- Gen Z is the youngest generation in the workforce.
- Brad Bartlett worked with Gen-Z college students for five years, as an admissions counselor.
- He describes what learned about what they want from employers.
Gen-Z workers get a bad rap in the workplace — but the reality is that they are an incredible asset. You just need to learn how they thrive.
I graduated from college with a communications degree 12 years ago. Once I stepped into the real world, I was ready to chase my dreams and land a job in journalism or broadcasting.
Sadly, I found few jobs available in my field. Wanting to save up for an apartment and an engagement ring, I took the first job I could snag.
I worked with Gen-Z college students in Missouri from 2012 to 2019 — first as an admissions representative at Southwest Baptist University, then as the assistant director of admissions at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.
But I didn’t expect to learn so much about Gen Z — who are so often misunderstood in the workplace.
One of my favorite parts of the job was overseeing a team of admissions ambassadors — all college students working part-time between classes. I oversaw their schedules, worked with them on college visit trips, and made calls to prospective students with them.
I got to know these Gen-Z students pretty well. I learned about their likes and dislikes, hopes and dreams, and what they expected from the workplace as they moved from college into the job market.
Gen Z isn’t so different from other generations. They want to be respected, valued, heard, and do meaningful work that makes a difference.
Yet too many managers see them as entitled, lazy, and uninterested in their work.
If you manage Gen-Z employees, here are a few things they wish you knew about them as they navigate the modern workforce:
1. They’re used to instant gratification — but they aren’t selfish or entitled
Gen Z grew up in a world of instant gratification. With the click of a button, they can order a car ride, food, or new clothes. They’re used to getting what they want when they want it.
In the workplace, they expect tasks to be completed quickly and efficiently. Gen Z doesn’t want to wait for a response for days or weeks — they want answers now.
Not receiving a quick response can be easily interpreted as disinterest or anger — and cause them to disengage.
However, Gen Z is far from entitled. They know the value of hard work and are willing to put in the effort to get the job done right. They just expect to be given the same level of urgency in return.
I think the way to keep your Gen-Z employees engaged is to be responsive to their requests. If they need information or clarification on a project, get back to them as soon as possible.
2. They’re used to working in teams — but they also know how to work independently
At school, Gen-Z students are used to working in teams bouncing ideas off of their peers, and getting feedback from multiple people.
From my experience working with them, they do well in team settings but know how to get work done independently. They’ll likely take initiative and complete tasks without much supervision.
You just have to trust them — and verbally let them know.
If you have a Gen-Z employee who is struggling to work independently, try giving them some structure. Give them clear deadlines and expectations, and the freedom to complete the task as they see fit.
3. They’re tech-savvy — but they still crave human interaction
Many people assume that because Gen Z is the most tech-savvy generation, they don’t crave human interaction.
Yes, Gen Z is the first generation to grow up with smartphones, and knows how to use them better than anyone else. But that doesn’t mean they don’t crave human interaction. Many Gen Zers feel more isolated than ever because of their reliance on technology.
In the workplace, I’ve noticed they appreciate managers checking in with them in person and via email or text.
If you want to build a strong relationship with your Gen-Z employees, communication is key. Check in with them regularly, and make an effort to connect with them on a personal level.
4. They’re independent — but they still need guidance
Gen Zers are used to doing things on their own. They’re independent, self-sufficient, and resourceful.
They don’t need their hand held — but they still appreciate guidance from their managers.
They want to be given the freedom to do their job, but they also want to know that someone is there to support them if they need it.
If you have a Gen-Z employee who is struggling, try giving them some space. Let them know you’re available if they need help, but don’t hover over their shoulder. They’ll appreciate the chance to figure things out on their own.
5. They’re adaptable — but they still need stability
Gen Zers grew up in a constantly evolving world, and they’re used to adapting to new situations.
They’re comfortable with change — but they still crave stability.
If you’re going through a period of change in your company, I think they’d appreciate being kept in the loop.
Let them know what’s happening and what you expect from them. Try to maintain as much stability as possible, and provide them with the support they need to adjust to any changes.
6. They can be goofy — but their ideas are world-changing
The Gen Zers I worked with could be quick to crack a joke and didn’t take themselves too seriously. But this means they can be perceived as aloof or unprofessional.
Don’t let their sense of humor fool you, they’re also world-changers.
Gen Z is driven by a desire to make a difference in the world and coming up with innovative ideas.
If you want to get the best out of your Gen-Z employees, give them the freedom to be themselves. Encourage them to share their ideas, and don’t dismiss their suggestions just because they seem silly at face-value.