Understanding Gen Z in the Workplace

Eric Mochnacz
September 1, 2023

What is Gen Z? 

Generation Z, or Gen Z for short, is the generation of people born roughly between the mid-1990s and the early 2010s.  Gen Z grew up in a digitally interconnected world.  They grew up during a large period of technological advancement, specifically the internet and social media.  They are considered to be the first generation that has been fully immersed in the digital world since birth, making them the generation of digital natives.   

What Sets Gen Z Apart From the Rest? 

As digital natives, Gen Z grew up with smartphones, tablets, and constant access to information through the internet.  The consistent ability to find information and be connected to people has shaped how they communicate, and consume information and their overall worldview.  Because of their coming of age in a truly digital world, technology has been integrated into their day-to-day lives.  They are more comfortable with the idea of using technological tools and devices to solve problems and have a greater level of proficiency with various technologies and platforms.  It’s not uncommon for a member of Gen Z to find an app or software program to help address a persistent problem.

Because of their interconnectedness, Gen Z has developed a greater level of global understanding.  Since they’ve been exposed to constant streams of information, they have a greater knowledge of things going on around the world, so their views, opinions and perspectives have been shaped by this global worldview.  This is conducive to a greater commitment to cultural openness and inclusion.  Generally, Gen Z is more accepting of the “other”, mainly because of the greater levels of exposure they’ve had to different cultures, backgrounds, and identities.  This type of awareness actualizes itself into Gen Z being more socially conscious with a greater likelihood to engage in activism, whether it be in person or on social media.  

When it comes to their career and the workplace, Gen Z has a greater tendency to have an entrepreneurial mindset.  Growing up in the gig economy, they are more likely to start their own business, work on a side hustle, or manage multiple streams of income.  Gen Z is financially pragmatic, having grown up during times of consistent financial uncertainty.  And with that financial uncertainty comes a commitment to finding a job or career that lends to financial stability, but also meets their needs to feel connected to the work they are doing.  

Challenges Gen Z is Facing in the Workplace 

Economic Instability

Gen Z came of age during the 2008 financial crisis and then encountered even more economic stability during the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.  They possess reasonable and rational fears about the job market that’s been consistently in flux.  They are searching for stable employment with companies they can connect with, but they are also plagued by the fear that another economic downturn will impact their ability to remain employed at a meaningful job.  Gen Z is intentional and methodical in their job search and may be less quick to accept a job offer if it doesn’t guarantee a certain level of stability.  Additionally, they are quicker to move to another job if it aligns with their goals, supports their career aspirations, and can guarantee a greater level of job security.  However, with such a competitive job market, Gen Z may struggle with finding career advancement in an uncertain economy while trying to prove their value compared to their older colleagues who’ve been with a company longer and have a tendency to have misconceptions about the younger generation.  Keep in mind that a majority of Gen Z is coming into the job market with significant student loan debt and that has a significant impact on where and why they are going to work for a company.  


As much as Gen Z are considered digital natives, technology also provides significant roadblocks to their career success.  There may be unreasonable demands on Gen Z workers to be able to quickly adapt to and adopt new technologies in the workplace.  They may feel pressure to constantly be up to date on every technological advancement in order to succeed in the job market.  Additionally, if they are unable to demonstrate knowledge of new technologies at work, they may be perceived as unable to meet the expectations of their position.  Expecting a certain generation to know everything about every new digital innovation is highly unreasonable.  

Because of the prevalence of technology and asynchronous communication – and companies’ reliance on technology for efficiency – Gen Z candidates may perceive employee lifecycle processes like recruiting, onboarding, and performance management as impersonal because it’s all done via an app or laptop, not by a human.  Gen Z is familiar with technology, but it doesn’t automatically mean they don’t want a personal touch throughout their employment.  

Career Expectations

Gen Z often finds itself fighting against traditional (and outdated) perceptions and approaches to work from colleagues and hiring managers who are of a different generation.  Gen Z has a greater inclination to explore different job opportunities, or “job hop.”  They have to fight the stigma associated with job hopping, as earlier generations tend to hold the belief employees should be loyal to their employers and stay with them for the length of their careers. 

With their worldview, Gen Z employees have a greater appreciation of diversity and inclusion.  Because they have had greater levels of exposure to the larger world, they have an expectation that companies have a commitment to equity and inclusion. There is a greater expectation that the diversity of the world is reflected in the workforce.  Older generations may not understand this greater focus on diversity, which can lead to challenges between colleagues who have different expectations around DEI in the workplace.  

Similarly, Gen Z, having experienced remote schooling, internships, and jobs due to the pandemic, have different expectations for work-life balance.  Also, their grasp on technology makes them more comfortable with asynchronous communication, so they may not see the connection between productivity and sitting in an office.  There is a clear generational difference between perceptions about remote and hybrid work, which leads to a clear disconnect in expectations about acceptable work practices.  Generally speaking, the younger generations want flexible work options, if not completely remote, at least hybrid.  Older generations, who have a greater likelihood of being in positions of power, are insisting on returning to office full-time.  You can see the obvious conflict between employers having a difficult time finding talent and a new workforce who wants a choice in how they work.

How to Manage a Multigenerational Workplace

Right now, your workforce is likely made up of Baby Boomers, Gen X, Millennials, and Gen Z.  To effectively manage a multigenerational workforce, you need to acknowledge the diverse needs and expectations they have of their employer.  They don’t exist in a vacuum, so you need to be able to address their unique needs while still maintaining business continuity and meeting company objectives.

How can companies successfully manage a multigenerational workforce?  First, leadership needs to recognize this diversity in their workforce and commit to developing and cultivating an inclusive environment where all generations feel valued and welcomed.  Each generation brings different perspectives, and they should all be acknowledged and celebrated to effectively work together.  Acknowledging the different approaches builds a supportive multigenerational workforce, and just because there are very different approaches, it doesn’t mean any of them are wrong.  Establish policies recognizing these differences that still support the unique and diverse expectations for an effective workplace.  

There are great opportunities for on-the-job learning and professional development.  Encouraging collaboration between the different generations in your workforce provides unique experiences for employees to learn and understand each other better.  Approach your employee lifecycle processes like onboarding, performance management, and promotions in recognition of the different needs and wants of an intergenerational workforce.  These processes may attempt to be “one size fits all”, and you can establish consistent processes while still providing the flexibility to meet the needs of your diverse age population, ranging from Boomers to Gen Z.  However, people management is not one size fits all, so managers can be more effective leaders if they adjust their style based on the needs of the person in front of them.

Looking for Guidance on Aligning Your Workplace? 

Developing consistent processes to meet the unique needs of a diverse multigenerational workforce can seem counterintuitive, but it doesn’t have to be.  Working with a skilled HR consulting firm like Red Clover helps your business align your business goals and HR processes to meet the needs of your seasoned employees and those who are just entering the workforce.  If you’re ready to acknowledge the truth of today’s workforce and set yourself apart from competitors who struggle with employees from different generations, reach out to us today!

Photo Credit – Photo by Christian Battaglia on Unsplash

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