• Generation Z in The Workplace– What Are They Looking For?

    Generation Z-in The Workplace

    With recruiting experience spanning the 1990s and 2000s, I am accustomed to working with candidates of different generations. Each generation has a unique viewpoint on the world and how they can contribute. Generation Z is the latest group to foray into the workforce, and they are currently the largest generational demographic in the U.S.

    What makes this age group tick? I decided to conduct a survey to understand the Zs better, and share this insight with our Duffy Group audience.

    Who Is Gen Z?

    Officially, anyone born between 1997 and 2012. The oldest Gen Z is 26 years old, and the youngest is 11. As Gen Z continues to enter the workforce, employers wonder, what does this generation want? What motivates them and keeps them engaged in their work? Are there any “deal-breakers” that will cause Generation Z to leave or not accept a job?

    How Was This Gen Z Survey Conducted?

    Since the focus is Generation Z entering or being new to the workforce, the survey pool was narrowed to include only those ages 18-26. Most respondents were aged 23-26, with a decent number being 18-20 and 21-23. Sixty percent have received a Bachelor’s degree, and 10% have earned, or plan to earn, a master’s degree.

    Drawing from my professional circle, I interviewed 15 to 20 Gen Z workers. From their input, I created a survey. We will review their thoughts on education, compensation, benefits, culture, what they seek in a manager, and what they seek from coworkers.

    Here are my biggest takeaways about Gen Z at work.

    What Does Gen Z Want From Work?

    First, Generation Z wants flexibility and to be trusted. Second, they must feel like they are an essential piece of the puzzle, and that their contributions matter, no matter how significant or how small. Knowing their work is valuable – this is key.

    How Can Managers Encourage the Gen Z Work Ethic?

    Gen Z workers expect flexibility. They should be trusted and not micromanaged, and we should allow their job performance to form the rules. It is critical to understand that Generation Z will work hard for their employer but do not want to jump through hoops if they need to leave for a doctor’s appointment.

    In terms of management, they would like a manager who encourages them to grow professionally and provide options for upskilling. An approachable manager who provides structure but then allows a certain level of autonomy is ideal. And last, formal quarterly reviews are much preferred over annual reviews.

    As for work attire, Generation Z prefers business casual. The second-place answer was, “It shouldn’t matter; it’s about how I can contribute.”

    What Does Gen Z Consider a Livable Wage For an Entry-Level Job?

    The majority answered $50,000-$60,000/year. The second largest groups answered $60,000-$70,000 and $40,000-$50,000, respectively. (“Entry-level” being defined as having zero experience but with potential to do the job well, and the location was “Anytown, USA.”) One of the Zs I interviewed advocated “$50,000 minimum is essential, just to exist as a human being.”

    Generation Z supports transparency in compensation and feels it should be public knowledge. At a minimum, they would like to know the salary range for their next job, so they know what number they can work towards if they come in on the low end.

    What Benefits do Gen Z Workers Expect?

    Fair compensation and good benefits are essentials to Generation Z in the workplace. What tops their list? Paid Time Off. The age-old 2 weeks isn’t enough anymore. Health insurance (including mental health), 401K, and other typical benefits are appreciated. If your company gets creative and offers reimbursement for the gym, yoga classes, or ergonomic products, even better!

    Is it True Gen Z Doesn’t Want to Work?

    That’s just a myth. They have modern ideas about what they want from work. And, if you understand that, your company will probably learn to appreciate the Gen Z work ethic. They are unique individuals who express themselves as such, and their contributions are just as unique. If treated like “a cog in a wheel” or “just a number,” their work will reflect that. You will get the bare minimum from them.

    Is it True That Gen Z Hates Working From Home?

    Results were fairly split between full remote, full office, and hybrid. Generation Z spent their high school and college years in a hybrid scenario. They know how to succeed while remote; it’s not new to them. This generation came of age during the Covid pandemic and subsequent lockdown, where personal interaction was suddenly taken away or limited. As a result, most Gen Zs want to work in the office with their team members, at least part of the time.

    What If a Gen Z Worker Makes a Mistake?

    How do they prefer criticism or feedback? Most stated they’d like a scheduled meeting as soon as possible with a heads-up as to the reason for the meeting. A close second was they’d prefer to be told immediately and briefly what they did wrong and how they can fix it. If there is a more significant issue, perhaps implementing some baby steps on how to improve would be appreciated.

    What Generation Z Characteristics Should All Employers Know About?

    Generation Z enjoys collaboration and teamwork. They need to feel included and not judged. And while we are on the subject of inclusion, if a company claims to be a proponent of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion but doesn’t actually employ a diverse workforce, or if they claim to be big on sustainability yet aren’t, Gen Z workers will notice. Authenticity is important.

    In addition, Generation Z enjoys emotional support, trust, and a safe place to share their opinions. They don’t expect complete agreement, just a forum where they are comfortable sharing ideas.

    While work is a part of their life, it is not their entire life. They will separate work from their personal life, and “fun events with the team” after work are of little interest.

    How Does Gen Z Look For a Job?

    They will likely search on job sites such as Indeed, Glassdoor, Handshake, or Zip Recruiter. A close second to these is LinkedIn. Right behind that, the answer was word of mouth through family and friends. At this point, they are not looking for employment through their university or trade school outplacement program, nor are they looking on social media.

    How Long Will Gen Z Stay with a Job?

    Once hired, how long should they stay with the company if they are unhappy? No minimum amount of time, or they may strive for a full year. If they love their job, they will stay. Generation Z knows that work is a big part of life, and they will be working for decades. Therefore, they want their dream job.


    Every generation feels the next generation will somehow mess it all up. Yet each one brings fresh ideas, values, inspiration, and brilliance to the world. And really, what more could we ask of the next generation than to evolve and do it better than those of us before them?

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