Understanding Generation Z's Workplace Challenges

There’s no denying that the younger generation is now an integral part of the workforce, and soon they will be shaping the future of our company. With their unique values, strong digital literacy skills, comfort with online platforms, and diverse viewpoints, the presence of Generation Z (Gen Z) is felt. Born between the mid-1990s and early 2000s, they are the first generation of digital natives, exposed to numerous innovations and capable of generating exciting ideas. However, the generation gap between them and older colleagues can lead to differences in mindset and expectations, posing challenges for companies.  

This generation places a significant emphasis on work-life balance and seeks purposeful work, aligning with the growing demand for flexible and meaningful workplaces. As they are expected to represent 27% of the workforce by 2025, employers, HR professionals, and colleagues from older generations must consider how to bridge this gap and harness their ideas and enthusiasm to create a thriving workplace. The question arises: Are companies prepared for this impending change? 

Like any other changes, it's important to understand the challenges they are facing to identify strategies to effectively manage Gen Z in the workplace. Below, we've listed some obvious challenges that this generation is facing. By understanding some of these, we can create strategies for fostering productive work environments. 

1. Gen Z's struggle with professional connections and experience

Gen Z faces challenges in building professional connections and gaining experience due to their digital upbringing and limited exposure to traditional networking methods. Many started working during the pandemic, missing out on face-to-face interactions and industry events, leaving them feeling inexperienced compared to older generations. To address this challenge, companies can introduce mentorship programs and virtual networking events to support Gen Z's professional growth.  

2. Gen Z's confidence tempered by anxiety

Despite apparent confidence, Gen Z often grapples with higher levels of anxiety compared to previous generations. According to a survey by McKinsey, an astounding 55% report having either been diagnosed with or received treatment for mental illness, compared with 31% of people aged 55 to 64 reporting the same. This anxiety stems from various factors specific to the professional environment, such as the pressure to excel in a competitive setting, uncertainty about career advancement, and the constant digital connection that fosters comparison and fear of missing out. Companies can create supportive work environments by prioritizing mental health resources and promoting open communication.  

3. Gen Z's expect for higher salary and more

Starting their careers amid rising living costs, Gen Z often expects higher pay and better benefits. A study by Handshake found that 72% of undergraduates say they're more likely to apply for a job if it offers a high starting salary. However, companies might struggle to meet these expectations due to budget constraints, leading to disagreements over pay and benefits. Navigating this, companies can explore alternative compensation forms, transparently communicate financial constraints, and ensure the offered salary aligns with job descriptions and market standards. Providing clear justification based on responsibilities, qualifications, and market value can mitigate disagreements over pay.  

4. Gen Z prefers hybrid work

The pandemic accelerated the shift towards remote work, and Gen Z has grown accustomed to the flexibility and autonomy it provides. According to Gallup’s quarterly survey, 65% of remote-capable Gen Z employees reported they preferred to work in a hybrid environment. They may prioritize companies that offer remote work options or flexible schedules, posing challenges for organizations that rely on traditional office-based models. This underscores the importance of companies adapting their policies and workplace environments to accommodate the preferences of the emerging workforce.  

5. Gen Z multitasking and digitally distracted

Constant exposure to technology and digital devices has made Gen Z adept at multitasking but also susceptible to distractions. In the workplace, this can manifest as difficulty focusing on tasks, lower productivity, and challenges in prioritizing work responsibilities. Implementing focused work sessions and encouraging the use of productivity tools can help Gen Z employees combat digital distractions and improve their ability to prioritize tasks effectively.  

6. Gen Z's expectations for dynamic office environments

Gen Z's preference for a transformative workspace environment experience has been influenced by their exposure to diverse work settings and innovative design concepts. They seek dynamic office spaces that foster creativity, collaboration, and well-being, with adaptable layouts, inspiring aesthetics, and amenities that promote productivity and employee engagement. This shift in expectations poses challenges for traditional office setups and highlights the importance of creating vibrant and flexible work environments that resonate with Gen Z's values and aspirations.  

These challenges may already be evident within your company, or they may not have surfaced yet. Nevertheless, acknowledging and addressing these issues is crucial in preparing Generation Z for success. Whether our solutions or your own strategies are employed, it's imperative to recognize that Generation Z is not just the future—they're here now. Engaging in meaningful dialogue, actively listening, and understanding their motivations are essential steps in ensuring their success. By taking proactive measures to address their needs and aspirations, we can empower Generation Z to thrive in the workplace and contribute meaningfully to our organization and society.