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Generation Z's Impact on the Future of Work

For the purpose of this article, Gen Z is classified as those born 1995 or later.

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Generation Z began infiltrating the workplace in 2018 and research suggests the group will make up nearly a quarter of the global workforce by 2020, which makes it the fastest-growing generation across the workforce.

So, how will this new generation influence and affect the future workplace? For starters, they’ll demand more from their employers, said Steve Pemberton, chief human resources officer at Workhuman, and though they share some similarities with the Millennial generation before them, they’re quite different.

“They’re the most educated generation, they have a heightened degree of activism, they’re much more socially conscious and aware and expect a great deal more,” Pemberton said. “But they’re also questioning traditional institutions and structures. That sets them apart from Millennials even. It’s important not to conflate the two, between Gen Z and Millennials, because they’re not the same.”

Because Gen Z is more focused on activism, they’re seeking employers that are committed to community involvement and will therefore be more drawn to employers that have strong stances on topics such as gun violence, income inequality and climate change.

“Those are all significant issues,” Pemberton said. “And in some cases, they’ve been so directly impacted by them that their view of them requires a degree of support and commitment and value alignment with their employers.”

No doubt a byproduct of growing up in an internet-dominated world that’s flush with a myriad of social media platforms, Gen Z is always connected and always seeking real-time feedback, Pemberton noted. Thus, it will force organizations to adapt what will soon be an outdated practice of annual performance reviews. Pemberton said he foresees this as being one of the many positive developments that will take place as Gen Z further integrates into the workplace.

“They’re going to see [annual performance reviews] as a reflection of a different time and therefore not relevant,” he said. “[Constant feedback] is affirmation and it becomes an ongoing development opportunity. So we actually see this as something that’s very positive and impactful and will continue to be.”

Gen Z also desires working collaboratively, Pemberton said, which might come as a surprise to employers and older generations in the workplace, given their proclivity for using different technological devices. That connection to technology, however, is a further extension on the influence this newest generation will have in evolving what it means to be “connected” at work. 

“Their community has been online, so for them it’s going to be an expectation that they be able to reach out across functions with employers to problem solve,” Pemberton said. “There will be a recalibration and retooling because there always is, but because we have these tools of technology and digital and AI, they’re going to be able to wield that with great effect and it should be something that inspires us and unifies us.”

The most significant demand Gen Z will have of employers is a satisfying offering of work-life flexibility. As a result, Pemberton anticipates telecommuting becoming a much more prominent benefit offering for organizations. And, if properly implemented, it will positively impact an organization, Pemberton said.

It all adds up to a transformation of culture down the road at organizations across the world. Pemberton said he’s excited to see how it all unfolds.

“There’s a different way that cultures are going to be built so that they’re going to be meaningful drivers of what determines culture,” he said. “They’re not going to be stewards of culture, but creators of it, but the ability to do so on the fly is going to be an impressive thing to watch.”

GENERATION Z ROUNDUP

They’re Not Millennials

Lorraine Mirabella of The Baltimore Sun examines the ways Gen Z differs from Millennials and what impact that will have on employers and the working world. Mirabella writes that Gen Zers are expected to make their presence known in the workplace in a variety of ways, including furthering the utilization of technology and visual media.

Reshaping the Workforce

In a piece for BW People, Francis Padamadan details the ways in which Millennials and Gen Z will reshape the workforce. Padamadan notes that Gen Z will bring an influx of diversity to the workforce, as well as an added emphasis on reskilling, planning ahead and utilizing freelancers.  

What to Expect

Janice Gassam of Forbes writes that Gen Z is a group characterized by smartphones and social media, but there’s much more to them. In what is a research-heavy piece, Gassam notes that a key characteristic of Gen Z is that they want frequent interactions with supervisors and organizational leaders.

Transforming the Future Workplace

Ryan Jenkins identifies seven changes that Gen Z employees will create in the workplace in this piece for Inc.com. Jenkins writes that even though Gen Z is the first fully digital generation, they want human elements at work.

Being a Better Employer

Gen Z has slowly been moving into the workplace and they’re bringing change with them, writes Sina Kaye Lockley in this article for Staffbase. Kaye Lockley creates a list of five ways employers can integrate Gen Z into their organization in a positive manner while touching on what is valuable to them.

About the Author

Brett Christie is a staff writer at WorldatWork.


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