It's a tale as old as time: A new generation comes of age and ushers in a set of standards that push current norms squarely into outdated territory. Generation Z—or, anyone born between the late 1990s through the 2010s—has opened the eyes of their elder millennials to a number of ways in which they're “doing it wrong,” from how they dress to how they emoji to how they part their hair.
While some of these culture shifts are easier to accept than others (Team Side-Part-For-Life!), adapting to change can be uncomfortable, especially when it comes to how young workers comport themselves in professional settings (as detailed in a recent New York Times article, which boldly stated "The 37-Year-Olds Are Afraid of the 23-Year-Olds Who Work for Them"). However, with that discomfort comes—perhaps long overdue—progress, including a greater focus on mental health, work-life balance and forward movement on issues like diversity and inclusion.
“Gen Z is driving companies to change workplace practices and standards, and pushing back on the idea that work stress is a given,” says Kathy Sheehan, senior VP of Cassandra, a division of ENGINE. “In fact, work stress, in the eyes of Gen Z, is their employers’ problem to deal with on their behalf.”
This month, we caught up with members of the Amp community to see how the youngest cohort of workers are pushing boundaries and standards for how we work, and how we should be doing it better.
The value of values
“It used to be that you were lucky to have a job—Gen Z is flipping that sentiment on its head and feel their job is lucky to have them,” says Sheehan, who is a Gen Xer. “They are much more comfortable in bringing their raw authenticity to the workplace and leaving jobs that won’t provide space for all of their identities.”
As post-millennial members of the workforce begin to fill offices and Zoom conference spots, the tide of office culture is shifting, making space for the values Gen Z sees as not only important but non-negotiable. The emphasis placed on authenticity is one that advertisers should understand, some say. “We see the value in human emotion, at least from a business standpoint,” says millennial Kelsey Hickok, content manager at Bandolier. “The acceptance that we are all human beings rather than cogs in the system is priceless.”
As the demographic makeup of teams skews more and more toward the younger end of the spectrum, businesses are facing pressure to prioritize values like mental health, diversity and inclusion, a sense of community and, generally, work practices that prioritize the people carrying out the work. “Gen Z is a generation driven by their values and personal morals,” says millennial Jessica Romaniuk, president at Two by Four in Chicago. “There is a sense of fearlessness and tenacity attached to this generation that makes it impossible to gloss over or disregard their concerns.”
According to a recent Monster.com survey, 83% of Gen Z candidates ranked diversity and inclusion as a priority when choosing an employer—and when their share of the workforce is only set to grow (currently hovering around 20%), that should matter to every employer with an interest in attracting talent.
“It’s interesting to see not just the generational workforce shifts but the nuanced differences when we layer in workforce impacts from Gen Z communities of color,” says Gen Xer Marissa Nance, CEO and founder of Native Tongue. “There is a tangible mindset for these workers that almost dares a company to lack a transparent DE&I strategy and practices. They look beyond the next cubicle and into the highest board rooms for representation and understanding, and have zero fear in holding those in charge accountable.”