The Gen Z Effect at Work: What it is and Why You Should Care

The population in the US is aging. The economy remains strong. Employers are hungry for talent. And younger workers are leveraging social media to extend their influence. According to a piece in Forbes by Tracy Brower, these factors have combined to produce what she calls “the Gen Z effect.” What is it?

  • A greater emphasis on meaningful work. Although people of all ages want to do work that’s important to them, more than a third of Gen Z ranks this value as their top priority. (Meanwhile 1 in 4 list not finding such work as one of their top worries!)
  • Job security and economic prosperity. Gen Z may want to do good, but they also want to do well! Many remember the 2008 financial crisis and/or the pandemic shutdown. They have also seen young entrepreneurs and influencers garner extraordinary wealth. 
  • Work-life balance. Gen Z is ambitious, but they don’t want to repeat workaholic patterns they’ve seen among their parents’ or grandparents’ generations. Instead, they’re ready to work hard, but they expect to be able to draw boundaries to preserve space for personal and family lives.
  •  Personal and professional growth. Gen Z wants a path forward. They expect employers to recognize their talent, and they’re ready to take it elsewhere if they don’t experience sufficient support or see growth opportunities. 

So what? If you’re Gen Z, this may all seem like common sense. Good news! Many employers are working to adapt to your priorities because they want you to join their teams and stay for a while when you do: This, in fact, is the Gen Z effect at work. At the same time, you’ll probably find it useful to remember that the “generation gap” can be real. Some older workers may find your outlook unusual insofar as it differs from what they remember early in their careers. Some will experience your arrival as change, and not everyone will welcome it. Diversity of age is a feature of today’s workforce, and it’s likely to persist as healthy lifespans increase and some seniors delay retirement. By all means stand up for your convictions! And also recognize that you’ll need to draw on Gen Z’s remarkable capacity to work across difference while you do.

By Damon Yarnell
Damon Yarnell Dean of Student and Global Advancement