Gen Z is the post-Millennial generation, born between the years 1995 and 2010. This time period has been pivotal in shaping Gen Z’s worldview, given that many of them have experienced multiple, transformative events with an undeniable impact, before they even set foot into the workforce:
The Grip of Technology: Having grown up chronically online, Gen Z are often called “digital natives” and are more attuned to technology than any other generation. While this has had some concerning effects, at the same time it has helped many Gen Zers to remain tapped into the news cycle, leading them to be more socially conscious than previous generations.
Witnessing Two Major Economic Crises: Not only have they watched previous generations grapple with the Great Recession in their younger years, Gen Z has been cautiously observing the last few years of economic uncertainty—on top of which, many of them have faced layoffs just as they set foot into the workforce, while others are set to graduate into another recession.
Higher Rates of Mental Health Issues: In addition to being chronically online and experiencing financial insecurity, Gen Z has been significantly impacted by the pandemic during a critical time in their life, exacerbating mental health issues. And in fact, Gen Z reports higher levels of diminished mental health than any other generation, including Millennials.
All of these factors, in some way, influence how Gen Z will navigate workplace cultures and expectations. But on top of this, there are a few other characteristics about Gen Z that we also need to keep in mind: Not only is Gen Z the most racially and ethnically diverse generation thus far, but they are also set to be the best-educated. Additionally, research suggests that Gen Z is the most gender diverse generation yet, with about 15% identifying as members of the LGBTQ+ community.
So putting this all together, what do we need to keep in mind for managing and leading Gen Z team members in the workplace? Here are a few key points to consider:
- Keeping DEI Efforts at the Forefront:
- Given their demographic makeup and social awareness, Gen Z is more likely to value inclusive, intersectional practices, and appreciate DEI efforts. (As a related aside, it also means that future research about Gen Z attitudes, values, and behaviors must be intersectional.) As such, it is critical that leaders keep DEI programming at the forefront.
- Mental Health Inclusion:
- Cultivating Belonging on All Fronts:
- In light of all the major influences impacting their lives to date, experiencing belonging at work matters to Gen Z. As a result, leaders must cultivate belonging, psychological safety, trust, and authenticity in how they manage and lead Gen Zers, which impacts everything from our leadership styles to how we give Gen Zers feedback.
I’m well aware that with more generations in the workforce than ever, it may be difficult to find common ground in moments. This is why it’s key for leaders to be intentional across differences, keeping an open mind in listening and learning from Gen Z team members, and do their research to learn more about Gen Z needs and desires. And on that note, here’s my final point: based on what I’ve learned about Gen Z, it’s clear to me that they deeply crave the desire to be authentic and feel a sense of belonging at work. And as an advocate for fostering authenticity and belonging in the workplace, this warms my heart!