Meet Gen Z

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The research

The first in a series of reports from The Workforce Institute at Kronos and Future Workplace, that examines attitudes of 3,400 members of generation Z, has just been released. The global survey asked about how education prepared them for the workplace, the gig economy and their views on employers of choice.

You can read the full report here.

There are some interesting takeaways for organizations and the leadership within them.

Before I continue I will accept that not all Gen Z will be the same but the survey sample was a fair size and was conducted across Australia, Belgium, Canada, China, France, Germany, India, Mexico, the Netherlands, New Zealand, the U.K., and the U.S. Therefore, it is reasonable that some fair conclusions can be drawn. The survey classified Gen Z as between 16-25 years of age.

Many of the takeaways I have highlighted in this article should be things that leaders are already doing regardless of Gen Z. The advent of Gen Z in the workplace just increases the necessity to do them to attract and retain talent.

What do we need to know and how do we respond?


When asked to choose from a list of names and select one that best personifies their generation, the majority (29%) chose the “digital generation”. That might infer that that their preferred working style would be one totally immersed in technology.

But not so. 44% preferred to work with their team or co-worker in person; 25% preferred to receive feedback from their manager in person; and most surprisingly, 39% prefer to communicate with their team or employer in person versus text (16%) or email (9%).


Leaders need to create collaborative workspaces, cross-functional teams and promote active networking.

Feedback should be given in person. If this cannot happen in the same location then videoconferencing facilities should be utilized as the preferred alternative for face-to-face feedback.


One in four Gen Z (26%) would work harder and stay longer at a company with flexible schedules. A third of Gen Z would not tolerate:

·      Being forced to work when they don't want to (35%)

·      Not being able to use vacation days when they want to (34%)

·      An employer who gave them no say over their work schedule (33%)


If you are not already doing it, measure employees on outcomes not hours in the office.

Provide flexibility, which allows employees to make arrangements about working conditions that suit them

In fact, in Australia employees have the right to request flexible working by law. I am sure it is the same in other countries. Therefore flexibility is not an option.


One of the most concerning findings in the report was the high level of anxiety about work expectations and achieving success.

When asked about potential barriers to workplace success, “my anxiety” was the top answer (34%). Add to that lack of motivation (20%) and low self-esteem (17%) and the concern is compounded.

Anxiety is the greatest concern among Gen Z in Canada (44%), UK (40%) and the US (40%).

A Virgin newsletter (2018) confirms the situation and also provides some insights into what could be causes the high levels of anxiety.

The following extract from the newsletter should be a concern for all.

“Dr Jean Twenge, professor of psychology at San Diego State University, says that, psychologically, Generation Z are “more vulnerable than millennials were”. Teen depression and suicide rates have “skyrocketed” since 2011 and she says it’s “not an exaggeration to describe [Generation Z] as being on the brink of the worst mental-health crisis in decades”. “


Leaders need to ensure that their organization invests in a comprehensive program of work to address mental health issues and build resilience in the workplace.

This includes equipping leaders with the capability to identify signs of stress and anxiety as early as possible and the tools to deal with it effectively.

It must also include self-help resources for individuals to access how they want, when they want, and where they want. Resources should be available on-demand.

Leaders need the knowledge and skills to build resilience including empathy, psychological safety, trust, respect, inclusiveness, autonomy, reflection, enquiry and communication.

Leadership traits

The survey asked Gen Z what were the top leadership traits they would look for in managers.

The top traits were trust (47%); support (40%); care (35%); communication (29%) and listening (28%).

In Australia and New Zealand more than half (51%) of Gen Z would never tolerate an unsupportive manager. This was echoed in Canada (49%) and UK (45%).


Leaders need to develop trust-based relationships with employees. Regular quality interactions are required which allow for exchange of ideas and thoughts. 

In these interactions both the leader and employee should be clear about what is expected of them; determine how to remove obstacles preventing achievement of goals; and provide feedback on each other. 

Trust is developed when each party holds themselves accountable for achievement of goals. There needs to be mutual commitment to deliver on agreed actions.

Leaders need to communication effectively and with clarity. They need to ensure that the employee understands what is being conveyed. This means that leaders need excellent listening skills.

Leaders need to lead with empathy, compassion and care. They need to set clear goals and recognize achievements.


One in four (26%) of Gen Z doesn’t believe that their education has prepared them for the workplace. 

They believe that education has not equipped them with common workplace skills such as negotiating (26%); networking (24%); speaking confidently in front of crowds (24%); conflict resolution (23%); and being managed by another person (21%).

In India 40% see education as a barrier to success whilst in the US the figure is 34%.

On the upside, Gen Z is prepared for working in a team (57%); hitting project deadlines (57%) and working with customers (56%). It should be noted that this confidence is higher in those that have had some general work experience (68%) or internship (57%) as opposed to those with just college experience (51%) or high school education (41%).


Leaders should work with their employees to determine their development needs. They should also play to their strengths and amplify the capabilities and competencies employees demonstrate.

Leaders have to inspire and encourage. They have to motivate and support.

Leaders need to instil a growth mindset in themselves and every employee.

Wrap up

There are lots of other findings in this report that reveal the concerns and values of Gen Z. They want clear goals and real-time feedback as opposed to a scheduled performance review. They measure their success based on how respected they are by their co-workers (34%) and the recognition they receive from their manager (32%). They gain their motivation by doing the work they most care about. Give them fulfilling projects and they will do their best work.

As with any employee, it is a leaders responsibility to find out what makes them tick. What motivates and inspires? What learning and development is needed? How best can they be supported and enabled to do their best?

This research gives us some interesting insight into Gen Z – the biggest cohort in the world population right now – 32% vs. 31.5% Millennials according to Bloomberg

They are starting to show up in your workplace and if you are a leader, a manager, or a co-worker it is worth investing time in understanding them.

Karen FerrisComment