EDU People with Phones

Values the Digital Generation Is Bringing to the Workplace

Monday, October 8, 2018

Most by now know that Millennials are no longer the youngest people in the workplace. Right now, that is those born 1995-2002. They’ve been called iGen and Post-Millennials, but Generation Z is the moniker that seems to have stuck.

We often say that the differences between each generation are the result of two things: the accidents of history and the life stage at which each generation experiences those accidents. For both Gen Z and Millennials, the Internet is one of the defining accidents of history that has profoundly impacted the development of each generation. However, the key difference is that while Millennials have seen the Internet develop and take shape, Gen Zers have never really known a life without it.

A new study from RainmakerThinking addresses the question: How would being the first true digital natives shape Gen Zers’ values in the workplace?

To find answers, we asked Gen Z interns at RainmakerThinking to interview their peers. We also devised a survey based on the eight “dream job factors” that RainmakerThinking has identified in our ongoing research over the last 25 years:

  • performance-based compensation
  • supportive leadership
  • role and responsibilities
  • location and workspace
  • scheduling flexibility
  • training and development
  • relationships at work
  • autonomy and creative freedom.

The survey also asked participants to rank the value of each factor on the following scale:

  • not important at all
  • nice but don’t need it
  • I would like to have it
  • I would love to have it
  • won’t take the job without it.

After surveying 4,093 Gen Zers, by individually collecting data in-person as well as gathering responses online, one overwhelming factor emerged: The digital generation values the human element at work. “Supportive leadership” and “positive relationships at work” ranked as Gen Zers’ top two most important factors to consider in a job (see figure below):

Of those who chose to provide further detail in the form of open-ended responses, a whopping 41 percent reiterated the value of the human element:
Digging further into open-ended responses related to the human element, some notable themes were revealed. The study found that 22 percent of respondents in the human element category were concerned with receiving respect from their colleagues, wanted recognition for their contributions at work, or would like to be shown more gratitude when assisting a co-worker on a project or task. Another 13 percent of respondents in this category indicated that quality of communication itself was something they valued in a job.
What does this mean for employers, leaders, and managers?


The takeaway is this: A winning company culture is absolutely critical if you want to attract, retain, and engage the best talent, and that includes the best young Gen Z talent. Gen Zers want to work with people who treat them with respect and value their contributions, not people who dismiss them on the basis of their youth and demand they prove themselves before they can be taken seriously. That means having leaders who support and guide their employees, but also leaders who track performance to recognize and reward success. That means building a culture where working together and achieving great results is more important than individual reputation. Communication has to be frequent and open.

Above all, employers have to make good on the claim that their people are their most valuable asset. (And if an employer is not making that claim, perhaps they should investigate why!) Gen Zers understand that to get good work done and produce great results, they have to have good relationships with those they work with.

Employers, leaders, and managers should ask themselves how they bring a stellar human element to the workplace. Having an answer might make the difference between hiring the next promising Gen Zer who walks in the door or losing them to the competition.

Read more about RainmakerThinking’s findings in the report The Voice of Generation Z: What Post-Millennials Are Saying About Work. And be sure to join me November 7-8 in Seattle for ATD TalentNext for more advice on how to bring out the best in today’s young talent.

About the Author

Bruce Tulgan is a bestselling author and the founder and CEO of RainmakerThinking, a management research and training firm. He is the author of numerous books, including It’s Okay to Be the Boss; Not Everyone Gets a Trophy; and The 27 Challenges Managers Face. His newest book, The Art of Being Indispensable at Work, is due for release in the summer of 2020 from Harvard Business Review Press. You can follow Bruce on Twitter @BruceTulgan or visit his website at

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