29 February 2024

Gen Z – the rise of a new generation

Generation Z will account for 27 percent of the workforce by 2025. But what do they want from their careers – and how should employers respond?

An incredible transformation is unravelling the workplace – from AI to Zoom. The growth of digital technology, combined with the pandemic, has shifted the rules of work. But there’s arguably a more influential change: the rise of a new generation.

Born between 1995 and 2009, Generation Z – or Gen Z – currently accounts for about 2 billion of the world’s population and is expected to represent 27 percent of the workforce by 2025. This could compound the changes to work as we know it, as employers seek to attract and retain new talent.

How does Gen Z differ from older generations?

Gen Z is the first generation to have grown up entirely in the digital age. They have never known the world without the internet; instead, their lives revolve around the latest tech – from smartphones to virtual reality gaming headsets – which play out across a growing mosaic of social media channels. It is this tech savviness – and dependency – that sets them apart from their predecessors: Millennials, Generation X and Baby Boomers.

They have also been named the “first global generation” where throughout their lives they have been virtually connected to people across the planet. Gen Zs have had access to global news, information and other content through social media and other digital channels.

“Having have grown up in a highly digital, interconnected and fast-paced globalized world, Gen Zs feel that there are few or no boundaries, be it in their real or virtual lives,” says Valerie Malcherek, a Gen Z employer branding specialist in Switzerland, whose role is to ensure the business continues to attract and retain the brightest young talent.

“This world of endless possibilities means they have high expectations for their employers,” Malcherek adds. “And they believe business has a significant role to play when it comes to addressing social and environmental issues.”

What do Gen Z want from their careers?

Despite media attention over the phenomenon of “quiet quitting” a recent survey by Deloitte finds that nearly half of Gen Zs (49 percent) say their job is central to their sense of identity – although this is lower than for Millennials (62 percent). For Gen Zs, their family and friends are more important, and this probably explains why 42 percent of Gen Zs value work-life balance, remote working and flexible leave as their top priorities when looking for a job.

Some traditional benefits remain important. Like previous generations, salary is the most important factor in deciding on a job – although Gen Z holds less importance on salary than older generations. But the old concept of a career ladder – starting from the mailroom and running up to the executive suite – is viewed as outdated by Gen Zs, who prefer something more ad hoc.

Instead, empowerment and flexibility are key themes in career decisions. For instance, Gen Zs don’t just want to join a company that has adopted hybrid working practices – they want to have the freedom to chose where and when they work. In addition, Gen Zs want to determine their career path and have the “flexibility to change it at any time to develop their skills and promote lifelong learning.”

That flexibility also extends to switching employers. Gen Z employees could change jobs up to 10 times between the ages of 18 and 34, based on a survey of U.S. students.

A good work-life balance holds significant importance and is prioritized over climbing the career ladder, unlike previous generations. Building friendships and fostering positive relationships with work colleagues is often more important than job titles. Gen Zs are also motivated by having a meaningful career that allows them to have a positive impact on society. Many want to be employed by companies that are aligned with their values and where they are empowered to drive change.”

Valuing values

But what values do Gen Zs look for from prospective employers?

Gen Zs expect companies to show, not just tell, how they support people and the planet. And this needs to be communicated in a way that resonates with them on the channels they follow. Diversity, equity and inclusion are very important, and Gen Zs also want their employer to care about the planet.  In fact, 55 percent of Gen Zs research a company’s environmental impact and policies before accepting a job – with 17 percent having changed jobs or sector due to climate concerns.

Gen Zs also expect to be provided with opportunities to expand their skills  and broaden their talents and experience. This means that employers will need to change how they attract, hire, develop and retain talent, fostering personal development. And that could have knock-on benefits for any generation.

Connecting the generations

Once you have attracted Gen Zs, you then need to integrate them into a workforce made up of five generations. Get this right and it will help less tech-savvy leaders embrace Gen Zs on their team, instead of being intimidated by their digital skills. And it will encourage experienced employees to share their expertise to younger team members to help them grow professionally.

“Each generation has its own unique style, needs, goals and traits. So it’s important to create a sense of belonging where they all feel valued and engaged,” says Henderson. “This requires building an open and transparent environment where employees of all ages can thrive, work together and learn from each other.”

Every generation changes the world of work, from the influx of women into the workforce during World War II to the way Millennials raised awareness of issues like mental health. But Gen Zs are coming of age in the wake of a historic pandemic, geopolitical turmoil and at a time when the climate emergency poses an unprecedented threat to humanity. What they look for at work – and what they will not accept – is likely to have an enduring impact.

Article courtesy of Sean McAllister, Managing Editor – Group Communications – Zurich Insurance

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