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July 7, 2024

The Gen Z Effect—And How The Youngest Employees Are Shaping The Future

Gen Zs are the newest employees on the scene and while they receive focus for their unique contributions, they also have a significant effect on the landscape of work more generally. In fact, many of their priorities are shaping company policies and organizational practices that can benefit all generations. Gen Z has a big effect […]

Gen Zs are the newest employees on the scene and while they receive focus for their unique contributions, they also have a significant effect on the landscape of work more generally. In fact, many of their priorities are shaping company policies and organizational practices that can benefit all generations.

Gen Z has a big effect because of the talent shortage—causing employers to focus on attracting and retaining them for their skills, fresh perspectives and potential. The Gen Z effect is also based on their reach. They leverage social media platforms and amplify their own voices broadly. And Gen Z faces unique challenges—including the most significant mental health issues compared with any previous generation.

All of these dynamics have implications for the way work is designed, how leaders lead and how cultures evolve—not just for Gen Z, but for all the generations at work.

The Gen Z Effect

Here’s how Gen Z’s priorities will impact us all.

1. Emphasize Meaningful Work

All generations of employees want meaningful work, of course, but 37% of Gen Zs report that for them, it is the most important thing. And on a related note, 26% say that not finding a job that excites them is one of their biggest worries, according to a survey by EduBirdie.

Gen Zs also want to make a positive impact, with 12% saying it is the most important thing, and 15% who report their biggest challenge is finding meaningful opportunities. In addition, 32% worry they won’t reach their full potential and for 9%, their biggest concern is not making an impact on the world, based on EduBirdie data.

It’s unrealistic to believe that every moment in your job will be idyllic or deeply meaningful, as there will always be things about your work you love and also things you don’t. But key to happiness is finding as much alignment as possible between things you enjoy and things that are required in your work.

In addition, you can enhance your sense of meaning and significance, by reminding yourself about how your work impacts on the big picture, and also how it affects others—both team members and those who are ultimately affected by your efforts.

The Gen Z effect will have employers focusing more on meaningful work. So, look for jobs which align best with your interests and ask employers to set a course for your development which will keep you learning, growing and doing things you enjoy.

Increasingly, organizations are also willing to adjust job content, so tasks are a better match to people’s preferences. In addition, seek out organizations that are making a contribution that you want to be part of.

And consider AI in creating your own meaningful work. Experiment with using technology to augment work which is less interesting, allowing you to spend more time on more intriguing or complex responsibilities.

2. Expect Financial Security

Perhaps because of all the press about the economy, inflation and layoffs, Gen Z is especially concerned about their financial health and job security. In fact, 33% report to EduBirdy their biggest challenge is dealing with financial pressures and debt, and 21% say they are most challenged by uncertainty about the future and the job market.

Money is important to them, with 55% who prioritize financial stability and 31% who say making lots of money is most important to them—with 22% whose biggest worry is not becoming rich. Likewise, 15% say job security is most important, and for 55% never becoming financially stable is their biggest worry, according to EduBirdie.

Money is so important to Gen Z, and they are willing to make tradeoffs on working from home (41%), spending time on hobbies (37%) their social life (34%) or relationships (19%) for salary. They are even willing to trade off doing exciting tasks at work (22%), based on EduBirdie data.

All of this points to a increasing expectations for employers. Seek those that pay fairly and generously, and provide for longer term financial stability by building a strong business, providing financial education and creating the conditions for employees to make solid financial decisions for their futures.

Colleagues looking out across city at sunrise showing how Gen Z is affecting the future of work
The Gen Z effect is real.GETTY

3. Expect Work Life Fulfillment

We’re a long way from the days when workaholism was celebrated. And while quiet quitting and bed rotting take the trend too far, a healthy sense of respect for both work and life are critical on the part of employees, leaders and organizations.

Work is an important part of life which provides a sense of contribution, but there is plenty to value outside of work as well. Gen Z is clear on their values in these areas, based on EduBirdie,

  • Family and relationships are top priorities for 62%
  • The biggest worry is not finding love for 25%
  • The biggest worry is not finding good friends for 11%
  • The biggest worry is not enjoying life to the fullest for 26%
  • Travel and exploration are the top priorities for 14%
  • The biggest fear is they won’t see the world for 21%
  • Personal interests and hobbies are top priorities for 13%
  • Balancing work and personal life is the biggest challenge for 48%

When you’re happier at work, you’ll tend to be happier outside of work as well. But the opposite is also true. Statistically, when you’re doing things outside of work which bring you joy, you’ll tend to perceive that you’re happier inside work as well. So, embrace and commit to great work, but also to dimensionality—in which key elements of your identity are also based on what you love to do outside of work.

Organizations are increasingly embracing the priority for the rewards of life outside of work, as well as within. Look for employers who have policies which allow flexibility and choice in when, where and how work gets done—and employers who design work so it matters and makes an impact. Stick with organizations who encourage people to bring themselves fully to work and respect employees as whole people.

4. Expect Health and Wellbeing

Closely related to work-life concerns are priorities related to health and wellbeing—with 62% of Gen Zs who tell EduBirdie health and wellbeing are their top priorities.

Gen Z has a lot of concerns in this area. Fully 57% find maintaining mental health and avoiding burnout the most challenging things in life, with 38% who are most challenged by maintaining their physical health. They also recognize the downsides of social media addition and pressure (14%), based on EduBirdie.

This generation has the highest-ever levels of depression, anxiety, loneliness and suicide, so it makes sense these are both high priorities and areas for worry and concern. We’re seeing the Gen Z effect with employers who are investing in wellbeing and health by offering all kinds of programs and practices—from employee assistance programs, mental health apps and expanded benefits to affinity groups and development opportunities focused on meditation, nutrition and everything in between.

Look for cultures where holistic wellbeing is valued and in which organizations are investing in work experiences which foster physical, mental and cognitive wellness.

5. Expect Personal Growth

Gen Zs are also influencing trends toward personal growth—with 26% who say it’s their most important priority, and 24% saying career and education are top priorities. In addition, 10% say their biggest worry is not getting a leadership position, according to EduBirdie.

The Gen Z effect on companies is showing up here as well. Organizations are increasingly offering pay transparency as well as clear paths for promotion. They also recognize the value of learning, development and career growth to attract and retain employees.

All this means you can look for and expect increasing opportunities for growth throughout your career journey.

Broad Effects

Gen Zs are facing a bright future with clear priorities, but also worries. The good news is that the focus on Gen Z can create the conditions for them to both receive support and to support themselves—and for their concerns to translate into trends that will affect all generations for the better.

Article written by:  Orville Lynch, Jr.
Mr. Lynch, a member of the legendary two-time Ohio Civil Rights Hall of Fame Award winning Lynch Family. Mr. Lynch is a nationally recognized urban media executive with over 20+ years of diversity recruitment and serial entrepreneur with numerous multi-million dollar exits.
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