Does Gen Z Really Have A Work Ethic Problem?

Does Gen Z Really Have A Work Ethic Problem?

Did you know that by 2025, Generation Z or Gen Z will make up the same percentage (25%) of Asia's people as millennials? And by 2030, they’ll constitute about 30% of the workforce.

But how are they changing the dynamics in the workplace? We’ll discuss this and more.

Who is Generation Z?

Gen Z are people born between 1997 and 2012. They’re the second-youngest generation after Generation Alpha. 

Gen Zers are the first generation to grow up with the internet as part of daily life. This makes them digital natives. In fact, studies have shown that Gen Z spends six or more hours daily on their phones in Asia. They’re known for working, shopping, dating, and making friends online.

Gen Z in the workplace

Gen Z's approach to work combines ambition and adaptability. This generation has grown up in a world that has seen historical events. 

9/11, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and apart from these events, they experienced economic struggles during the Great Recession. These have shaped their values and outlook on work.

In addition, Gen Z entered the workforce during the pandemic when flexible or remote work became the norm. This shift has influenced their work preferences and highlighted their ability to adapt and thrive in changing conditions. 

Are Gen Z Difficult to Work With?

Gen Zers’ work ethic is characterized by being hardworking, collaborative, independent, and flexible. They place a high value on professional development, respect, and recognition. 

But despite all these great qualities, they have been labeled “difficult” in the workplace. 74% of managers and business leaders reported that Gen-Z is more challenging to work with than other generations.

Based on a study called "Monitoring the Future," which has been tracking American behaviors, attitudes, and values since 1976, findings indicate a shift in Gen Z's work ethic.

In 2020, 54% of 18-year-olds were open to working extra hours. By 2022, this willingness had fallen to just 36%. That’s a significant drop in the number of young people willing to work overtime.

Moreover, while 78% of Gen Zers in 2020 want to work even if they had enough money to live comfortably for the rest of their lives, this decreased to 70% in 2022. The drop suggests that young people today are less motivated to work. They feel that work is not as important, with only 19% considering it a central aspect of life.

Looking at this information, it makes you think: why is Gen Z's work ethic different now? And is it a good thing? Are these changes helping or causing problems?

What Makes Gen Z’s Work Values Different?

Many people talk about how Gen Z is difficult to work with, but it's important to understand that they're not avoiding hard work – they just have a different way of approaching it compared to older generations.

According to Bradley Schurman, a demographic strategist and futurist, Gen Z’s unique way of working shouldn’t be mistaken for a lack of work ethic. They're actually trying to change what success looks like at work. Besides a good salary, Gen Z wants a job that makes them feel good and gives them a sense of purpose.

For Gen Z, meaningful work is crucial. They want their job to align with their beliefs and allow them to balance work and personal life. What matters to them is flexibility, inclusivity, and a supportive work environment, not just a high salary or a fancy job title. This shows a shift towards a more purpose-driven way of looking at work.

Potential Factors Influencing Gen Z's Work Ethic

Why the change in Gen Z's work ethic? Jean Twenge, psychologist and author, shared possible reasons:

Post-pandemic burnout

The stress from the pandemic left many Americans, especially young people, feeling exhausted. 

If you look back, apart from the loss and grief, there was a sudden disruption of routine and global uncertainty. Months of lockdowns, social distancing measures, and restrictions on gatherings didn’t help! It led to intense feelings of loneliness, contributing to mental health challenges.

Change in priorities

The pandemic has led people to reconsider if working too much is worthwhile. The Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis reports that some Gen Zers are beginning to question the value of a college education, viewing it as something less likely to pay off. 19% thought the costs were larger than the benefits.

More job opportunities

Because of The Great Resignation, there are more job opportunities. And more job opportunities mean Gen Z job seekers have more say in what they want from employers. 

Companies have to appeal to and keep Gen Z interested by offering good work culture and flexible benefits.

Popularity of a lessened work ethic

Social media trends, like "quiet quitting," show a growing acceptance, and maybe even encouragement, of a less intense work approach. 

These trends, however, should be taken as signs of deeper dissatisfaction rather than the main reason for the decline in work ethic.

How Can You Better Appeal to Gen Z Employees?

There are a couple of things you can do to create a work environment that attracts and retains Gen Z employees.

  1. Promote mental health awareness

    Unique to Gen Z is their openness in discussing issues, including physical and mental health, with their managers. This reflects a shift towards a more transparent and supportive work culture.Gen Z wants to work with empathic leadership and a culture of wellness. They want to be part of a business that cares for their people and respects their personal and professional health.
  1. Promote diversity and inclusion

    Dedication to diversity and inclusion in the workplace is not a “nice-to-have” for Gen Z. It’s expected.This goes beyond race and ethnicity. Gen Z wants to work in a company where they can express their gender identity freely. In fact, about 88% of Gen Z respondents in a Tallo study felt companies must inquire about preferred gender pronouns.
  1. Encourage focus on career and growth

    The Gen Z workforce is craves opportunities to grow and advance their careers. This is because of their need for financial security, entrepreneurial mentality, and competitive spirit.So, to attract Gen Z in your workplace, make sure to provide mentorship and training programs for upskilling or reskilling. With this, they will feel more invested in your company.Need help in attracting top-notch candidates? Start building accurate job descriptions with MultiplyMii’s JD builder!

  1. Improve communication

    Despite being digital natives, about 51% of Gen Z still prefer to communicate face-to-face. You can establish better communication with your Gen Z workforce by:
  • Connecting through video calls instead of phone calls
  • Organizing gatherings and social activities to promote team bonding
  • Having managers check in frequently for feedback, performance evaluation, etc.
  1. Support eco-friendly, sustainable, and socially responsible practices

    Gen Zers are driven to make a difference. They seek employment with organizations they believe share the same values as they do. They seek influence and may leave a job that’s not fulfilling.
  1. Implement equal pay

    Gen Z respondents to the Handshake Network Trends survey said that they want compensation that affords work-life balance. They’re also more likely to apply for you if your company is committed to equal pay.

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