following when interacting with this demographic:

  • Gen Z expects to work with modern technology

  • Gen Z values in-person interactions

  • Gen Z is entrepreneurial

  • Gen Z is less tolerant of authoritarian environments

  • Gen Z embraces change

  • Gen Z values flexibility

  • Gen Z is competitive

Gen Z expects to work with modern technology

Because of common exposure to different forms of technology in their personal lives, this emerging workforce also expects to use modern technologies in their professional lives. In fact, before 'Generation Z' was declared their official title, other competing names were 'Selfie Generation' and 'iGen'.

Although Gen Z grew up communicating through technology, some research shows that they primarily use mobile phones and other electronic devices for entertainment purposes and prefer to communicate with their professional contacts in person. Successfully engaging with Gen Z in the workplace could require employers to balance face-to-face and virtual communication.

Gen Z prefers in-person interactions

Their desire for a human connection in the workplace might begin with the hiring process and continue from there. For example, Gen Z may prefer hiring practices that emphasise in-person interviews more than online applications. In addition, a recent survey showed that 75% of Gen Z respondents said they prefer to receive feedback from a manager in person and in real time.

Gen Zs often value collaboration and want others to bring their unique perspectives to a conversation. An optimal work environment for Gen Z might include team meetings where colleagues can share their weekly wins.

It’s possible that this preference could change due to limited in-person interactions as a result of the spread of COVID-19. For example, the socially distanced workplace could heighten Gen Z’s preference for human interaction or it might give way to more flexibility. Regardless, employers and HR managers may still find it useful to prioritise bringing a human connection to their virtual interactions with Gen Z.

Gen Z is entrepreneurial

Gen Z grew up witnessing others use technology to create profitable business ventures. As digital natives, they are primed to leverage this knowledge to create opportunities for themselves. They may have also become more business savvy by watching others develop, market and finance ideas through tools like the crowdfunding site Kickstarter.

In fact, 58% of Gen Zers said they would like to own a business one day and 14% already do. Within the workplace, you might observe this business literacy in Gen Z’s focus on competitive compensation and benefits.

Gen Z is less tolerant of authoritarian environments

Gen Zs have also grown up with the ability to share their thoughts publicly and receive real-time feedback through social media. As a result, this demographic may expect their ideas to be heard and respected in the workplace.

A report published by Workforce Institute shows that they seek trust and support in a manager above any other managerial quality. 32% of Gen Z respondents stated they are motivated to work harder and stay longer at a company if they have a supportive manager and another 29% believe having an ineffective manager would impact their performance at work.

Gen Z embraces change

Gen Z ranks as the most informed among teens of other generations. Many Gen Zers have experienced a lifetime of immediate access to the internet, news and social media. As a result, they have frequently watched large scale social and political events unfold that may have effected change.

Generation Z’s views have also been shaped by environments that pre-date their impact like climate change, various forms of terrorism and the Great Recession. This may serve as their inspiration to lean into activism. As agents of change, Gen Zs often seek jobs that provide the opportunity to contribute, create, lead and learn.

Gen Z values flexibility

One third of Gen Zs say they are the hardest working generation, though it is a motivated trade-off that requires employers to provide work-life balance and competitive benefits. Desired benefits include paid parental leave, generous vacation time and flexibility in work location and hours. They also seek stability and are therefore drawn to additional benefits like generous healthcare coverage over perks like free food or happy hours.

Gen Z is competitive

Gen Z has been raised in one of the most competitive educational environments and they are accustomed to receiving immediate feedback so they can improve. Previous generations often waited days or weeks to receive grades for completed assignments, but Gen Z may be accustomed to near-instant access to their results and the ability to promptly compare with their peers.

In the workplace, Generation Z’s competitive nature may be combined with a strong desire for recognition of their work. As a result, they value clear expectations about how to achieve success and professional advancement. 57% of Gen Z respondents in the Workforce Institute report stated that they expect to be promoted at least once a year.

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Common Generation Z jobs

Behavioural traits shaped by a digital age and inherited circumstances like the Great Recession are some of the main influences on Gen Z career preferences. According to research conducted by Indeed’s analytics team, they seek 'future proof' careers that align with their technical proficiencies and desire for in-person interactions, financial security and altruism.

Here are some common jobs that Gen Zs could pursue:

iOS Developer
National average salary: £127,015 per year
Primary duties: develops application for mobile devices using Apple’s iOS operating system. The primary programming skills for this position are Objective-C or Swift.

Machine Learning Engineer
National average salary: £140,388 per hour
Primary duties: design self-running software to automate predictive models. They also take theoretical data science models and help scale them to production-level models that can handle terabytes of real-time data.

Audio Engineer
National average salary: £22.73 per hour
Primary duties: also known as sound engineers, these professionals reproduce, mix and manipulate the equalisation and electronic effects of sound. They deal specifically with the technical and mechanical aspects of sound and music.

Daycare Assistant
National average salary: £11.53 per hour
Primary duties: provide care and education for babies and young children. These professionals teach children, supervise their play and prepare them to succeed in school.

Beauty Consultant
National average salary: £12.25 per hour
Primary duties: demonstrating makeup techniques, recommending beauty products to customers/clients and educating them on products and services.

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