The latest generation to reach working age, Generation Z, shares many traits with the previous generation of Millennials, but has its own unique characteristics that will shape the workplaces of the future. This newest generation is entering their working years in a time of tremendous disruption of the normal order, due to the ongoing impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Defining Generation Z

Generation Z is composed of people born roughly between the years 1997 and 2012. They follow in the footsteps of the Millennials, born between 1981 and 1997. This new generation was born into a very different world than their parents and grandparents experienced, and that has influenced their development and shaped their outlook on life.

The major difference between Generation Z and all preceding generations is the impact of technology on almost every aspect of daily life. Generation Z is the first group that has had the internet available to them their entire lives. They likely will not be able to remember a time when smartphones were not omnipresent. Most have spent a considerable portion of their time online, on tablets and phones from their early childhood.  

Generation Z is also larger in sheer size. It’s estimated that Generation Z consists of around 61 million people in the United States, larger than Generation X (those born between 1965 and 1980). They will be needed to step in to replace the estimated 10,000 Baby Boomers reaching retirement age every day.

What Sort of Workers Will Generation Z Be?

Generation Z is reaching the workplace at a time of great upheaval. The COVID-19 pandemic has changed the way people work in the short term, and some of these changes will be permanent. The pandemic also accelerated existing trends. Fortunately, one of the key characteristics of Generation Z is flexibility. These young people are not very interested in the 9-to-5 office life that has been the standard over the last 40 or so years. They want more flexible hours and are more interested in working remotely than earlier generations. 

Gen Z’s flexibility extends to their willingness to relocate to find work. According to recent surveys, over 65% of Gen Z-ers will gladly move from their current location to find the right job. The pandemic-induced trend toward remote work may make relocation less necessary, but even if it doesn’t, location won’t be an obstacle for Generation Z. 

Unsurprisingly, one thing that Generation Z has in common with all other generations is the desire for financial stability and security. Over half of those looking for work cited salary as their primary concern. Almost 60% are willing to work overtime and weekends to achieve their personal financial goals. Having witnessed the burdens suffered due to student loan debt and credit card debt, Generation Z is looking to begin saving money earlier. A majority surveyed intend to begin putting money away for retirement and/or emergencies while still in their 20s. 

Generation Z is also three times more likely to change jobs to achieve their financial goals.  This new generation is both more competitive than the Millennials and more independent-minded. They have a strong entrepreneurial spirit as well, and these characteristics make them a good fit for leadership positions.

How Will Generation Z Change Hiring Practices?

Companies trying to recruit members of Generation Z are going to have to alter their approach from past practices. Generation Z values the overall work environment and their place in it more than previous generations. They want to feel like they are part of a culture that values their input and shares their values. “One of the things we do is sell our culture,” said Ryan Marshall, regional manager of human resources at Convergint Technologies, speaking to CNBC. “It seems to be that this generation is first and foremost looking for the best cultural fit for them. They’re looking for a company where they’re not just a number, but they’re somewhere they can contribute to the company.”

Their tech-savvy nature makes Generation Z more likely to thoroughly research potential employers on the internet. They read reviews of the companies and look at their overall branding and culture before deciding on a job.  The job search website Glassdoor (www.glassdoor.com) is their favorite for navigating their quest for employment. Gen Z has much more accessible information on companies than any previous generation, and they use this data to find the right cultural fit for them.

One large upside of Generation Z for employers is the speed at which they learn new skills and navigate the learning curve of a new job. This is primarily due to their comfort in dealing with new technologies. Where previous generations may have been resistant or downright hostile to technological innovations in the workplace, Generation Z tends to embrace any new technology and quickly adapts to its use. This mitigates the risk employers face from Gen Z’s job-switching tendencies. When companies need new talent, employers can be assured that new Gen Z employees can be brought up to speed on their new jobs quickly.

Changing Times for a New Generation

Generation Z is entering the job market at a time of tremendous change. The COVID-19 pandemic altered the way everyone thinks about the workplace, likely permanently. Fortunately, Generation Z has exhibited the ability to adapt to uncertain circumstances. Their embrace of technology will serve them well in the evolving work environment. As they enter the workforce in greater numbers and advance to leadership positions, this generation will shape the workplace into one that best suits their needs and ambitions.