Gen Z: The Challenges and Opportunities with New Talent from a New Generation

by Jennifer Miller on March 11, 2019

in Workplace Issues

This post is brought to you by Mitrefinch, an HR software company that provides workforce management solutions for small – midsize companies.

Gen Z is made up of people born between 1995 and 2012. While the youngest Gen Zers are still in elementary school, the oldest of this generation have college diplomas in hand and are getting ready to head into the workplace. According to Mashable, the emerging professionals of Gen Z already make up more than 25 percent of the American population and contribute around $44 billion to the national economy. Furthermore, the Pew Research Center finds that the “post-millennials” of Gen Z already make up 5 percent of the U.S. workforce (over 9 million workers) and that figure will obviously only continue to grow.

Is this youngest generation of workers nothing more than an exaggerated version of their older Millennial counterparts, or are there fundamental differences that separate Gen Zers from other generations of workers? Below, we look at some of the defining characteristics of the emerging Gen Z workforce and offer a few suggestions for how companies and their HR teams can capture, retain, and get the most from the coming wave of Gen Z talent.

A Few Unique Characteristics

On a superficial level, Gen Zers might seem like a carbon copy of the Millennial generation. Both are tech-savvy, achievement oriented, driven by the possibilities of career advancement, and fundamentally different than “pre-internet” generations or workers. However, “Gen Z @ Work”, a recent book published by a father and Gen Z son that analyzes how the new generation might impact the future of work, finds several unique characteristics among this youngest workforce generation.


While Millennials grew up in a period of unprecedented economic growth and the seemingly endless prospects and opportunities that came with the Internet age, Gen Zers were most likely affected by times of turmoil including the terrorist attacks of 9-11 and the Great Recession of 2008. The fact that many of their family members might have lost their jobs or homes during times of economic uncertainty has led Gen Zers to a greater sense of realism and sharpened survival instincts when considering career paths and employment decisions. Research finds that Gen Zers tend to be more individualistic and careful with their money as a result of these historical moments that characterized their youth. While Millennials are often seen as the generation most concerned with the social impact aspect of their work, Gen Zers will most likely be more practical. A greater concern for their own financial wellbeing will mean that career stability and work benefits will play a major role in the companies they decide to work for.

Entrepreneurially Minded

Another defining characteristic of Gen Zers is that an extremely large number of them want to be their own boss and run their own business. As the first truly digital natives, or people who were brought up during the age of digital technology and therefore familiar with computers and the Internet from an early age, they have discovered that the internet offers endless possibilities for becoming a successful entrepreneur. One recent study found that a quarter of Gen Z students want to start their own business while a Gallup poll reflects that 80 percent of young kids want to be their own boss. Even more surprisingly, 70 percent of working teenagers are already their own boss through part time self-employment with the help of the internet.

Hyper Customization

Unlimited access to technology and the internet has led Gen Zers into a mindset of hyper customization. Young people today are much less willing to follow a straightforward career path. Gen Zers have seen that only about 27 percent of college graduates are currently working in the field of their major and this has led them into wanting to take a more proactive role in deciding and designing their career path. In fact, the Society for Human Resource Management finds that 56 percent of all Gen Zers say that want to write their own job description. While the dream for Gen Zers might be running their own company as a route to financial security and wellbeing, they will also covet opportunities to innovate and create value for the companies they work for.

Tech Savvy but with a Human Touch

Lastly, as fully digital natives, the Gen Z workforce will obviously search for companies that offer the most advanced technological developments within their respective workplaces. However, companies shouldn’t simply expect Gen Zers to be content with a job that ties them to a screen and virtual communication. Studies have found that almost three quarters of Gen Z workers think that it is important to communicate face-to-face with their bosses and peers at work. While Gen Zers might be more individualistic and competitive, that doesn’t mean that they eschew the need for human contact within the workplace environment.

How to Attract and Retain the Talent of the Coming Gen Z Workforce

Companies and their HR departments wanting to attract the coming wave of talent that Gen Z workers represent can undertake diverse approaches to entice these younger potential employees. Below we offer a few suggestions and ideas for attracting and retaining Gen Z workers.

  • Student Loan Help: Many Gen Zers have witnessed their older siblings getting buried by student loan debt. Offering programs focused on helping to pay off student loans to the best Gen Z talent on the market will certainly help your company stand apart from the competition.
  • Alternative Learning Platforms: Gen Z workers are also going to be interested in furthering their education as part of their overall career development. Instead of offering to help pay for a traditional Master’s program, however, many Gen Zers will be more attracted to microlearning platforms that offer self-directed and more autonomous approaches to learning. HR departments that understand and promote microlearning platforms such as com will offer an alluring opportunity to further the education and training of Gen Z employees.
  • Flexible Workplace: Gen Zers will also prioritize companies that are open to more fluid work conditions. The traditional 9 to 5 job will be less appealing to a young workforce who might feel like they can be more efficient when working from home or other remote areas. Companies that are open to accommodating these flexible work arrangements can incorporate time and attendance software that allows for a more efficient workforce while simultaneously granting Gen Zers a bit more freedom from the office cubicle.
  • Create and Prioritize a Diverse Workforce: While race issues in the workforce are far from finished, Gen Zers will be much more accustomed to living, studying, and working alongside a group of people from different economic and ethnic background. In fact, 77 percent of Gen Zers state that the level of diversity within a company or organization greatly affects their desire to work there.
  • Prioritize Technology that Meets Future Expectations: Gen Zers will obviously prioritize working with companies that stay at the cutting edge of technological developments. Instead of outdated legacy systems, companies would do well to move towards complete digital modernization within the workplace. Furthermore, staying on top of the increasingly rapid tech modernizations and upgrades will also help to retain Gen Z talent.
  • Different Hiring Process: Along the same lines, HR departments would do well to reconsider their hiring process and preferred qualifications for Gen Zers. Due to the hyper customization characteristic of Gen Zers, most of these younger employees will be far more adept at explaining themselves in person rather than through limited paper applications. Instead of focusing on GPA and relevant experience, offer Gen Zers the opportunity to promote themselves through in-person interviews and/or video resumes. Hiring teams should look at Gen Zers through the lens of what they can offer to the company culture, not just the nuts and bolts of their job qualifications.

Within a decade or so, Gen Zers will become the leading element of the workforce. Understanding the fundamental differences of this generation and making changes that accommodate their unique characteristics will allow businesses to position themselves at the forefront of the race for Gen Z talent.

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