Gen Z in the workplace: how technology can increase happiness at work

Gen Z: the generation of quiet quitting and job hopping? For employers, ensuring you’re aware of the struggles, priorities, and technological requirements of this generation is crucial to keeping a healthy portion of your workforce happy—and interested in still coming to work.

With the rise of Gen Z in the workplace, we can’t ignore the needs of this population.

Let’s look at what Gen Z is, how they compare to other generations, the advantages and disadvantages of hiring Gen Zers, and how this technologically advanced generation can be kept happy and productive in the workplace.

What is Gen Z?

Gen Z is the population born between 1997 and 2012. In terms of birth years, they’re sandwiched between the Millennial generation (1981 – 1996) and Generation Alpha (2010 – present day). Gen Zers have many nicknames, but the most common is “The Internet Generation”, as they’re the first generation to have been born with the internet in full swing.

Gen Z makes up 30% of the world’s population and is on track to make up 27% of the workforce by 2025. This means knowing the ins and outs of this population as employees is imperative for employers who want to attract and retain talent. 

How are Gen Z workers different from other generations?

If attracting and retaining Gen Z talent is a priority for you—and we think it should be—then knowing the difference between Gen Z and their generational counterparts in the workplace is the first step.

Let’s look at some key values of the Baby Boomer, Gen X, and Millennial generations.

Baby Boomers (1946-1964)

Baby Boomers are a generation of “workaholics”. Due to the ‘boom’ of this population entering the workforce all at the same time, they had to compete for the minimal amount of positions available to them. This meant proving their value through hard work. They value stability, prestige, and status in the workplace—this is the generation known for working at a select few companies during the course of their career rather than job hopping.

Gen X (1965 – 1980)

Gen X is the generation of freedom and independence. They don’t want to be micromanaged and value being able to work independently. Growing up during a tumultuous time with the post-civil rights movement, they grew up valuing freedom, and bring these views into the workplace.

Millennials (1981 – 1996)

Millennials make up the majority of the current work population. They’ve moved from valuing careers above all else—like their Baby Boomer parents—to needing purpose in their lives. They value work/life balance and are willing to change employers to achieve this balance. They’re also a generation fighting for fair pay and pay equity; They’re not afraid to leave a job for higher pay somewhere else.

Key takeaway: According to PWC’s ‘Millenials at Work’ report, “The work/life balance has always been a priority for millennials and this year’s results reinforce that view, with 95% of respondents saying the work/life balance is important to them and 70% saying it’s very important”.

What are the priorities of Gen Z employees in the workplace?

Gen Z employees have a whole different breed of priorities in the workplace compared to previous generations. Although their values most closely resemble those of Millennials, they have the new intricacy of having to navigate the workplace during a global pandemic and recession—some of them for the first time. So let’s look at some priorities of Gen Z employees in the workplace.

Mental health at work

Coming of age in a time of severe political, economic, and general unrest, Gen Z employees prioritize their mental health over everything else. While salary is important, according to a recent U.S. survey, 42% of Gen Z employees value work/life balance and flexibility as their top priorities when looking for a job. They view work/life balance and flexibility in scheduling, health and sick leaves, and working location as ways to prioritize their mental health in the workplace. Unsurprisingly, a whopping 82% of surveyed respondents said that they want mental health days. And if they feel that their mental health is suffering due to a job? Well, Gen Z isn’t afraid to quit a job if it affects their mental well-being.

If hiring Gen Z employees is of priority for your company, establishing clear mental health support in the workplace can be a big selling factor. The flexibility to work from home, paid time off (PTO), and benefits for therapy will go a long way to attract this generation of talent.

Ethics, diversity, and inclusion at work

This is a generation that grew up with access to world events at their fingertips. They’re global citizens, future-minded, and more conscious consumers than previous generations. With recent global events like inflation, the housing crisis, severe climate change, and rising gun violence, they’re politically invested: and for them, that begins at work. 

Gen Zers value workplaces that prioritize ethics, diversity, and inclusion. In fact, 77% of surveyed Gen Zers consider it important that their companies support DEI policies. They want to see real change in the way their workplaces hire people and then support them through their time at that company. Whether that means having a DEI game plan or actionable strategies to reduce environmental waste, Gen Z is making sure that companies aren’t all talk. Companies need to practice what they preach or they risk being called out by their Gen Z employees.

You can attract and retain Gen Z workers by having a clear and actionable plan to invest in DEI that goes beyond just words. If your company doesn’t have a current plan, this would be a great opportunity to invite one of your current Gen Z employees to start one. Once you’ve put something together, ensure that it’s more than just a list of ideas. Create a living document that’s part of your onboarding process for new employees to review and sign, then house that document in a digital home (a virtual HR hub can help) so your team can regularly refer to it and keep you accountable.

Developing skills at work

Gen Z has been criticized for ‘job hopping’, meaning they don’t stay at a place of employment for long and hop from job to job. Although this can be problematic, we need to look at the root cause of job hopping. Feeling stagnant in their careers is one of the top reasons Gen Zers look for employment elsewhere, even over flexible hours and remote work. In fact, according to a study done by Enactus, the top three priorities for them were career advancement opportunities (95%), a manager they can learn from (93%), and professional development and training opportunities (91%). Gen Zers need a plan to advance in their careers, mentors who are going to help them get there, and opportunities to grow their skills. 

Even though they have a wealth of information at their fingertips and can learn and develop new skills through free online programs like Hubspot, Skillshare, and Udemy (to name a few), they value skill development on the job.

If you want to retain your Gen Z talent, have clear onboarding and a path for growth through the company with specific skills training and personal development they can’t find themselves on the internet. Unsure about what kind of career progression they may be looking for? Hold regular employee performance reviews and keep track of the info. Ask questions and explore internal opportunities, like training a team member on day manager tasks, or having them create and run a social media account for your business.

Gen Z struggles in the workplace

Now that we know their priorities, let’s take a look at the struggles with hiring Gen Z in the workplace. 

Job hopping

More than any generation before them, Gen Z workers job hop. According to Bankrate, 55% of employed Gen Zers are “very likely” to search for a new job in the next 12 months. There are many reasons why job hopping happens. Whether that’s job dissatisfaction, burnout, boredom, a higher salary offer, or room for growth elsewhere, job hopping can be a major issue for employers when hiring Gen Z in the workplace.

Gen Z can also be known for their lack of “loyalty” to their workplace and for being more self-interested. They’re much less likely than the generations before them to make work their whole identity. But this “lack of loyalty” and lack of using their career as an identifying feature can cause staffing shortages and retention problems for employers who employ a mostly Gen Z population, like the restaurant industry or retail industry. 

Mental health

Struggles with their mental health can play a big factor in retaining Gen Z employees in the workplace. Remember: many employees started or were early on in their careers during the pandemic. They’ve seen a global pandemic, civil unrest, and the beginning of a recession during their short working careers. It’s no wonder that they identify as the most stressed-out generation.

Burnout is real. Jobs are becoming more demanding of workers’ time and energy as the economy takes a hit and they need to cut back on staff. Add to the fact that there’s often a lack of support offered by companies and the government in terms of mental health days and paid sick days, and this can speed up that road to burnout.

Another factor to consider in mental health is the weight of financial stress, especially during the current rise of inflation that is outpacing salary growth. As mentioned, this generation of workers values work/life balance and flexibility as top priorities in their careers, so with ever-rising stress and not being able to achieve these priorities, they’re burning out fast: and burnout = quitting.

Key takeaway: Deloitte’s paper, ‘The Mental Health of Gen Zs and Millennials in the New World of Work’, suggests that 46% of respondents said they were stressed or anxious all of or most of the time. 

Quiet quitting

For Gen Z, hustle culture is out and quiet quitting is in. Quiet quitting is a term that was coined for Gen Z workers who are doing their jobs exactly as outlined. No more, no less. They have no interest in going above and beyond for a company unless they are compensated. Being a “workaholic” at the expense of their work/life balance is not appealing to this generation. 

The argument is that if a company isn’t going to go above and beyond for its staff –offering paid time off, overtime pay, or things like health and wellness plans– then why would they go above and beyond for the company? 

If employers want more from their Gen Z staff, they need to be offering incentives and reasons for staff to feel dedicated to their jobs. A simple fix to quiet quitting is offering employee appreciation rewards for staff that reach goals or gamifying work achievements.

The advantages of hiring Gen Z employees

Gen Zs entrepreneurial spirit can grow your company

With the evolution of technology and accessibility to audiences, Gen Zers are creating their own financial avenues, mostly online. Many are creating their own online brands, becoming influencers for popular services or products, or even moonlighting as freelancers during their off hours as they try to earn additional income doing something they excel at.

You can encourage your Gen Z employees’ entrepreneurial spirit and use it for company growth. This is a win/win scenario, as they get to use their creativity and drive while bringing invaluable ideas to your business. If you do offer additional opportunities for your team, like having them run a social media account, or design company emails or a newsletter, ensure you’re following all state and federal guidelines and that you have an agreement in place: for example, ensure you and your employee are both clear on if these are billable hours, and what happens if that puts them in overtime hours. 

Employers can and should encourage intrapreneurship amongst their Gen Z employees. According to Girls with Impact’s report, 65% of Gen Zers want to create something world-changing. How can you encourage them to do that within your company?

Gen Zs passion for diversity, equity and inclusion can develop new (and much-needed) inclusive policies

Gen Z is ready and willing to have the difficult conversations. Things that Baby Boomers and Gen Xers may have been afraid to discuss are completely on the table for Generation Z. By bringing these discussions to the workplace, companies are shifting their hiring policies, their work accommodations, and their views on work policy.

Gen Z is on the frontlines of advocating for diversity hiring. They’re also working on closing the gender pay gap. 

Unsurprisingly, Gen Zers in the workplace are expecting more of their employers when it comes to activism. In fact, 45% of Gen Zers want to work for a company that makes a positive difference in the world.

If a workplace is open and willing to allow these passionate workers to create change in their companies, they’ll not only retain Gen Zers, but they can change their corner of the world.

Gen Zs capabilities with all things technology can advance companies’ productivity and innovation

Gen Z has never seen a time when the internet didn’t exist. All of their learning and skill-building have been intrinsically linked to technology. While older generations can be hesitant to use technology in the workplace due to the high learning curve that can happen, Gen Z not only embrace technology fully, they’re constantly bringing new innovations to their working lives.

While having a smartphone attached to you at all points in time can be a detriment, it can also be used to your benefit in the workplace. With productivity apps, Zoom, AI tools, time clock apps, notes apps, team communication channels, and even scheduling calendars, workers can have their working world at their fingertips—and employers can have higher expectations that employees have seen various communications and schedules.

Having workers who are skilled with technology can help with accessibility, productivity, innovation, and less stress in the workplace.

How can you use technology in the workplace to increase Gen Z employee happiness?

We’ve learned that Gen Z value mental health and work/life balance and are at the forefront of technological advancements. So, how do we bring all of these factors together to increase Gen Z employee happiness?

Use technology as a communication tool

Using technology to communicate with your Gen Z staff can be a huge benefit to this generation that values mental health above all else.

  • Want to keep your finger on the pulse of your employees’ happiness? Use the shift feedback feature of Homebase. You can get instant feedback from staff on how their shift went and if there are tweaks you can make in the future to help make their shift easier. If you know your staff had a particularly difficult shift, you can give them a shout out as well so they feel supported. 
  • Make shift swapping and shift coverage easy by using a scheduling app like Homebase’s scheduling tool. Your staff can have ultimate transparency with their schedule because they will be notified of their shifts and any changes that happen after the schedule is posted. Staff can also request time off, submit changes to their availability, and easily ask to swap shifts. When staff can easily find a replacement for a shift if they’re sick or need a mental health break, it can relieve the stress of letting the team down.
  • Welcome and introduce new team members publicly by using that same team communication tool. Joining a new team can be nerve-wracking, but having a warm welcome through an app can be less intimidating than standing in front of a group of new faces. Your new team member can feel acknowledged but not put on the spot.

Being able to easily and openly communicate with their managers and their team can alleviate even more stressful situations for this stressed-out generation and increase their happiness at work.

Use technology to motivate and create healthy competition

TechnologyAdvice found that “54% of respondents indicated that they would be more likely or much more likely to perform a task if it had game elements”. You can use this to your advantage by motivating your staff through challenges and friendly competitions.

  • Using an app to gamify certain work aspects, such as the average bill total at a restaurant, can increase productivity and output. By making it a friendly competition, staff can attempt to outperform each other, bringing in higher profits while making it fun for everyone.
  • Creating a badge system for your employees to earn as they reach certain achievements can be a great motivator. There’s an app for that! Having badges your staff can earn can motivate them to reach that next level of accomplishment.
  • Shout out an employee’s achievement publicly, showing them and the team that you value hard work. Being publicly acknowledged for achievements can help people feel seen and valued, which increases retention.

Making work achievements fun through technology can make sure your staff feels valued for all of their hard work. Knowing that their managers and team members see them and their success can be incredibly validating.

Use technology to make their lives easier

Whether Gen Z or otherwise, the easier you can make your employees’ job, the better. By utilizing technology in the workplace, you can simplify tasks, leading to less burnout and stress in the workplace, and a more consistent workforce for you.

  • Allow for the latest technological advances. Because of Gen Zs’ comfort with tech and apps, they’ll be most likely to get the best use of new tools. Allowing Gen Z to use new tools in the workplace can increase their happiness as it shows you trust them to bring innovation to the company.
  • Use apps to make scheduling easier. Get rid of those old crumpled-up papers tacked up on a board and replace them with Homebase’s scheduling tool. Your employees have their schedule handy wherever they are, and can be notified immediately if a change needs to happen.
  • Use a time clock app that sends alerts to your employees so they don’t forget to clock in or out. They get paid for the hours they work, without needing you to constantly fix their timesheets. Plus, you can use geo-fencing, and GPS tracking to make sure they’re clocking in from the right place at the right time. As a bonus for you, snap photos at clock-in to avoid buddy punching.
  • Pay your employees quickly with innovative app technology. Not having to collect a check and deposit it can be a huge relief for this digital money generation. As an added bonus, if they find themselves in a bind before payday, Homebase has Cash Out which allows for early pay with no penalty. 

Gen Z in the workplace FAQS 

What is Gen Z?

Gen Z is the population that was born between the years of 1997 and 2012. They have distinct differences from other generations, but the big difference is they’re being raised during a fully formed digital age. They were the first generation to have access to the internet from birth. Because of access to technology, Gen Z is the most technologically advanced generation. But technology isn’t the only thing that defines Gen Z. They’re politically minded and active in making changes in the world to make it a better place.

Why will using technology in the workplace make Gen Z employees happier?

With Gen Z being the most skilled working generation with technology, they’re able to use it to make their lives easier. They also identify as the most stressed generation, which makes happiness hard, not only at work but in their everyday lives. Allowing Gen Zers to bring tech into the workplace will allow tasks to become easier, will allow for innovation and productivity, and will allow them to feel valued for their particular skills. 

How do I hire Gen Z employees?

Gen Zers are in search of more than just a paycheck. They want to work for companies that are interested in creating change, they want a career where they can grow, and they value mental health supports. When actively recruiting, place the steps your company is taking to support mental health at the forefront of your pitch. If you’re attending University job fairs, speak to social and climate changes you are supporting actively. Gen Z wants to work for employers that align with their priorities.

How do I retain Gen Z employees?

The best way to retain Gen Z employees is to prioritize their mental health in the workplace. They’ve stated time and time again that this is their biggest priority when it comes to their working lives. Acknowledging their struggles, adapting the workplace to help them navigate these struggles, allowing for tech aides, building in mental health days or sick time, developing DEI plans, and acknowledging their achievements can help any business retain Gen Z employees.

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