Can a single generation change the workplace?
Yes, it can, and they are changing it every single day.
We are, of course, talking about Generation Z, also known as Gen Z, Gen Edge, iGen, the New Greatest Generation, and the “Snowflake” generation. They are the most radically and ethnically diverse, most educated, most digitally savvy, and most global by dint of being weaned on the Internet. It has even been said that this is the generation that will change the world as we know it. From climate change to social injustices, they are the generation that could have the last word on the future of society and humankind. With nothing to lose and everything to gain, they are becoming the Greatest Generation of the 21st century.
If we put all of this in the perspective of the workplace, we can see that today we have five different generations: the Silent Generation, Baby Boomers, Generation X, Millennials, and Generation Z. So, it is no wonder it is so easy to slap a stereotypical label on each cohort. The eye-rolling, cliche tropes are that Boomers are set in their ways and afraid of new technologies; Gen-X couldn’t care less about what people think about them; Millennials want a trophy for everything they do; and Gen-Z, well, they want to change the world.
One resource shows that Gen Z already makes up approximately 15% of the workforce in the US and UK. At the same time, 36% are Millennials, 31% Gen X, and 18% Boomers. On the other hand, some other studies have shown that Gen Z and Millennials currently make up approximately 38% of the global workforce, and this percentage will rise to about 58% by 2030.
According to some media, generational diversity is the best thing that can happen. Despite our differences, we can all learn from each other if we want to, of course. The LiveCareer study found that 89% of respondents considered generation diversity in the workplace as a positive element of work, and 87% viewed the opportunity to learn from one another as a good thing for their experience. This is indeed one of the main benefits of all kinds of diversity in the workplace, age-related or otherwise. With the complexity of work today, no one viewpoint is ever complete, and being able to check in with others who see things differently shapes better solutions.
But generational diversity also has a flipside. Our differences of opinion can also lead to conflict, and 78% of those surveyed also believed a multigenerational workplace could lead to conflict. Opinions are not the only thing that differs between generations. According to Visual Capitalist, 62% of Gen Z in the US and UK are always seeking alternative employment. While Millennials follow closely behind with 60%, far fewer Gen Xers and Baby Boomers are seeking new roles. Part of this could simply be that those in older generations are far more established in their roles or careers. Regardless, Gen Z is incredibly flexible. When compared to other generations, they are also more than twice as likely to have an additional job on the side of their main role. On top of consistently seeking better pay, Gen Z also wants to retire earlier. Looking at average US and UK data, Gen Z’s ideal retirement age is astoundingly young at 54 years old, but most don’t realistically expect to retire until 60.
Regardless of the generation to which each respondent belongs, our research from Alma Career Croatia has shown that when considering a change of employer, salary and benefits are what matter most to them (83% of respondents marked this as important). In second place, a significant majority values good colleagues and interpersonal relationships (60%), while the balance between work and private life is in third place (54%).
Accordingly, the current employer would prompt all of us to consider quitting due to a low salary (62%), poor interpersonal relations (52%), and stressful work (41%). Although there is no difference in the ranking of these reasons among members of different generations, slightly more members of Generation Z react to a low salary (67%) than other respondents (64% of Generation Y and 55% of Generation X respondents), while they would consider quitting less due to stressful work (38% of Generation Z respondents and 43% of Generation X and Y respondents).
Of the benefits, respondents value education most, regardless of the generation to which they belong.
Flexible working hours are the second-most significant benefit for Generation Z, according to a quarter of respondents, compared to a fifth of Generation Y respondents and 13% of Generation X respondents. Only every tenth respondent from Generation Z placed additional health insurance in first position, whereas it is the second-most important benefit in the case of Generation X. A similar situation exists with regard to pension insurance, which is most valued as a benefit by Generation X and least valued by Generation Z.
Perhaps one of the most defining characteristics of work experiences today is the debate about flexible and remote working. Although they would prefer to work from the office less than other generations (23% Gen Z, 26% Gen Y, and 31% Gen X), members of Generation Z are more indifferent to where they work—from the office or from home (27% versus 20% for Y and 22% for X).
In our survey, we also asked people what the ideal period of time was to stay with one employer. While most respondents consider two to five years the perfect time to stay with one employer, 51% of Generation Z respondents plan to change jobs in the next year, while such respondents are 40% in Generation Y and just 31% in Generation X.
So maybe we are not so different after all. Yes, we have our disagreements, but every age and stage is unique. The key takeaway is the extent to which workers have shared needs and priorities. Work is part of a full life, and the opportunity to express talents, contribute capabilities, and learn and grow is among the most meaningful parts of work and life—for everyone.