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New kids on the block: Gen Z joins the workforce

By Jenna Shackelford, posted 2 weeks ago
What can be expected of Gen Z as they enter into the workforce? MIKHAiL NILOV/PEXELS

Referred to as the graying of America, in 2018, the United States Census projected that by 2034, the number of older adults in the country would outnumber children for the first time in the nation’s history; what does that mean for the rising workforce?

Depends on who you ask. In a Reuters op-ed called “Finding the bright side in a graying U.S. workforce,” the future looks bleak as the author predicts that, for older adults, discrimination will become more common, and more older people will be laid off and will retire, hurting the workforce.
But then again, an article from Marketplace called “America is graying — but that’s not such a bad thing” argues that longer life expectancies will lead to more older adults working, rather than retiring at 65.
Regardless, the historic shift in the population of the Baby Boomer generation as the majority has created an exciting opportunity to welcome in young entrepreneurs to learn the ropes from people long-acquainted with business.
This scenario begs the question – what in the world does that look like?
First of all, let’s define the terms. Although some sources disagree on exactly when Generation Z starts and the Millennial generation ends, from 1995 to 2010 is a generous bracket of time (and one adopted by McKinsey & Company) that is typically associated with Gen Z. Under that definition, the oldest people in Generation Z are now 27 years old. 

Millennials are people who were born between 1980 to 1994. Gen Xers are people who were born between 1960 and 1979. Baby Boomers are those born between 1940 to 1959.
Those brackets of time may be confusing to some as millennials have often been referred to as an even younger generation in pop culture. So, what really are the characteristics of Gen Z?

Pew Research Center found that Gen Z is more likely to be educated than previous generations.
“They are less likely to drop out of high school and more likely to be enrolled in college. Among 18-to 21-year-olds no longer in high school in 2018, 57% were enrolled in a two-year or four-year college. This compares with 52% among Millennials in 2003 and 43% among members of Gen X in 1987,” a summary of
the research said.
Moreover, people who are Gen Z are more likely to have a college-educated parent than people from other generations thus far. “In 2019, 44% of Gen Zers ages 7 to 17 were living with a parent who had a bachelor’s degree or more education, compared
with 33% of Millennials when they were the same age,” PRC reported. “Both of these trends reflect the overall trend toward more Americans pursuing higher education.”

Although people in the generation are more likely to be educated, they aren’t necessarily as likely to be working in their teen years and as young adults. “Only 18% of Gen Z teens (ages 15 to 17) were employed in 2018, compared with 27% of
Millennial teens in 2002 and 41% of Gen Xers in 1986,” Pew Research reported. “And among young adults ages 18 to 22, while 62% of Gen Zers were employed in 2018, higher shares of Millennials (71%) and Gen Xers (79%) were working when they were
a comparable age.”

However, by 2030, Fortune predicts that Gen Z will make up 30 percent of the workforce.

· More diverse racially and ethnically
than previous generations
· Values education
· Many will have similar viewpoints to millennials.
· Sees societal and familial changes as good
· The first “digital natives”
· Pragmatic and financially minded
· Informed consumers

Millennials were often referred to as digital pioneers because of the constant evolution of technology in that generation. But those born into the Generation Z have lived with that fully-developed technology their whole lives, making them “digital natives.”
A Pew Research Center 2018 study showed that 95 percent “of 13- to 17-year-olds have access to a smartphone, and a similar share (97%) use at least one of seven major online platforms,” with Youtube, Instagram and Snapchat being some of

the more popular digital platforms.
Significantly less Gen Z individuals report to use Facebook. 

Deloitte reports that Gen Z will be less likely to want to be confined to typical workplace standards than past generations. “We think Gen Z will have the ability to demand greater personalization in how they move along their career journey,”
Deloitte reported. This makes sense. For a generation that has the world at its fingertips and is well-acquainted with easily accessible information, tools for communication, and apps that are conducive to efficiency, Gen Zers know how to do work on the go, at home, or in a typical workplace setting.

“For organizations to attract and retain the best and brightest of the generation, it will require a different mindset,” Deloitte said.
LinkedIn Workforce Confidence Index Research shows a stark contrast between workplace values from generation to generation with Generation Z wanting to find the most flexibility within a workplace. The organization surveyed 21,367 professionals who planned to leave their job or hoped to leave their job in the following six-month window. Eighty percent of Gen Z employees reported that they would like to find jobs where the leaders better align with their values; which can be compared to 47 percent of Baby Boomers who
believed the same.
The survey found: Seventy-six percent of Gen Z employees wanted more opportunities to learn or practice new skills compared to 36% of Baby Boomer employees; 76 percent of Gen Z employees wanted better compensation or benefits compared to 56 percent of Baby Boomers; 75 percent of Gen Z employees wanted to try a new industry or job function compared to 27 percent of Baby Boomers; 61 percent of Gen Z employees wanted opportunities for more responsibility or to grow in the company.
Overall, the data seems to indicate that values and perspectives on the workplace have shifted significantly from generation to generation. But nevertheless, Gen Z candidates seem to be making significant contributions in their respective positions. As demands for diversity, equity, and inclusion, new perspectives on fair compensation, and digital platforms take hold of the workforce in a way that hasn’t been seen before, Gen Z is uniquely and intrinsically positioned to take hold of new opportunities in the workforce and to meet those needs.

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