Gen Z


1st September, 2022

An employer’s guide to working with Gen Z

As Gen Z increasingly enters the workforce, what do employers need to know to get the best out of this cohort? Here’s what the research shows.

Many leaders and employers might still consider Generation Z (or ‘Gen Z’ as they’re colloquially known) as the youth of Australia. But with a birth range generally set at 1996 to 2010, many are now entering the workforce.

In fact, recent McCrindle data shows that Gen Z will make up 27 percent of the workforce by 2025.

With that in mind, employers need to start understanding what it is that defines this generation. What makes them unique and different? And how can they leverage this to attract and retain Gen Z employees?

What is Gen Z?

Gen Z, like other generations, are defined by when they were born. However, that doesn’t mean there’s a consensus on what those dates are.

Only Baby Boomers have a set-in-stone date officially designated by the US Census Bureau. It began in 1946 with the surge in post-WWII births and ended in 1964 with the significant decline in birth rates.

However, if we rely on the generational divisions set out by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS), then we have:

  • Generation X – born between 1966 and 1980
  • Millennials (or Generation Y) – born between 1981 and 1995
  • Generation Z – born between 1996 and 2010
  • Generation Alpha – born in 2011 and later

Different cohort-wide traits characterise each generation. For example, Generation X known as the latchkey generation as they’re the first to often come home to an empty house after school. They were also the first to have personal computers in the home, making them more technologically savvy than any previous generation.

But, as Stats NZ points out, generations following the Baby Boomers are less tied to demographic phenomena. Definitions are therefore more likely to be somewhat abstract.

In fact, Stats NZ calls Gen X and Y “essentially marketing terms” created in the US. However, it also references the same broad dates as referenced from the ABS above.

What characteristics define Generation Z?

Technology is one of the first, and more defining characteristics to define Gen Z. If Generation X and Y are tech savvy, then Generation Z are tech wunderkinds.

Researchers recognise that technology has been integrated into the lives of Gen Z since birth. Unlike Millennials, Gen Z can’t remember a time without mobile phones, or when the internet wasn’t readily available.

This technology also means that they are the first truly global generation — connected to one another at record-speeds. They’re likely highly educated, with nearly 50 percent achieving university degrees, and establishing an average of five careers over their lifetimes (also according to McCrindle).

Finally, this generation is highly focused on social causes from climate change to work-life balance, which impacts how they move through life, including in their work.

Gen Z in ANZ

The Australian and New Zealand-based part of Generation Z has all the characteristics of the wider cohort. But a study commissioned by Bauer Media shows that they may have a distinctive approach to life.

For example, ANZ Gen Z relish being in natural places – think of weekends spent hiking around the pristine waters of Lake McKenzie or the peaks of Mount Warning.

Local Gen Zers are also characterised as thoughtful but firm on how they want to live their lives, carefully curating the choices that they make to be authentic to themselves.

Generation Z will choose a smaller pay packet to work for a social enterprise that feels aligned with their values, like using Cut The Crap toilet paper or donating freely to GoFundMe and Kickstarter campaigns.

Tips for attracting and retaining Gen Z employees

When it comes to working with Gen Z, what is this group looking for in an employer? And how can business owners make their workplace more attractive to Gen Z workers?

Here are some tips designed to help you make your workplace more appealing to this new cohort of employees.

Use modern, innovative and exciting technologies

Gen Z staff are true digital natives. They use the digital world in every aspect of their lives — from food shopping to dating. And four out of five Gen Z (80 percent) want to work with cutting-edge technology in their careers.

If you’re looking to attract and retain top Generation Z talent, make sure you’re offering them tools that are efficient and engaging (this could include cloud-based technology, automation, AI-supported processes, and, of course, digital-first practises).

Highlight values and social causes

Social conscience and being values-centric is one of Gen Z’s most defining features. In fact, McCrindle found 63 percent value the alignment of organisational culture and values far more than conditions and salary packaging.

From climate change to no-kill shelters, ANZ Gen Z want to know what your organisation values and what social causes you support. To attract Gen Z employees consider how you can implement green initiatives into your workplace.

Reduce, reuse and recycle — but also consider becoming a carbon neutral company.

Take a look around your workspace itself. Can you add natural light and plants? Create a wellness or mediation space? And use eco-friendly materials and products? These are all things that Gen Z will notice and can get behind.

Demonstrate your support of your social causes by donating a part of your profits to a specific cause, or you could consider a partnership — like MYOB’s partnership with Smiling Mind.

Or you could introduce a corporate social responsibility program that gives employees paid time off work to volunteer with a charity of their choice.

Embrace flexibility and work-life balance

The McCrindle data also shows us that flexibility and a good work-life balance is no longer negotiable. It’s a requirement for the Generation Z workplace. 61 percent see a flexible working policy as an important part of their employment choice.

Gen Z employees don’t subscribe to the hustle culture. They want to be part of companies that trust them to work remotely and that are dedicated to the work-life balance.

In fact, over a quarter of Generation Z would be more committed to a company that has a flexible work policy, says McCrindle.

Optimise your onboarding processes

Gen Z is looking for authenticity and connection. And that includes in the workplace.

When onboarding Gen Z employees, be sure to give them plenty of opportunities to connect with others on the team and in the company.

Host an event or two that shares your company values or highlights your social partners. Give them an onboarding partner who can help them through the process (particularly where remote work is part of their working life).

Get new technology into their hands quickly, and implement training for best practice use. Use modern means and mediums of training, such as videos and interactive online content.

Most importantly, give Gen Z employees lots of time with managers to give and receive feedback. Regardless of intergenerational sensibilities, taking the time to share wisdom is a surefire success strategy for any organisation.

Want to be a next-gen business? Think Gen Z

Attracting and retaining Gen Z employees is a vital part of the future of work, and will continue to become more important as they become a bigger proportion of the workforce.

Understanding this group’s unique capabilities, sensibilities and needs will put you in an excellent position to guarantee you not only have a strong workforce, but that you’re the type of organisation they want to work for.