Just as the dust began to settle after Millennials disrupted the workforce, it appears that there is yet another generation that is mystifying corporate leadership: Generation Z, or Gen Z for short.

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:

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! 

Dr. Komal Bhasin, MSW, MHSc, DocSocSci

Komal is bci’s Senior DEI Consultant and Mental Health Expert-in-Residence and an accomplished DEI facilitator, coach, and strategist. Komal has over 20 years of experience in providing strategic and advisory guidance and program development across a range of sectors, with a particular concentration in mental health and racial inclusion. Komal is also the founder of Insayva Inc., a social enterprise focused on providing accessible DEI and health equity support to charities and non-profit organizations.

Komal has extensive experience in creating and delivering programming in a range of DEI areas, including unconscious bias, cultural competence, mental health inclusion, psychological safety, and allyship. She is passionate about driving transformational change in workplaces and has worked closely with bci clients — corporations, professional services firms, health care providers, and educational institutions — to embed cultures of DEI within their organizations.

Komal has provided one-on-one inclusion coaching to hundreds of senior leaders and brings a unique approach that is informed by her background as a therapist. She is able to expertly handle sensitive conversations and situations and works with leaders to develop the knowledge and skills necessary to advance racial/ethnocultural, gender, and mental health-related equity across teams and organizations. Komal also offers a performance coaching program designed specifically for BIPOC leaders. This program aims to help BIPOC leaders harness their place, position, and identity to thrive in the workplace and beyond. Komal is a qualified administrator of the Intercultural Development Inventory (IDI).

As bci’s Mental Health Expert-in-Residence, Komal offers tremendous expertise around workplace mental health. As a doctoral trained mental health clinician, certified health executive, and registered social worker, Komal has assisted organizations looking to advance employee mental health inclusion and well-being through offering programming on inclusive dialogue, anti-stigma, burnout prevention, psychological safety, resilience, and self-care. Komal is committed to advancing mental health and wellness across the life course; she currently serves on the board of the Alzheimer’s Society of Ontario and previously served on the board of Children’s Mental Health Ontario and the YMCA of Greater Toronto.

When Komal is not working, you’ll find her painting, cooking or snuggling with her cat.