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Gen Z: A new influence in the workforce

Gen Z is arriving in the US workplace and bringing some markedly different attitudes.

New research by Nintex shows that Gen Z, shaped by the Great Recession a decade ago, has different goals and concerns from those of Millennials and Gen X. Gen Zers are natively tech-savvy, highly collaborative, and extremely pragmatic in their approach to technology. Employers should heed these differences to maximize Gen Z’s potential to contribute to their companies.

The findings come from two recent Nintex surveys. One included 500 current and 500 soon-to-be U.S.-based Gen Z employees (aged 23 or younger in April 2019), the other 500 U.S. business decision-makers directly involved in selecting or helping their organizations select and implement new technologies.

The findings are presented in our new eBook: The Gen Z Effect on the U.S. Workplace.

College, debt, and career paths

Regarding college, nearly two-thirds of the Gen Z survey group said they chose their major based on personal interest, not because it prepares them for a particular job. Only 8% chose their major for its long-term earning potential, though 29% said they considered the state of the economy.

Economics are an overarching factor for Gen Z. Some 6 of 10 Gen graduated with debt. They’re aware of rising living costs in major cities. And they fear a fear a major economic downturn like the one they watched their parents struggle with 10 years ago.

Workplace preferences and habits

That leads Gen Zers to prefer workplaces where they can put down roots and grow, not job-hop as much as Millennials did. Some 60% of Gen Zers said they expect to remain at their first job past the one-year mark, and of those, 71% plan to stay past the two-year mark. More than half said they’ll expect a promotion within a year of starting their first job – an expectation driven more by their economic concerns than by entitlement.

Gen Z is optimistic about the potential of AI and automation to simplify work, our survey found. Nearly nine out of 10 see AI and automation making their jobs easier. But at the same time they fear these same technologies could threaten their jobs. Some 57% said they are concerned about AI and automation affecting their job security, and 23% are very concerned.

Gen Z’s facility technology is already a strong plus in the workplace. Some 81% said they’d been asked to fix a tech problem by their manager, with almost one-third of this group saying this happens “extremely frequently.” Facing an app or computer glitch at work, 48% submit a formal IT request; most attempt to solve the problem themselves (by Googling or trial-and-error) or ask a colleague for help.

Nearly three-quarters (72%) of the decision-makers we surveyed agreed that, “In general, Gen Z employees are more tech-savvy than me.” An even higher share – 80% — said their company has adopted a technology or tool because it was suggested or requested by a Gen Z employee.

A consequence of Gen Z’s comfort with tech is that they don’t like to settle for second-best. Facing a choice between the app their company provides and another they know will most effectively handle the task, 79% said they’d go with their choice, not the company’s. They know from daily life that if one app doesn’t measure up, there are many others to take its place.

Do meaningful work, grow, and be rewarded

Gen Z are enthusiastic users of collaboration tools such as Google Docs, GroupMe and Facebook Messenger. Some 94% said they used (or currently use) these tools frequently to complete class assignments. But a majority – 55% — said they preferred (or prefer) individual assignments over group work in college.

Gen Z cares deeply about their work environment. After salary, Gen Z ranked company culture, values, and reputation as the most important factors in selecting their first job. Gen Z ranked factors like work flexibility, potential for new learning, and work-life balance lower on their list.

And by the way, Gen Z wants face time, not FaceTime: 90% of those surveyed said they want in-person, not virtual, meetings with their managers. Most prefer a weekly cadence.

Nintex’s research findings provide strong support for the idea that employers should create conditions where Gen Zers can do meaningful work, grow, and be rewarded. To retain these workers, managers must invest in Gen Z’s career growth, cultivate cultures of continuous improvement, and utilize AI and automation as tools for empowerment. If they do, Gen Z won’t disrupt the workforce so much as they’ll quietly elevate it.

 

Download the eBook here: The Gen Z Effect on the U.S. Workplace.

 

Warren Wilson

Warren Wilson is Sr. Manager of Corporate Communications at Nintex. He works directly with news reporters and industry analysts worldwide to share the value of the Nintex Platform and is responsible for leading and developing the company’s thought leadership content. Before Nintex, Warren was an analyst with London-based Ovum, primarily covering enterprise application suites, and a journalist with several US newspapers.