Generation Z Characteristics in the Workplace. Know Them Before Surveying Them.

Generation Z Characteristics in the Workplace. Know Them Before Surveying Them.

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WorkTango has previously written on the characteristics of Generation Z and Millennials. People management experts like Giselle Kovary have shared insights on how to both lead and engage the two newest generations. Indeed, the two generations share similarities because of their close proximity in age.

Generation Z is unique however in its own right. It deserves to be looked at as a separate age cohort altogether.

At the very least, it helps to treat GenZs as a separate generation, so when designing surveys or analyzing responses, there’s an added demographic factor to consider that may explain variance in preferences and answers.

This article looks at Generation Z characteristics, how they are at work, the values which drive them and their communication habits.

Who Are Generation Z?

The Pew Research Center defines Generation Z as those born between 1997-2012. Others have very similar ranges for GenZ that only diverges by one or two years.

We can take this to mean that anyone currently between the ages of 11 and 26 is classified as a member of GenZ. They’re the latest generation to enter the workforce, and new GenZ members will continue to enter the workforce throughout the decade.

As such, understanding this age cohort is very important for HR. As the newest entrants to the workforce, it’s likely the majority of freshers or entry-level employees will be from this generation.

As the years roll by, sourcing for more seasoned candidates will mean tapping into the GenZ pool as their members age and gain further experience.

By 2025, one out of four workers in the world will be a member of GenZ.

It’s inevitable then, that GenZ members will have to be understood and assimilated into organizations where a healthy working relationship is maintained for the entirety of their career.

To clear any confusion, GenZ members are also known as Zoomers or Zillennials. Both are wordplays of other generations before it with a Z in the front, namely Boomers and Millennials.

GenZ is the most racially and ethnically diverse generation yet in North America with nearly half of GenZ members belonging to a racial or ethnic minority group. Some characteristics of Generation Z are similar despite the ethnic differences.

Thankfully, there have been studies conducted on the workplace attitudes and preferences of GenZ. We shall take a look at some of these studies and provide commentary on what it means for organizations.

Generation Z Characteristics in the Workplace

Focused on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion

For most GenZ members, diversity is not something they need to get used to. They know of it well having grown up in diverse communities, attending higher education institutions with a diverse student body, and consuming media that is more reflective of all citizens.

As such, it’s important to them that everyone is included in discussions about the company and about work matters.

Deloitte conducted a  survey of over 8,000 GenZs and over 12,000 Millennials. Compared to Millennials, more GenZs believe that individuals, the education system, and social movements are contributing to reducing inequality in the system.

This is a shift from Millennials who have a larger percentage of constituents who believe that businesses are contributing to reducing inequality.

As an organization, it’s best to have a DEI statement that outlines your position on managing differences and what that looks like.

Given that accommodating everyone is an important position for GenZ, it’s best to communicate with transparency about what’s being done in terms of taking into account everyone’s views at every opportunity.

The DEI survey is a great tool for this exact purpose. It not only signals the intent to hear from all your employees about matters of diversity, equity and inclusion it also allows for the measurement and tracking of diversity in the organization. 

Technologically Savvy But Favoring Human Interaction

Generation Z is more technologically savvy than any other generation before it.

Dell conducted a study of over 12,000 students ready to enter the workforce or already in the workforce in some capacity. It was found that 80% of GenZs want to work with cutting-edge technology and have a strong belief in tech and automation. But less than half of them are comfortable with non-tech skills.

This indicates their level of comfort in using technology probably arises from the fact that they’ve grown up with smartphones, laptops, and web-based apps.

But there’s a degree of fear when it comes to interacting with others, especially those with more experience or qualifications. This trepidation manifests in a lack of confidence in soft skills such as teamwork, problem-solving, speaking, etc.

Nonetheless, GenZ still favors human interaction. Some 90% say they prefer to have a human team element according to a survey from EY. Getting to know their colleagues and their organization’s culture, and acquiring a sense of know-how around their job melts away initial apprehensions.

Onboarding surveys can fast-track GenZs acculturation. It’s important for them to know right off the bat, that their colleagues and managers are there to support them, and that their voices matter.

This is a critical consideration given that over three-quarters of GenZ cohorts state that a manager’s coaching ability is important to them; almost 90% say they expect constant feedback from their supervisor.

A cyclical survey strategy based on frequent Active Listening affirms if managers are stepping up. Insights can be the impetus for leaders (executives and managers included) to make the first move, to give regular input, to initiate frequent conversations, and to be generous with recognition in ways that engage GenZ members of their team.

Risk-Averse With a Strong Hint of Self-Empowerment

GenZ has witnessed the great recession in 2008 and the recent economic instability fueled by Covid. Such global incidents have shaken their confidence to the point where  Generation Z characteristics tends to be risk-averse.

Having seen a lot of disruption, they prefer job stability with an eye on moving up the corporate ladder.

InsideOut Development, polled 1,000 GenZs about career and workplace expectations. It was found that their top career goal is to be in a position where they feel secure and stable with 40% of those polled indicating such a preference.

70% of GenZs consider salary to be their greatest motivator in the workplace. Ensuring a consistent and sustainable income is a very common-sense proposition for them. On the issue of benefits, 70% of GenZs consider healthcare to be the most important benefit in the workplace. This mindset seems to suggest a “work to survive attitude”.

Before the pandemic, three-quarters of GenZs ranked workplace flexibility as their most favored benefit. Such sentiment has steadily risen among the group in tandem with the introduction of mass-scale remote work.

In fact, Generation Z’s characteristic of risk-aversion has always been coupled with a sense of independence and freedom. While they might be risk-averse, not all GenZs are willing to do things the traditional way. Over half of GenZs want to be entrepreneurs and almost 90% of them have considered an education path that’s different from a four-year degree. 

Thus, while they may seek stability doing so in a way that doesn’t curb their freedom is of massive importance. At the very least, they value their free time and want to keep their options open for other personal or professional interests.

Ali Kriegsman, co-founder of the retail technology business Bulletin, has learned through managing GenZ employees, that they seek work-life balance, and are very candid about the way they ask for things. Workplace hierarchy is an alien concept to them.

Resultantly, when it comes to asking GenZs to fill out surveys it’s important to use frank-to-the-point communication. Using branching logic survey shortcuts can help get this cohort to the kinds of pertinent questions that deliver meaningful insights. Above all, survey confidentiality should be emphasized to squash hesitations and encourage candor.

WorkTango’s confidential survey technology encourages candor and can be as sophisticated or as simple as you like. Schedule a demo today to talk to an expert and get your next initiative up and running in no time.

Attentive to Mental Health

The American Psychological Association conducted a survey about stress and found a minimum 12-point percentage gap between GenZ adults and overall adults across all measured stress factors.

Work, finances, and health-related concerns were identified as personal life stressors for GenZ, with money being the biggest stressor with a 17-point percentage gap!

When compared to all other generations, GenZ is suffering most from mental health-related problems, with only 45% saying they have excellent or very good mental health.

Thus, if it isn’t a part of an organization’s employee voice strategy already, it’s crucial to deploy health & wellness surveys. Some health & wellness sample questions are listed here for inspiration. It’s important to have some questions that address mental health.

Further, over half of GenZ workers surveyed say they’re scared to ask for help. Again, the importance of having wellness-related survey questions cannot be understated.

Generation Z Communication in the Workplace

Global research firm TNS conducted a multi-generational survey that found 39% of GenZs believe the smartphone is essential to their jobs compared to 25% of those polled in all other cohorts.

Additionally, texting and social networking were deemed necessary for work purposes by 23% and 25% of GenZs respectively compared to 13% and 9% from the rest of the generations.

GenZs are therefore not hesitant to use the latest communication technologies. In theory, this bodes well for surveying where multiple modes of communication may be used to reach participants.

Understanding Generation Z in the Workplace

The influx of a new generation entering the workforce is a legitimate reason for taking steps to understand what makes this group tick and identify Generation Z characteristics.

Surveying practices have evolved to a point where organizations can capture real-time sentiments. The continuous cyclical Active Listening approach of frequent pulse surveying gives everyone a channel to share and air knowledge, ideas and concerns at moments in time that matter.

Supported with actions, one-on-one conversations, transparency, and follow-up helps organizations capture and engage the hearts and minds of GenZs and, their multigeneration cohorts.