People Leadership

Helping Gen Z Find Their Place in the Workplace  

January 16, 2024

Meet Gen Z: Canada’s newest labour force 

Until recently, the focus in HR has been on Millennials entering the workforce and how to help them make the transition into their careers. But now that Millennials are the largest cohort working today, and many of them have moved into management positions, a new crowd of fresh recruits is taking their first steps into employment. Who are these young people? What do they want? How do you manage them? And how can your company make sure that it positions itself as an employer of choice for these up-and-comers? 

Let’s start by looking at what we should call this new wave of jobseekers and who they are. Gen Z, sometimes called Zoomers, represents people born after 1996, the oldest of whom are a few years into their careers, while the youngest are either just starting out or still a couple years away from entering the workforce. 

Predicting a generation’s future is a tricky proposition. As people age, their priorities change, and a generation comprises millions of diverse and unique individuals, so broad generalizations inevitably miss a lot of the nuances. That said, as technological, cultural, environmental, and political contexts change over time, so too do the people living through them, and while young people of any generation share some common traits, each successive cohort also brings something new in response to the changed world they grew up in. The present crop of working novices is thus the same and different than those who came before, and it’s both those similarities and differences that employers of all stripes need to understand. So, what is your plan to respond to the needs and preferences of Gen Z? 

Health and safety considerations for first-time employees 

Because first-time workers are often young, they are at a higher risk for workplace injuries due to their inexperience. If you have several young employees, consider implementing health and safety training focussed on their needs in addition to any safety training required in the jurisdictions your organization operates in. Our different training formats give you the option to support your young workforce’s development, so request a free demo if you’d like to learn more about our training courses. You should also have a Young Workers Safety Policy in place to ensure that all parties, including management, human resources, and more experienced staff, are aware of their roles and responsibilities in keeping new workers safe. The policy can be supported by a Young and New Workers Orientation Checklist to be used when onboarding young workers to guarantee your recruits get the information and guidance they need to work safely. 

Our online training course catalogue contains dozens of safety topics, and our digital library contains hundreds of policy templates. Start with a free demo of our WHMIS training offerings to see how HRdownloads saves organizations like yours time and money. 

Are you ready for Gen Z in the workplace?

Like their predecessors, Gen Z can seem like a bundle of contradictions. Studies suggest that many of them plan to start their own business someday or already engage in some form of self-employment, avoiding traditional jobs and career paths. On the other hand, studies have also suggested that Gen Z, having grown up watching their parents struggle through the Great Recession, are deeply concerned about their own financial prospects and crave stability and longevity in their careers. 

Another finding is that Gen Z seeks variety in their work. As a generation inundated with information and surrounded by constant diversion, they tend to look for novelty and change in their daily lives, and are daunted by the prospect of doing the exact same thing, all day and every day. They like to teach and to learn, and are hungry for new experiences and new challenges in all aspects of their lives. Consider polling your young workforce with a survey throughout their onboarding process. These surveys can be a great way to ascertain the sentiment of younger employees and can inform the organization’s overall sentiment analysis initiatives. 

Gen Z expectations in the workplace

Appealing to Gen Z is tricky. Research suggests they’re more distrustful of brands and establishments than Millennials and that they feel less dependent upon a job or career to define themselves. Companies should adjust their recruitment to focus on authenticity: instead of a slick, polished campaign, show Gen Z real employees talking about their everyday working experience. Demonstrate an honest and strong commitment to your larger community. Every organization, regardless of size and industry, is part of something more: an industry, a neighbourhood, a place. More connected than ever before, Gen Z wants to know how the work they do fits into the larger world. Use a Corporate Social Responsibility Policy to not only make your commitments explicit, but as a demonstration to prospective employees that you recognize the role you play in your community. Further, you can enable employees to take approved time off to perform volunteer work by implementing a Volunteer Policy (Paid Day Off). 

What do Gen Z want in the workplace? 

Gen Z wants you to talk to them in the ways they like best. Thankfully, this doesn’t mean keeping up with the latest social media slang. Simply communicating through multiple channels can be effective. Though one might expect Gen Z, with their ever-present smartphones, would always prefer electronic, text-based communication, studies reveal otherwise. Gen Z recognizes that some information is best conveyed by voice or in person and is not only comfortable with non-digital communication but prefers it in certain contexts. 

Brief or routine information is still ideally suited to e-mail, text, or messaging services, but difficult conversations and complex instruction may be better suited to in-person conversation. If you are uncomfortable with this type of interaction, consider taking our Handling Difficult Employee Conversations Training. Reach out to your youngest employees in a variety of media, and let them collaborate with you to find what works best and when. 

Gen Z employees in the workplace 

Gen Z has already entered the workforce, and millions more are coming. And while there are sure to be differences and challenges managing them compared to older colleagues, education, exposure, experience, and environment all play key roles in creating the ideal balance for the Gen Z workforce. With time and commitment, loyalty and professional success will follow them.

Our FREE Guide to Developing Leadership and Management Skills describes how to accomplish each of these steps with resources and effective strategies. Gen Z wants many of the same things as everybody else: stability, integrity, and opportunity. Be honest with and loyal to them, and you’ll see the same qualities reciprocated in their roles.