Introducing Generation Z!

I am bewildered by the multi-tasking capabilities of my two teenage sons. It is not uncommon for them to be watching television while simultaneously playing a video game on a laptop computer and streaming a YouTube video on their smartphone – all while their Spotify playlist emanates from the Sonos speakers.

How do they do this? Why do they do this? (Answer: I have no clue.) I have also long wondered what would become of these digital natives as they mature into adults and into employees in the workforce. And now we are beginning to learn. Let me introduce you to Generation Z!

Generation Z, or the iGeneration, is the cohort of individuals born between 1995 and 2010. The first of them are just graduating from college this year. They are a large generation – approximately 73 million strong – and don’t mistake them for their older Millennial counterparts. They are very, very different.

Raised by their tough-love, skeptical Generation X parents, Gen Z does not share the sense of entitlement and need for feedback and validation that many consider typical of the Baby Boomer-raised Millennial generation. Instead, Generation Z individuals tend to be independent, competitive, hard-working and pragmatic. Here are some interesting statistics that were recently reported in an article entitled Move Over, Millennials; Generation Z Is Here by the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM):

  • 61% of Generation Z individuals surveyed said they plan to stay with their company for more than 10 years
  • 76% are willing to start at the bottom of the corporate ladder and work their way up
  • 72% reported that they are competitive with those individuals doing the same job
  • 91% reported that technical sophistication would impact their interest in a company, and salary, benefits and opportunity for advancement are much more important than finding a “meaningful” job (as is the priority for Millennials)
  • 84% report preferring face-to-face communication ahead of digital communication
  • 75% would like multiple roles within a company, such as being responsible for both sales and product development
  • 62% would prefer to customize their own career path rather than having the corporation develop it for them

So what in their backgrounds has made these individuals so different from their Millennial counterparts? First, the style of parenting they encountered. Whereas Millennials were raised by self-esteem-building, optimistic Baby Boomers, Gen Z’s parents were the original self-reliant, skeptical latch-key kids who imparted their work-hard-and-pay-your-dues work ethic onto their children. As a result, much more so than Millennials, Gen Z are exceedingly career-focused and strongly entrepreneurial. They tend to be anxious and mindful of their future and, as a result, are willing to work hard to advance in their careers.

And whereas Millennials are true team players, Gen Z individuals are independent, competitive and much more individualistic in their work habits. As a result, they will leap at an opportunity that has sufficient salary, benefits and, importantly, lots of room for growth.

They are also true digital natives, which is why they are also called the iGeneration. While Millennials grew up with computers and social media, Generation Z individuals can’t remember a time before smart-phones and tend to rely on them to collaborate, research, edit and post content in real time. It is this digital proficiency that enables them to take in information instantly. Their reliance on Google and Wikipedia, coupled with their natural-born skepticism, means these individuals are less likely to simply trust authority figures and instead rely on their own access to research and information.

And unlike their “over-sharing” Millennial counterparts, Gen Z individuals are much more concerned with privacy and turn to social media apps like Snapchat to protect their communications. They are much more suspicious of big organizations’ use of their data and are likely to reject marketing efforts that are pushed at them based on their online footprint.

The Generation Z population also came of age after the Great Recession and therefore are pragmatic and independent, realizing that competition for well-paying jobs is fierce. As a result, they put money and job security at the top of the list of criteria that they are looking for in a job. And this competitive independence means they want to be judged on their own merits, not on the merits of a collaborative group. As a do-it-yourself generation, they are always looking for ways to work more efficiently through use of technology, and they maintain a critical eye to processes and practices. And they are willing to hustle to make additional income – their entrepreneurial spirit means they will likely work in their formal job and pursue income-generating hobbies and after-hour gigs as well.

So what does this mean for those of us preparing to hire Gen Z workers? The things we know about this cohort so far is that they want:

  • Good paying jobs with benefits
  • Stable, secure jobs
  • Clear lines of sight for advancement and career growth
  • Opportunities to learn and develop their careers in a variety of roles within a company
  • Honesty

This last part is critical for these individuals. They are less motivated by a company’s brand name or market reputation. Instead, they want to know, trust and respect their leaders. For solid, small to mid-sized businesses, all of this suggests we will both be able to satisfy their needs and benefit from their creative industriousness.

I have to admit, having two of these Gen Z individuals in my house today, I struggle to see some of this hard-working ethos – if only they would put the same effort into cleaning their rooms and pursuing their studies. But that said, in professional settings outside of our home, it is clear that these young adults (and in many instances, children) take workplace obligations seriously and are willing to do what it takes to make money and move ahead. Move over Generation Y, Generation Z is on the way.


By Claudia St. John, President – Affinity HR Group, Inc.

Claudia St. John is president of Affinity HR Group, Inc., NAWLA’s affiliated human resources partner. Affinity HR Group specializes in providing human resources assistance to associations such as NAWLA and their member companies. To learn more, visit

Recent Stories
Summer in the Workplace

Compensable Time – When Do You Need to Pay a Non-Exempt Employee?

Spring Cleaning for Your HR Closet