Photo By: Helena Lopes from Unsplash

In 2019, Generation Z (Gen Z) officially surpassed Millennials and became the world’s most populous generation

Defined as anyone born between 1997 and 2012, Gen Z is now also entering the professional job market as they begin graduating college and university. This generation’s entrance into the professional job market in the past few years has greatly shifted existing workplace cultures and dynamics.

At the end of the day, most people want the same things out of their career: security, fulfillment, and a sense of appreciation. However, many have noticed a stark difference between Gen Z’s attitude towards their career aspirations and the generations before them.  

One major way that Gen Z workers are distinguishing themselves is their value-driven approach to selecting a career path. While older generations were more likely to base their career decisions on salary and growth potential, Gen Z has been known to place more weight on the impact of their work and the ethics of their employer. This trend has been evident not only in recruitment, but also in consumer behaviours. Today, there is much more emphasis on brand values and ethical production than ever before.

Gen Z also represents the most ethnically diverse generation across the globe. This, combined with heightened awareness regarding discrimination and structural inequality, has translated to an expectation for workplaces to reflect racially and ethnic diversity at all levels.

Members of Gen Z greatly value open communication and clear expectations in the workplace. This means a thorough set of responsibilities within their job description and a concrete evaluation structure to allow for direct, on-the-job feedback. While they don’t shy away from hard work, younger generations are more likely to set professional boundaries and prioritize their mental health.

“New staff today bring with them cultural, social and even developmental norms that are unprecedented. Being influenced much more intrinsically through social media and the digital age for most of their lives, they bring to the workplace an incredible dynamic and almost a natural instinct to being able to adapt to the next frontier of innovation in how we do our work,” said Jason Pon, Manager at Ernst & Young Toronto. “Now, new staff are more ready than ever compared to predecessor cohorts to take on the new challenges on the fronts of social, innovation and high-speed change.”

While this shift in culture has had a generally positive impact on employee wellbeing, it has presented a unique challenge with regards to employee engagement. With such a vast difference in expectations between generations, it has become increasingly difficult to cater to everyone’s needs. 

One major example of this is the dilemma of returning to in-person work. While younger generations are eager to return to the office and resume social activities with their colleagues, older generations have grown accustomed to remote work and don’t care for face-to-face collaboration as much. 

Nevertheless, Gen-Z’s expectations surrounding equity in the workplace have inspired systemic change in organizations across the globe. This impact will continue to grow as more young people join the workforce and use their voices to demand change.