What should we expect from Generation Z?

Yes, we’ve analyzed Millennials ad nauseum. We know about their work habits, buying preferences, debt accumulation, political ideals and just about everything else. But what about those coming up behind them?

Who is Generation Z?

While the exact definitions are murky, so-called “Generation Z” (or sometimes “Centennials”) were born roughly between the mid-1990s and the mid-2000s. They are growing up totally comfortable with technology and social media. They were born or very young in a post-9/11 world, and their formative years were spent during the Great Recession and the current state of global uncertainty. These influences greatly shape who they are and their outlook.

According to the United States Census Bureau, Gen Z currently makes up 22 percent of the American population, and nearly outnumber both Millennials and Baby Boomers. They are the children of Generation X.

What will they look like when they enter the workforce?

A significant number of this generation show interest in entering the workforce without higher education, but are afraid to do so. Building on that, they are highly entrepreneurial. More than half of respondents to a worldwide survey indicated that they are interested in starting their own businesses. That figure rose to 76 percent in Africa and Europe.

Unlike their Baby Boomer grandparents, Generation Z faces uncertainty in job security. The survey found that job security and work-life balance were the top priorities for when members enter the workforce, followed closely by autonomy, creativity and dedication to a cause.

Because of the state of the world during their upbringing, members of this generation report more anxiety than Millennials about working. Just over half of Generation Z respondents reported that they will achieve a higher standard of living than their parents, down significantly from previous generations.

What can we expect from Generation Z?

Because this generation has grown up in such uncertainty, members tend to be much more risk-adverse and given to pragmatism. And because they have grown up entirely comfortable with technology, they are less likely to draw boundaries between work and life, so flexibility in the working environment is a must.

Gen Z also has higher salary expectations than previous workers. They expect to have a collaborative relationship with employers and managers, rather than a strict top-down hierarchy. But their pragmatism allows for their understanding that they will have to work harder to prove their value early on.

Putting it all together

What does all of this mean for employers who are about to start hiring members of Generation Z in entry-level positions? Overall, the outlook about these young self-starters is rosy. Their employers will generally find them, as a group, to be more driven and entrepreneurial than their predecessors who have started working in the past few years. Employers should plan to be more open-minded about work arrangements and should prepare to pay more for entry-level positions, but they’ll likely find this investment to pay off in the level of talent it will attract.

However, it’s also important to remember to take these prognostications with a grain of salt. By no means is every person born between 1995 and the early 2000s a self-starter with a great work ethic. They are, after all, very young and new to the workforce. With some freedom to learn and good mentorship opportunities, though, they have the potential to bring a positive new energy and innovative ideas to the workplace.

It’s not too late to instill a strong work ethic in the upcoming generation. Read our checklist on what you can do to raise kids with a great work ethic.

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