Meet America’s Newest Worker: Gen Z, from 1 to 10

graduatesAmerica’s high schools are graduating them, our colleges and trade schools are preparing them and soon we will be hiring them.

Meet Gen Z, the newest generation to step front and center into the American workforce … smartphone and earbuds in hand.

Born between 1994 and 2010, the Z generation ranges from approximately five to 20 years old. To find out more about the older members of Gen Z — those aged 16 to 20— Randstad US and Millennial Branding recently conducted a worldwide study to discern the workplace preferences of both Gen Z and Gen Y (21 to 32-year-olds).

The picture we unveiled of Gen Z members in the United States shows a group of caring, eager realists who are surprisingly interested in face-to-face communication and motivated by opportunities to share their ideas and learn from others. We’ve come to know these young people as our children, nieces, nephews and babysitters, but soon they will be our applicants, and the more we know about them, the better we can prepare for their arrival and become their employer of choice.

PREMIUM CONTENT: Implications of US Minimum Wage for Federal Contractors

Let’s take a closer look.

10 things to know about Gen Z

  1. Let’s talk. In person. Contrary to the assumption that younger workers want “constant connection” to technology, a majority (53 percent) of Gen Z respondents say the most effective way to communicate with their managers is in person, significantly more than the 19 percent who prefer email or the 10 percent who think instant messaging is effective.
  2. But let me wear headphones and make my workspace “my” space. Nearly half (45 percent) of the incoming workforce feels they do their best work when listening to music/wearing headphones, and 46 percent want to know they can personalize their work area.
  3. If you’re the leader, be honest. Take heed if you want to gain their respect and loyalty: Almost one-half (48 percent) of Gen Z members (and 52 percent of Gen Y members) say that honesty is the No. 1 quality of a good leader. The incoming generation has witnessed endless real and fictional stories of leaders behaving poorly, and they look for leaders who are truthful above those who exude confidence (44 percent) or have good communication skills (34 percent).
  4. But help me learn what to do. And please, listen to me too. When asked how their manager could best engage them to do their best work, members of Gen Z responded loudly (69 percent) that they want their supervisor to serve as mentor. They did, however, also ask that their managers listen to and value their opinions (69 percent).
  5. We care. And so should you. Future employers, take note: Nearly three-fourths (72 percent) of Gen Z members think it’s extremely important or important their employer gives back to the community. Twenty-two percent think giving back is somewhat important, and only 6 percent think it’s not important. So how can a company make the most impact? According to 41 percent of Gen Z members, the most impactful way an employer can support the community is to create new jobs locally (only 22 percent of Gen Y members hold the same opinion).
  6. We’re headed for medium-size companies.And we might want to be the boss. Only 15 percent of Gen Z members want to work for large organizations of 1,000 or more employees. The demographic is most inclined to medium-size companies of 100 to 1,000 employees (37 percent), and 25 percent want to work for smaller firms with fewer than 100 employees. The idea of starting their own business and employing others is appealing to 14 percent (whereas only 8 percent of Gen Y members report the same ambition).
  7. We turn to our parents over friends for career advice. Over one-half (54 percent) of Gen Z members say their parents influence them most when making career decisions (whereas parents don’t count for much in Gen Y members’ eyes, with only 16 percent of Gen Y members saying their parents are a primary influencer).
  8. Money is not the most important thing.We’ll work for opportunity. When asked what incentive would motivate them to work harder and remain with their employer, a solid one-third (34 percent) pointed to opportunities for advancement. Money came in second place at 28 percent, and another 28 percent said meaningful work is most important. (Note: For Gen Y, money is clearly the most important motivator at 42 percent).
  9. We don’t prefer to work in corporate offices, but we’re flexible. Only 16 percent of Gen Z members aspire to work in a corporate office, but the largest percentage (38 percent) have no preference of work location. One-fourth (26 percent) feel they collaborate best in a co-working environment and 20 percent think a home office is best (compared to only 11 percent of Gen Y members).
  10. Here’s what we think about ourselves … we’re realists! When assessing their own generation’s stereotypes, Gen Z members turned in a realistic report card, grading themselves as being creative (58 percent), bringing new perspectives and ideas (49 percent) and remaining open minded (48 percent). But with a nod to being honest, the youngest workforce also thinks they have a touch of laziness (51 percent) and lack focus and can be easily distracted (48 percent).

Framing the picture
Because generations are increasingly separated along narrower age bands, managers frequently juggle the needs and preferences of four or even five distinct demographics who work side by side. But by studying this picture of our newest workforce, we can effectively frame our recruitment and retention strategies to best attract, motivate and work with Gen Z members, who are coming our way soon.

For more information on Randstad’sGen Z study, visit:

MORE: Make the most out of a multi-generational workforce


Jim Link

Jim Link
Jim Link is chief HR officer, North America, at Randstad.

Jim Link

Share This Post


Related Articles

Powered by ·