In two years, it’s estimated that Gen Z will make up 27% of the workforce. By 2030, they’ll make up nearly a third of all workers. And yet, many executives and those in managerial positions are grappling to understand the very generation they’re fighting hard to recruit.
While the War for Talent drove employers to learn more about Gen Z candidates, company leadership teams remain at a loss on how to manage this new wave of recruits. From communication styles, workplace expectations, job flexibility preferences, and even their stance on social issues, today’s early-career candidates are vastly different from prior generations.
In this four-part blog series, GenZ Research Findings, Abode share its findings on 5,000+ Gen Z job seekers to answer the top three questions surrounding the youngest generation in the workforce:
- Who is Gen Z?
- How do Gen Z workers think?
- What do Gen Zers expect from employers?
Here, we uncover the four tenants of the workplace Gen Zers care most about (translation: four areas inspiring them to accept or reject an offer): expectations, transparency, personal connections, and respect. Rather than build a candidate journey based on your own gut instinct, we provide concrete suggestions on how to best communicate with, engage, and ultimately retain early-career talent — with the data to back it up.
Before we dive into the four tenants, we need to take a step back and ask ourselves, “Who, exactly, are we trying to recruit?” Below, we explore who Gen Z is and uncover their important role in the workplace.
Who is Gen Z?
Generation Z (or Gen Z, iGen, or Zoomers) consists of people born between 1997 and 2012. In 2019, Gen Zers overtook Millennials as the largest generation on Earth, comprising roughly 32% of the global population. They are the most racially and ethnically diverse generation, the first generation of digital natives, and are on track to become the most educated generation in history, with 57% of 18-21-year-olds enrolled in a two- or four-year college.
The above factors have a number of implications for the workplace. As the first generation to never know a world without smart devices, Gen Zers are incredibly tech-savvy. With Google (literally) in their back pocket, they work with a sense of urgency not seen in generations past. The overwhelming majority own a smartphone (95%) and are active on at least one social media channel (97%), transforming the speed, scale, and scope in which they operate. According to Stanford, this creates a generation built on self-reliance and collaboration.
Generation Z is also inherently connected with their values. According to a survey by Deloitte, roughly two in five early-career candidates rejected a job offer that didn’t align with their personal ethics. They are concerned about finding a work-life balance, addressing the mental health crisis, and achieving financial stability. In fact, roughly one-third of Gen Zers state that a work-life balance was the number one reason they chose to work with an employer.
Gen Zers take an active role in social justice and environmental issues, are more politically progressive than other generations and have proven time and time again they have the capacity to enact change. Roughly three-fourths of the population believe the wealth gap is widening, 90% want to take action to negate the impacts of climate change, and the vast majority (75%) stated they wouldn’t apply to a company if they weren’t satisfied with their DEI (diversity, equity, and inclusion) efforts.
How Are Gen Z Workers Perceived by Other Generations in the Workplace?
Gen Zers are multitaskers, entrepreneurial in spirit, highly authentic — and often misunderstood by their peers.
As described by Stanford, older generations have been highly critical of Gen Z employees. Early-career candidates have been stereotyped as “soft,” “snowflakes,” “lazy,” and “unwilling to grow up.” For years, headlines citing “Gen Z Makes Up 25% of the Workplace — And Do Most of the Complaining” and “Gen Z At Work — 8 Reasons To Be Afraid” have sprouted up as opinion pieces, written by older peers threatened by change. These misconceptions are often driven by key misunderstandings of Gen Zers and how they grew up.
However, contrary to popular belief, Gen Zers enter the workforce at a younger age than Millenials, with the teen rate (ages 16-19) up to 33%, versus 26% for the generation prior. Gen Zers often, and from a very young age, earn money online, rather than pursuing more labor-focused part-time jobs. As described by The New York Times, Gen Zers raised eyebrows when requesting paid leave for mental health reasons, or leaving the office early once their work was turned in. And — to the complete and utter shock of their older managers — they’re successful, choosing to multitask and prioritize rest rather than logging 8-10 hour days for the sake of punching a clock.
Unlike their Millenial counterparts, who entered the workplace amidst the financial crisis and glorified “hustle culture,” Gen Zers went through high school, college, and their first years in the workforce during the COVID-19 pandemic. Coupled with the mental health crisis, a spike in education costs, and watching their parents work through the Great Recession, Gen Zers prioritize career development, mentorship opportunities, and financial stability. Yet, they have proven time and time again they won’t sacrifice their personal values for the sake of a paycheck.
Why Is Understanding Gen Z Important?
Misconceptions surrounding Gen Zers have devastating impacts on company culture and finances. Aggressive (and, as stated above, incorrect) stereotypes deepen the generational workforce divide, creating a toxic workplace environment. Meanwhile, misunderstanding today’s early-career candidates drains a company’s bottom line.
In 2022, Gen Z employees report the lowest engagement of all generations, with just 31% being engaged at work. This causes a spike in “job hopping” with job transitions up 80% in early-career candidates (up from 50% for Millennials). The result? Companies get caught in a cycle of replacing disengaged employees, and recruiters face spiking rates of burnout.
Experts state the cost of a new hire equals 40% of their base salary on average, with the typical requirement period spanning 42 days. Failing to integrate a Gen Z hire into the workplace contributes to the “Great Reshuffle,” as Gen Zers seek employment with companies better aligned with their values. Research shows that Gen Z workers expect to stay at their first full-time role two years or less, making employee retention a top concern for employers. In fact, a recent survey states that Gen Zers could change jobs up to 10 times before the age of 34.
Attracting and Retaining Gen Z Talent
Generation Z is the largest generation on Earth, and will soon take the lead as the largest generation in the workforce. Early-career candidates are transforming societal and workplace norms, and have clearly expressed they will “abandon ship” if their needs aren’t met.
By erasing incorrect stereotypes of Gen Z employees and deepening our awareness of early-career candidates, companies can spare their bottom line and decrease recruiter burnout. Over the next several weeks, Abode will explain exactly what Gen Z top talent expects to see from employers, and how to develop a candidate-first engagement strategy centered on their interests.
Abode partnered with dcdx, a Gen Z research and strategy firm, to poll 5,000+ Gen Z job seekers. With the intention of understanding their motivations, behaviors, and expectations in the job seeking process and workplace, the Abode | dcdx research provided the foundation for this series.
Built for the candidate, by the candidate, Abode makes communication between employers and candidates smoother than ever so that employers can foster community, engagement, and a sense of belonging. As a thought leader in the early-career space, Abode can help companies build and manage their keep-warm strategies, all while providing a space for candidates to connect and engage prior to day 1.