Gen Z in the Workplace

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There was a great discussion, and at times, debate, on #TChat last week, all about Generation Z and the workplace.  It feels like we just learned about Gen Y and how to engage them in the workplace, and it’s already time to prepare for Gen Z!

Most people consider Gen Z, also called “Digital Natives”, to be those young people born around the mid 1990s to the mid 2000s.  They are the first generation to be born into a completely digital age, hence the name “digital natives”.

Before I get into some research and predictions around this next generation, let me say this: I don’t believe in generalizing an entire generation.  I have worked with amazing Gen Yers who had work ethic in spades, with Gen Xers who weren’t latchkey kids who depended on mom for many things, and with Boomers who know more about computers than I ever will (I’m a Gen Xer).  However, there are bound to be some trends as different generations are brought up through such different social, economic, and technological times.

Intro to Gen Z

Gen Z’s most formative years have seen America attacked by terrorists, people losing jobs and homes in a severe economic recession, and the first black President of the United States. They have seen the power of social media in creating superstars and taking down governments. They have computers in their classrooms and many have their own websites or at least Facebook pages by age 10. Gen Zers have a benefit that Gen Yers missed: Their parents – mostly Gen X – were already adept at navigating social media, had seen mistakes made, and are more prepared to coach their kids through that space strategically.

Now for a few predictions and suggestions for the workplace.

Recruitment Efforts

If you’re not going social, you’re not going to get the best talent. Building a community around your brand and its values will help to engage these new workers. They were born on Facebook, quite literally. Use Youtube, use humour, go viral with your recruitment efforts.

Organizational Culture

Posting your company culture statement on the wall and preaching it to your employees never worked, but as time goes on, it continues to be less and less effective. Your employees, your customers, your business partners, are all talking about you. Publicly. If you’re not living up to the words on your poster, they will know. It will become more and more important for companies to build positive, transparent, and trusted cultures in order to attract talent.

Types of Jobs

By 2019, when Gen Zers are hitting the workplace, they will be working jobs that we never heard of or could imagine, even in the year 2011.  Contract work will be the new normal.  Multi-tasking will also be more prevalent – and more productive. Gen Y is the first generation who actually can multitask effectively, as shown in recent studies. Gen Z will be even more adept at paying attention and working productively at more than one thing at a time. They will expect it, and will be bored if they don’t get it.


It will finally be time to do away with Diversity departments and initiatives. For these workers, Diversity is a given. If you have to focus on it, you don’t get it yet. And they won’t get you. Gen Z will expect that everyone has a voice regardless of opinion, socio-economic background, or race.


Gen Zers don’t quite have the entitlement mentality often associated with Gen Y. Their parents, while protective and micro-managing, saw the effects of the Trophy generation and are trying to resist it. But Gen Zers will still expect to be involved. They see sharing and collaboration everywhere, from social media sharing to Taylor Swift partnering with T-Pain.

Social and Technology at Work

By 2019, forms of social networking for collaboration on projects and recognition will be a given. HR needs to get involved now, or be left in the dust. Innovative companies are employing internal blogs, newsfeeds, e-recognition, and socially networked performance management to align everyone towards the same goals. Check out companies and applications like Rypple, TribeHR, Careerify, Yammer and Achievers for examples of this type of technology. Email is not as popular with this generation. Texting, IM’ing, and Facebook is how they communicate.


Learning will need to be byte-sized and bite-sized. I picture Gen Zers with the iPhone 23S, scanning QR codes to watch a bite-sized video of learning they need, just in time to complete work. I picture them collaborating in building training, adding to Wikis to build content.


Gen Zers are used to communicating by text and in status updates on Facebook profiles. They are used to brevity. They may need additional training and coaching in business communication and grammar. Some say their propensity to blog will make them better at written communication, but I have to disagree. The form of communication in a blog is often not grammatically correct, and often times may not be entirely appropriate in business. Although, by the time Gen Zers are running the business world, that will likely change too.

It’s hard to say whether these predictions will come to fruition. We’ll know in about 10 years. In any case, I’m excited to see the impact Gen Z will have, and how the workplace will change. What do you think?

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Pam Ross

Pam Ross

Pam is a Canadian HR leader who has led teams in operations and across HR disciplines. Working in large organizations, Pam has partnered with and coached senior leaders to develop catalytic change that drives employee engagement and customer experience. Her passion for this type of work has led her to start her own business,, with a mission to improve the CanadianPam Ross Consulting customer experience, one company at a time. She is accomplishing this through: speaking to inspire action; developing people programs with impact; and consulting and coaching team leaders. Pam is also the Co-Producer of Impact99, Canada's Social Business + Social HR conference.She is driven to make a difference and has led several community programs in her home town of Hamilton, and has worked hands-on in the efforts to rebuild New Orleans. She loves scary movies, technology, and her dog Piper.


  1. Right on, Pam. These are critical points for any generation — especially Generation Now as I happily espouse. But, multitasking is a myth, at least as it relates to actually being more focused and productive. 😉

    1. Hi Kevin and Pam, in my understanding, Multi-tasking is really about accommodating many different types of tasks smoothly, and prioritizing easily and “in the flow” as opposed to a static structure. I agree that true multitasking is a myth since we only have the ability to focus on one thought, sight, sound, smell, etc, at a time (even if only for a second at a time – we are actually switching our focus).

      Since Gen Y & Gen Z grew up with ‘sound bytes’, this is how they like to think and act as well. It also makes their information exposure broad rather than deep, but also easier to influence their peers. In order to gain depth of knowledge, Gen Y & Gen Z employees will need to physically experience their tasks and see recognition for this focus.

      I expect this really will change the work environment – thanks heavens!

      Thanks for the great post, Pam.

      1. @viravani Interesting philosophy on how multitasking works. And I’m with you – I’m anticipating interesting changes to the work environment! Exciting!!

    2. @KevinWGrossman I love your Generation Now philosophy. As for multitasking, I recently read a study (I think by HBR – I will try to find it) that found that Gen Yers are the first generation to effectively, productively multitask. I know I used to think I could multitask but even after years of practice, my Gen X mind is much better when focused!

  2. Thanks Pam! Not only did you provide great information about GenZ, you gave your vision for the future, and highlighted the value of participating in live Social Media Chats, such as #TChat! Also appreciate your recognition that these are potential trends as opposed to generalized statements.

    1. @cindyfsolomon Yes, twitter chats are a great source of inspiration! And it is important not to generalize. One of the hardest workers I have ever worked with was a Gen Yer, who worked longer hours than all of the boomers and Gen Y’ers put together!

  3. I really enjoyed this one, Pam. I have two daughters in this Gen Z (w/first one at college). I’ve seen first hand their communication methods and their willingness to collaborate. Those collaboration tools have also made it easier for them to advocate for themselves. They can be a powerful world-changing generation, but they will still struggle through some “entitlement” issues.

    And yes, recruitment and work/life balance will still be important factors in finding and grooming the right talent from this generation.

    1. @dbvickery you’re right – the collaborative nature of this generation is a great benefit, and it’s great to see! I think this will help them to lead awesome, positive change. I can’t wait to see what they’re capable of.

  4. Thanks for commenting! I agree – the collaborative nature of this generation is a great benefit and great to see! I think there will be amazing things coming from this generation…

  5. I really enjoyed your article-informative and interesting. Being a Boomer, I learned quite a bit from your article and it gave me a different perspective and appreciation for Gen Zers.


    1. @Rick Lane I’m so glad you learned something from it, Rick! There definitely can be some friction between the behaviours of these Digital Natives and boomers. There’s a lot that all generations can learn from each other.

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