Generation Z Career Expectations and Motivations

It’s 2020 and Generation Z is the new generation of young professionals now joining the workforce. Members of Generation Z were born between 1996 and 2010, which means the oldest of them are now 24 years old and started to swell the lower ranks of the workforce in 2018. Currently, Generation Z makes up more than 61 million people in the United States. By next year, Generation Z will make up about one-fifth of the workforce.

As more Baby Boomers retire, Generation Z will be needed to fill in the gaps. But what does this new generation of young workers value? What are their motivations and career expectations? How is Generation Z the same or different from Millennials? Companies that want to recruit the best and brightest of the next generation will need to understand them.

Getting to Know Generation Z

First, let’s talk about what we know about Generation Z career expectations. Generation Z are “Digital Natives”. They were the first generation to grow up in a world where digital technology permeates every aspect of our lives. They are the generation that was raised watching videos on tablets, who learned how to swipe to their favorite app by the time they were five-years-old, and who expect to get all their questions answered on the Internet. According to the Huffington Post, 92 percent of Generation Z have a digital footprint, meaning they have some sort of online presence.

Generation Z also grew up during the Great Recession. They saw their parents, grandparents and other adults lose jobs and struggle to find work. They may have been directly impacted by the housing crisis.

To recruit Gen Z workers, you need to understand what matters to them and demonstrate how your organization is a perfect fit for what they want and need. So, what are the best talent strategies when it comes to recruiting Generation Z?

Tip 1: Offer Security

As we mentioned, growing up in the Great Recession shaped this generation. In their most formative years, many of them saw their parents and other adults suffer significant financial setbacks. Generation Z is also entering the workforce at a time when automation and artificial intelligence is making a lot of people uneasy about the future. This generation prioritizes job security.

So, what can your organization offer in terms of stability and reassurance? Start by articulating your vision for the future and commitment to employees coherently and strategically as part of your employer branding. But don’t fake it. It’s important that the vision resonates with the reality about what your current employees believe is true about your company and employer brand.

Next, to cater to the career expectations of Generation Z, you must be forthcoming and honest and the opportunity and long-term fit. What are your processes for recruitment, compensation, and total rewards? What do you pay and why do you structure pay in the way you do?  What are the other reasons to join your organization? What is the culture like? Make sure you can explain what makes your company a great place to work.

Tip 2: Demonstrate Digital Savviness

Digital Natives are always connected to their smartphones. The number one platform Generation Z uses to learn about a company is YouTube, followed closely by Instagram, Facebook, Snapchat, LinkedIn and company review sites. Is your organization prepared to meet Gen Z where they are online? If you don’t have a presence on these social channels, work to build one now.

Additionally, how is your company portrayed on review sites? If you don’t have eyes on company reviews from former and current employees, you need to make checking these review sites a regular task.

Once you’ve caught their interest, it’s time to impress Gen Zers with your organization’s technology. Remember, they live and breathe digital technology. Unfortunately, many workplaces are still analog, which can seem outdated and unappealing to Digital Natives. “For many companies, outdated technology is just the result of the business itself,” says Saagar Govil, CEO of Cemtrex, a company that develops fully integrated smart office products. “You can get so focused on the day-to-day operations that you lose sight of the resources available to make things run that much smoother.”

To shore up their digital savviness, some companies are creating positions just to ensure their tech is as cutting edge as possible. “My role is to be ‘a constructive disrupter,’” says Joe Atkinson, Chief Digital Officer — a new position — at PwC, speaking with Forbes. “My mission is to enhance digital fitness throughout the organization and put in place the learning and technology necessary to get the entire organization comfortable with the language and concepts that are driving digital innovation.”

Tip 3: Foster Collaboration

For the generation that grew up with FaceTime, time spent communicating face-to-face is surprisingly important. According to Inc., 72 percent of Gen Zers prefer to communicate face-to-face instead of through email or instant messaging. Some theorize this is because of the criticism Millennials drew for preferring to communicate via email or text, but whatever the reason, we know Gen Zers want to meet in person. So, how can you incorporate that preference into your recruitment and hiring practices?

First, consider doing phone screens via video chat. Also, be sure to emphasize the collaborative nature of the team that a Gen Zer would be joining. The best way to do this is by making sure your managers are fostering an environment of communication and collaboration on their teams. Include other Gen Zer in the interview process so they can speak honestly to the company culture and the amount of face-to-face collaboration available. “Gen Z named ‘co-workers who like to collaborate’ as being the type of worker who would help them do their best work, second only to co-workers who work as hard as they do,” said Jim Link, chief human resources officer at Randstad North America. “Companies seeking to be an employer of choice must leverage the collaborative revolution taking place and provide the technology, tools, and processes that facilitate and encourage it.”

Tip 4: Prioritize Diversity

Generation Z is the most diverse and inclusive generation in this nation’s history. Growing up with technology made Gen Zers truly global citizens. As such, they are looking for diversity in all aspects of their lives, especially in the workplace. They also understand diversity is good for business. 63 percent of Gen Zers feel it is most important to work with people with diverse education and skill levels; an additional 20 percent think that having people of different cultures (ethnicities or origins) is the most important element to a team. 77 percent of Gen Zers say the level of diversity within a company will affect whether or not they will choose to work there.

So, if you want to attract Gen Z workers, you must take a close look at diversity within your organization. Is your culture inclusive? Do you have people of color in leadership positions? Have you conducted a pay equity audit to ensure you aren’t contributing to the racial wage gap? Diversity is one aspect of your company’s culture you cannot fake.

Be ready to answer Gen Z’s direct questions about diversity. Go to the top of your organization. Talk about how diverse employees can help accomplish key goals. Cultivate a safe environment so employees feel supported to be honest about their experiences.

Ryan Jenkins, Generation Z expert and partner at, talked to Inc. about the importance of diversity when it comes to recruiting Generation Z and managing Generation Z career expectations. “Not only will an inclusive organizational culture attract Generation Z — the most diverse workforce to date — but organizations with inclusive cultures are two times as likely to meet or exceed financial targets, three times as likely to be high-performing, six times more likely to be innovative and agile, and eight times more likely to achieve better business outcomes.”

To learn more, check out these tips for creating a successful diversity and inclusion program within your organization.

Tip 5: Provide Career Growth and Development Opportunities

One refreshing aspect of Generation Z workers is their attitude about failure. While most other generations view failure as something to avoid, members of Generation Z are energized by failure. According to one study, 80 percent of Generation Z sees failure as something to embrace on their way to more innovation and learning within a project. In fact, failure helps them learn and grow.

The desire to learn and grow is one of the strongest characteristics of Generation Z career expectations. They are seeking positions where they will have the opportunity to learn multiple skills and aspects of not just their own job, but other jobs as well. According to Jenkins, “Seventy-five percent of Gen Z would be interested in a situation in which they could have multiple roles within one place of employment.”

We’ve talked before about how the traditional career ladder is becoming a relic of the past. Now, workers seek opportunities where they can broaden their skill sets and be more entrepreneurial. To attract Generation Z workers, you need to demonstrate how your organization supports a more fluid job structure. Consider implementing a job rotation program. For a Generation Z worker just starting out, job rotation can help them gain unique perspective on both your company and the jobs they perform.

You could also examine how you set up career paths within your organization. For example, you could explore the idea of dual career ladders, which allows upward mobility for employees without requiring they be placed into supervisory or managerial positions. This type of program can be helpful for skilled workers who want to advance but may not be interested or suited for management.

Whatever you decide, be sure to show your Generation Z candidates that your organization prioritizes personal growth and skills development and you’ll be much more likely to land the best candidates.

Gen Z: Revolutionizing the Workplace

With more and more of the incoming workforce being part of Generation Z, the smartest organizations are doing everything they can to become an attractive, sought after employer. With these tips, you’ll be in a much better position to recruit and retain Generation Z workers and manage Generation Z career expectations.