Rise of Gen Z: What HR Should Know

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The Rise of Generation Z has come.  This generation is earnest, hardworking and traditional but favors liberal views on race, gender, identity and more.  Socially and technologically empowered, companies who ignore this run the risk of being ignored.  Those who embrace it will gain the generation’s loyalty. 

INFOGRAPHIC:  The Career Pathing Compass

Over the next few weeks, I will be providing information every HR professional needs to know about Generation Z.  The three articles will focus on:

  1. What HR should know about Generation Z specifically looking at what defines the generation.
  2. How HR needs to redefine itself to meet the needs of the generation.
  3. How to attract and retain Generation Z workers.

Generation Z Introduction

The first wave of Generation Z (born between 1995 and 2012), also known as iGen, is entering the workforce making them the youngest group behind Generation Y, also called millennials.  And the differences couldn’t be starker.

The Differences

Generation Y (Millennials) Generation Z
  • Savvy with technology
  • Digital natives/social media experts
  • Deserves opportunities
  • Independent and entrepreneurial
  • Confident in their beliefs
  • Inclusive
  • Collaborative at work
  • Individualistic at work

1st True Digital Natives

Of the differences listed above, one sticks out more than any other.  Generation Z is the first real group of digital natives.  Most of them can’t remember a time before smartphones and tablets or even social media.  Some have joked this generation was practically born with a tablet in-hand.  And it really defines the generation when you consider other characteristics.

Gen Zers have built in expectations when it comes to access to information in their personal lives, and they extend that to their professional lives. 

Social Accountability

They are more ambitious, socially conscious and diverse than any other generation in the history of the workplace.  According to the U.S. Census Bureau, almost half identify as non-Caucasian.  That means diversity and inclusion must be a real focus for businesses in the future.  A company that talks the talk but does not walk the walk will not catch the attention of Generation Z.

The same goes for corporate social responsibility, or CSR.  82% of Generation Z workers, according to Allegis Group, consider CSR a major factor when deciding where to work.  Furthermore, 66% would take a pay cut to work for a more socially responsible company.

The Need for Money

Having said that, realize money is still of significant importance to the generation.  Why?  Generation Z lived through the global recession.  Many recall either one or both parents being laid off from work during this time.  It goes without saying, it left a real mark.  As a result, members of the Generation Z group look for sensible, stable careers.  They want more security, safety, and privacy.

And it’s privacy that attracts them to more private social media networks such as Snapchat.  Unlike the generation before who are more prone to document everything on social media, Generation Z is more pragmatic.

Generation Z as Entrepreneurs

Members of Gen Z are more self-motivated and embody the entrepreneurial spirit.  They’re self-starters and aren’t afraid to take control of their careers.  They want jobs that are meaningful.  As digital natives, they have access to more resources than ever before, and they can network.  This significantly improves their chances of succeeding.

A perfect example:  Nick D’Aloisio.  He is a computer programmer and online entrepreneur who founded Summly.  He sold the company in 2013 for a reported $30 million.  That effectively made him one of the youngest self-made millionaires ever.  He was only 17 years old. He later led Yahoo News Digest before deciding to return to college.


Despite the fact Generation Z is full of digital natives, most prefer face-to-face interactions.  In fact one study reports 53% of Gen Zers prefer in-person communication over electronic tools.  Why do Gen Zers differ from millennials in this regard?  They desire to be taken seriously in the workplace.  A study conducted by Robert Half found 45% of Gen Z workers believe it will be difficult working with baby boomers even going so far as to say they fear being treated like children by older co-workers.

If the primary form of communication is written, it might also bring another issue to bear.

Gen Zers, generally speaking, tend to be weak writers using a lot of abbreviations, slang and emojis.  As a result, this can impair them when it comes to effective written communication.  Gen Zers say face-to-face conversations give them a better opportunity to prove themselves.

Looking ahead

Over the past few decades, all HR could talk about were Millennials.  As the largest class of worker, that made sense, but it’s about to change.  According to research from Bloomberg, Generation Z will surpass their more well-known predecessors in 2019 as the most populous generation.  Translation:  of the 7.7 billion people living on the planet, 32% of them will be Gen Zers.  There are currently 61 million in the U.S. alone.  For HR, professionals need to adapt to the changes this group of workers will insist upon, and it’s better to start the change now rather than wait.  What will those adaptions include?

  • Being more mindful about the impact of the company on society
  • Being more transparent and flexible
  • A redefinition of the employee engagement/employee experience strategy
  • More emphasis on face-to-face communication

NEXT:  How to Leverage Data to Improve Your Hiring Process and Attract Talent

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