How Generation Z Will Reshape the Modern Workplace

Although members of the Millennial generation are now managers themselves, many employers continue to obsess over how to create workplaces to address their needs as employees. Many of those same employers recognize that the next generation of employees is beginning to enter the workforce but think that they’re essentially a younger version of Millennials.

This generation is quite different. According to the Pew Research Center, Generation Z (also called post-Millennials or iGen), is the most racially diverse and best-educated generation.

With that increased diversity comes a different mindset on many topics.

I recently spoke to a group of college students who are the next generation of HR and business leaders about their expectations as employees, and how they plan to perform HR functions with the demands of their generation in mind.

Here are a few themes that emerged:

Diversity, inclusion, equity

In a fascinating study conducted jointly by Deloitte and the Network of Executive Women (NEW), the organizations explore nine key findings, including the fact that “Gen Z defines diversity along different lines than generations before them.”

The report goes on to say:
“Diversity is the watchword for Gen Z: Diversity matters to them through many dimensions, not just isolated to race and gender, but also related to identity and orientation. Gen Z prioritizes diversity — across race, gender, and orientation — more than any other generation and companies should as well. Gen Z is also the most likely generation to have individuals that identify as non-binary/third gender. As a result, companies need to represent the full spectrum of humans in marketing: Many Gen Z minorities feel their race isn’t well represented in marketing. Companies that can better represent the spectrum of differences in their external branding/marketing are much more likely to diversify their talent pipelines.”

One area of diversity cited by many of the students I spoke with includes being more creative as it relates to dealing with employees who have mental health or learning challenges. The outdated mentality of dealing with disabilities and accommodating those disabilities (primarily from a compliance perspective) will not work well with Gen Z. Forward-looking employers, such as Starbucks will begin to address issues related to all types of diversity in new and more inclusive ways. (Learn more about discrimination against employees with disabilities in the workplace in our online course).

Career customization

The Deloitte/NEW report also emphasizes the need for employers (and the leaders who recruit and retain talent for that employer) to provide anything but cookie-cutter career plans for the new batch of employees. The report indicates:

“A new mindset. We think Gen Z will have the ability to demand greater personalization in how they move along their career journey. For organizations to attract and retain the best and brightest of the generation will require a different mindset. Employers will need to understand the behaviors and tendencies of a generation that expects much more personalization in how they want to be treated by their employer and is seeking more than just filling cookie-cutter roles.”


Finally, the report emphasizes the fact that Gen Z employees expect themselves – and others – to be jack/jill-of-all-trades rather than specialists, a mindset that is different from previous generations. Specifically, the report identifies four skill sets that Gen Z’ers see as vital to succeed at work.

  • Digital tools and technology skills
  • Comfort with analytics and data
  • Business and management skills
  • Design and creative skills

Bottom Line

Organizations have an opportunity to shift not only their mindset but also their policies, practices, and workplace cultures to address the needs of the millions of Gen Z employees who are joining the workforce.

As the professor and author, Jean Twenge (who calls Gen Z “iGen”), states: “iGen is distinct from every generation before them; they are…different in how they spend their time, how they behave, and in their attitudes toward religion, sexuality, and politics. They socialize in completely new ways, reject once sacred social taboos, and want different things from their lives and careers. More than previous generations, they are obsessed with safety, focused on tolerance, and have no patience for inequality.”

Modern employers would be wise to begin making changes to their culture to meet the needs of all four generations in their organizations, and start making space for the new generation of HR and business leaders who will reshape how we work. To learn about diversity and inclusion solutions for your workplace, check out our programs and get a free trial.

generation zhrWorkplace Culture
Janine Yancey
Business Compliance & Workplace Culture Expert
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