Generation Z, also known as Gen Z, is rapidly taking over the workplace and changing the workplace norm as we know it.
As one of the most populous generations, Gen Z is also regarded as the most diverse generation in American history. The generation is the most racially and ethnically diverse, with members leading in sexuality, religion, and gender diversity. They've also been dubbed the "most educated" generation.
Before we get into how Gen Z is changing workplace norms for the better, it's important to understand how Gen Z differs from its predecessor, millennials, both inside and outside of the workplace.
As Gen Z’s presence is rising in the workplace, many wonder what factors truly differentiate individuals within Gen Z compared to the preceding generation–the millennials. These differences are important to highlight as they contribute to why Gen Z is considered more diverse than millennials and any other generation before it.
Pew Research states that 48% of Gen Z individuals between are considered “racial or ethnic minorities.” In comparison to a study of American millennials in 2002, only 39% of Millennials were considered the same. Some report that the difference in percentage is largely due to the rise in immigration over the years, which has resulted in an increase in first-generation births within the United States.
Gen Z has also impacted the diversity of gender and sexuality.
One in 6 Gen Z individuals have reported they are either transgender or queer compared to 1 in 10 millennials. On an inclusivity level, nearly 60% of Gen Z individuals believe there should be more “gender-neutral” options on online forms that ask for an individual’s gender, and 35% say they know someone who uses they/them pronouns–more than any generation before them. Regarding education, older Gen Z individuals are also reported to be far less likely to drop out of high school compared to millennials, therefore resulting in Gen Z individuals typically obtaining a higher level of education.
Nonetheless, the cultural differences between Gen Z and millennials should also be discussed as it affects how Gen Z is further perceived in the workplace. This discussion usually starts with the debate on when Gen Z truly begins and when the millennial generation ends.
According to some sources, Gen Z begins in 1995, while others say it begins in 1997. Because of the demographic and cultural differences between the generations, this has also become a contentious debate among individuals who find themselves on the cusp of the two and tend to relate to both. (In general, Gen-Z ends around 2012, but this may change as people born around this time grow to identify with Gen Z or the next generation-Generation Alpha-more.)
For example, Gen Z considers themselves:
Meanwhile, millennials prioritise fair pay in the workplace, seek stability in their personal and professional lives, and are perceived as more optimistic because they were raised during the 1990s economic boom. Millennials recognise the importance of diversity and inclusion in the workplace, but they have not been as vocal or passionate as Generation Z.
As someone born in 1997, I can reflect on the differences and how difficult it has been for me to identify with one generation or the other. Growing up, I could relate to millennials because I spent a lot of time with my millennial cousins, but I realised that I was too young to fully understand the millennial experience.
Meanwhile, when I spend time with my younger Gen Z cousins, I feel out of touch with certain Gen Z trends (like using Snapchat and other visual mediums as a primary form of communication) but also find myself partaking in some trends (like Gen Z slang), too.
Although I continue to struggle with which generation I identify with, this is not a sole struggle. It is normal for those who are born at the beginning of a new generation and towards the end of an old generation to relate to both in a way that others may not. I also think people like myself can provide an interesting life perspective, and we may even consider ourselves in category outside of both generations.
Nevertheless, the diversity of Gen Z outside of the workplace has started to make its impact inside the workplace as Gen Zers enter the workforce.
We've seen that Generation Z is the most diverse generation yet, and as a result, Gen Z expects their employers to reflect their diversity. Employers are held to a high standard.
An ideal Gen Z workplace is one in which employers want to not only understand their employees' needs for a diverse and inclusive workplace, but also to put them into action in real time.
According to a recent Monster survey, 83% of Gen Z individuals value an employer's commitment to diversity and inclusion when deciding where to work. Another survey found that 75% of Gen Z would reconsider applying to a company if they were dissatisfied with their diversity and inclusion efforts.
Gen Z has inspired companies, especially hiring managers and HR departments, to realize the power of diversity and inclusion in the workplace in four major ways:
Companies are always trying to find new ways to keep their employees’ productivities high and their profits consistent. They have found success doing so by introducing a diverse and inclusive culture in the workplace. McKinsey & Company reported that organizations that were more culturally and ethnically diverse were 33% more likely to exceed their industry associates. Also, those with a more “gender-diverse” executive team were 21% more likely to result in exceptional profitability compared to competitors.
Companies must continue to realize that employees feel more productive in a diverse and inclusive workplace, and a more productive environment will then lead to higher profitability.
Profits are not–and should not be–the only benefit you seek from making a workplace more diverse, though.