Generation Z in workplace: How to manage Gen Z successfully


How can organizations successfully manage Generation Z in the workplace?

Born between the mid-1990s and 2012, Generation Z (or Gen Z) is on track to make up 27% of the workforce by 2025. They come after Millennials (also known as Generation Y) and precede Generation Alpha – those born after 2012 and thus not yet entering the jobs market. Also known as Zoomers, for many they are typified by the likes of environmental activist Greta Thunberg (born in 2003), motivated by bigger causes and willing to take direct action to try and achieve them.


Focus on Generation Z


What are the main characteristics and values of Gen Z?

Those within Generation Z share three key characteristics, which shape their outlook, behavior, and what they want from the world of work.


Driven by technology

While Millennials were seen as the first “digital native” generation, many still came late to technology. In contrast, Gen Zers were born with a smartphone in their hands. For example, they are the first generation that has never used a phone with a cord and they have no experience of a world before the world wide web.


Stressed by their experiences

In their relatively short lives, those in Gen Z have been through a lot. Many witnessed the impact of the 2008 recession on their families, while their education and first steps into the jobs market were dramatically disrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic. This has scarred many leading to higher levels of mental health problems. Research by McKinsey found that 55 percent of 18- to 24-year-olds report having received a diagnosis and/or treatment for a mental illness. In comparison, just 31% of those aged 55 to 64 years old, reported the same.


The most diverse generation of all

According to an analysis of Census Bureau data by the Pew Research Center, nearly half (48%) of US Gen Zers are from racial or ethnic minorities – the highest proportion of any generation. This diversity drives a progressive desire for fairness for all – whatever their race, sex, or sexual orientation.

As with the preceding millennial generation, Gen Z is committed to building a better, fairer world. They are focused on sustainability, both in terms of their own actions and driving change within society and governments. For example, they are more likely to eat meatless meals, even if they are not fully vegetarian as well as taking part in protests around climate change. Growing up as digital natives they are more individualistic than millennials, and happier working alone than as part of teams.


What does Gen Z think about work?

Research shows that Gen Y/millennials are motivated by a sense of purpose – their preference is to work for organizations that share their purpose and they’re willing to work long hours to achieve that purpose. For Gen Zers preference has become expectation. They demand that the companies they work for are driven by purpose (such as around climate change, diversity and ethical behavior), and are happy to work hard.

However, they also want to achieve a satisfactory work/life balance and be paid well. This can be traced back to their early workplace experiences, which saw many lose their jobs in the pandemic, along with a desire to protect their mental and physical health.

Unlike millennials, Gen Z is more motivated by money – they want to do good, and earn good wages. Combined with their focus on work/life balance this has led them to be unfairly labelled as the generation that wants it all. However, with Gen Z entering the workforce in increasing numbers, managers need to adapt to meet their requirements.


What are the main differences between Gen Z and Gen Y and Gen X?

Gen Z wants:

  • To work for a purpose-driven company that enables them to make a difference
  • To be well-paid for their work
  • To be supported, especially around mental health and have a good work/life balance
  • To be able to work flexibly, from wherever they want
  • To work through a mix of human and digital interactions


Gen Y wants:

  • To work for a purpose-driven company that enables them to make a difference
  • To build a career, even if it means working long hours and neglecting work/life balance
  • Rewards, praise and feedback
  • To be able to work flexibly, from wherever they want
  • To work collaboratively in teams where they have a defined role


Gen X wants:

  • To be independent, and self-sufficient in the workplace
  • Not to be micro-managed or hemmed in by rules
  • Supported with the latest technology when at work
  • Willing to work hard and be resilient, while valuing work/life balance
  • Openness and feedback on their work


At a top line level, there are a lot of similarities between Gen Y and Gen Z. Both want jobs with a purpose, but they have different priorities. Gen Z work/life balance expectations are much greater than older generations. That means they’ll happily leave companies or roles with a clear purpose if they feel the balance is wrong or impacting their mental health. They are not defined by their jobs or careers. That means that overall employers need to treat the two groups differently – expecting Gen Z to put in excessive overtime and low pay is a recipe for them to leave. In fact, a Bank of America report found that 25% of Gen Z workers switched jobs in the six month to May 2022, with this demographic a key part of the Great Resignation.

In contrast Gen X is seen as more self-reliant and entrepreneurial in spirit, but less confident with technology. They are generally happier with less support and coaching than younger generations, and are committed to their jobs, whether their employer displays purpose or not.

Get to know all generations in today´s workplace. Understand what Generation X, Y and Z really wants and what you should focus on as a company. Our deep dives will help you.


What are the challenges of Gen Z entering the job market?

Gen Z have been hit hard by economic and social instability. They’ve seen the impact of previous recessions on their parents, and have had their education disrupted by lockdowns. Many older members of the Generation Z workforce lost their jobs during the pandemic, leading to greater insecurity when they do re-enter the job market. They have a higher chance of having mental or physical health issues, which can prevent them from taking many jobs, particularly if they feel they will add unnecessarily to their stress levels.

As they are used to digital interactions, they may also lack experience and skills around teamwork and interpersonal communication. This can come across as an unwillingness to engage and play a full role in teams. Managers need to understand and put in place strategies to overcome all of these challenges if they are to successfully incorporate Generation Z in the workplace.


How can companies target and recruit Gen Z?

Given their age Gen Zers are less likely to use sites such as LinkedIn or traditional recruiters. Instead, they use channels they are most comfortable with, such as TikTok to find companies and roles of interest.

Gen Z is motivated to work for organizations that:

  • Display a strong sense of purpose and are socially aware
  • Are diverse. In the US, 77 per cent of Gen Z say a company’s level of diversity affects their decision to work there
  • Provide strong support and recognition of their work
  • Are committed to work/life balance and flexible working
  • Offer the chance to use up-to-date technology


What does Gen Z expect from their employer?

On a day-to-day basis Gen Z expect to be supported and valued in the workplace. Offices need to be well-equipped, technology has to be up-to-date and flexibility a standard part of working life. They value a strong, open and diverse culture, reinforced by regular communication and understanding managers that listen and lead by example. Most of all, they want employers to support them in achieving a work/life balance, motivating them to give their best when at work.


Why do Gen Zers quit their jobs?

According to McKinsey over three-quarters (77%) of Gen Z are looking for a new job – almost double the rate of other generations.

The most common reasons given by Gen Z for switching roles include

  • A lack of work/life balance, leading to long hours
  • Stress and burnout, impacting mental and physical health
  • Underappreciation, in terms of feedback and opportunities
  • Low pay, particularly as living costs rise


Unlike those in Gen Y, Gen Zers aren’t happy to put up with a poor work experience if their employer demonstrates a sense of purpose. They are willing to leave industries or the workplace altogether, or work multiple, less stressful jobs if it delivers the balance and lifestyle they are aiming for.


How can employers motivate and inspire Gen Z?

Retaining and motivating Gen Z may appear daunting, but understanding their needs and putting in place the right leadership processes and structures can inspire Gen Z employees to contribute hugely to organizational success. Focus on:

  • Leading by example – senior managers need to communicate the organization’s vision and enthuse Gen Z with both purpose and support. They must demonstrate purpose and lead with humanity and transparency. Ensure they have the skills to deliver this empathetic, transformational leadership.
  • Understanding and acting on their needs. Gen Z is used to instant gratification, so managers need to collect and act on feedback on a much more regular basis. According to Harvard Business Review, “provide continuous, clear feedback with real-life examples of what is working or not working, and action steps that increase your Gen Z team’s self-awareness.
  • Introducing new benefits, such as flexible working, mental health days and pet insurance
  • Providing opportunities to learn and develop, with regular training programs tailored to their needs and interests
  • Building a diverse, open culture and values everyone, and shares key metrics around diversity and pay equity to appeal to Gen Z in the workplace.


How can Gen X, Y and Z work together?

Workplaces are likely to have relatively even mix of Gen Z, Gen Y and the older Gen X (born between 1965 and 1980). Managers therefore need to understand their differences to deliver the right experience for each group, while different generations must work together to build an understanding of each other’s needs, skills and areas for development. Focusing on one generation above others will lead to internal dissatisfaction and also make it harder to meet the requirements of today’s multigenerational customer base.

Read all about the advantages of multigenerational teams and learn how to lead them successfully in our blog “Multigenerational Workforce“.


How Tivian helps you successfully lead multigenerational teams

Managing teams comprising Gen Z, Y and X requires leaders to take a personalized approach. They must meet the individual needs of every team member, providing them with the right experience that motivates and retains them.

Tivian’s employee experience platform provides the foundation for success. It enables you to regularly listen to every employee’s feedback and then understand and act on their insights. This builds a strong, productive working environment that meets everyone’s needs and drives greater engagement.

Ensuring that leaders at all levels have the skills to manage multigenerational teams requires a commitment to constant development and improvement. Tivian’s Leadership 360 empowers leaders through 360 degree on-demand feedback on their performance, uncovering areas for growth and development. It enables high-performing leaders to accelerate organizational success.

An open, supportive culture is an essential part of recruiting and retaining high-performing, diverse individuals. Transform your culture with Tivian’s Diversity & Inclusion tool, a straightforward diagnostic solution that gives a clear picture of your current culture and any required changes. Identify the specific behaviors that will drive transformation and measure progress against objectives, ensuring you become the employer of choice for top talent across every generation.