How Gen Z Is Redefining the HR Leadership Playbook

From creating viral TikTok dances to reviving Y2K fashion, Generation Z’s influence has helped shape recent popular culture. However, their influence doesn’t just stop there.

gen z at work

Since Gen Z’s debut in the workforce in 2020, members of this cohort have challenged conventional workplace norms by prioritizing things like mental health, work/life balance, pay equity, and flexible scheduling.

In light of these shifting priorities, HR experts believe this generation’s zeal for authentic self-expression, including in the workplace, is reshaping the HR leadership landscape. As this group continues to introduce these fresh perspectives championing transparency, collaboration, and inclusivity, HR leaders must adapt to meet those professional expectations, especially because Gen Z will comprise nearly a quarter of all employees by 2025.

An Emphasis on Authenticity

Gen Z blurs the line between personal and professional identities. This generation values authenticity and expects to bring their whole selves to work, not just a business-centric sliver. Of Gen Zers already in the workforce, 61% feel that work is a significant part of their identity, so they’re challenging the status quo to ensure it aligns more closely with their values.

One of the values at the forefront of Gen Z’s collective mind is mental health prioritization, and this generation is more likely to speak up about any mental health woes they may be facing and ask for the support they need.

In fact, according to Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) research, 61% of Gen Z respondents would strongly consider abandoning their current job if a new opportunity arose with significantly better mental health benefits. The importance of mental health for Gen Z is echoed in Monster’s 2023 State of the Graduate Report’s finding that a significant 92% of new and soon-to-be college graduates said it’s vital to be able to discuss mental wellness at work.

To accommodate this youngest working generation, HR leaders must cultivate a culture where employees feel empowered to be themselves and believe organizational policies reflect their values.

Take work/life balance, for example.Over half (54%) of Gen Z respondents would turn down a job if it lacked work/life balance, so it’s critical for organizations wanting to attract young talent to ensure this is a benefit they offer.

Gen Z Workers Call for Collaboration

Gen Z values collaboration and teamwork, and they want to be physically around their team at least some of the time. In fact, most Gen Zers want a fully remote work environment.

Being in the same physical location can facilitate communication—something Gen Zers crave. They want to feel they have a voice in their company and that their ideas are valued, and 40% of Gen Z employees expect to interact with their boss daily. If they miss out on that interaction, these employees may feel they’ve done something wrong.

To encourage and support open communication organization-wide, HR leaders must create opportunities like open-door policies for employees to collaborate and share ideas. A policy like this can help create a more inclusive, supportive, and collaborative workplace culture.

The Value of Values: DEIB Initiatives and Transparent Policies

Gen Z employees care about diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging (DEIB) efforts and workplace transparency, with the most progressive organizations enacting DEIB plans and practicing proactive transparency. Proactive transparency gives employees the information they need before they ask for it.

Gen Z (and really all generations) appreciates straightforward, constructive, and consistent communication, which can make or break their employee experience.

Another “need” for a good employee experience? Inclusivity in the office. Gen Z expects employers to create a welcoming, comfortable workplace environment. Employers that fail to take a stand on social issues or commit to diversity and inclusion practices may struggle to attract Gen Z job candidates, as it’s an important pillar for them when seeking employment.

Fostering a culture of inclusivity and respect for everyone helps reduce attrition, as 87% of Gen Z professionals are ready to quit and find a new company whose values more closely align with theirs.

To attract and retain top talent from Gen Z, HR leaders must adapt their policies. By focusing on authenticity, collaboration, inclusivity, and transparency, HR leaders can create a workplace where Gen Z feels valued and engaged and, ultimately, drives business success.

Shannon Duvall has more than 15 years of experience managing and scaling HR operations, with a focus on developing the long-term strategic vision of CallTrackingMetrics’ culture and employee experience. Under Duvall’s tenure, the company has consecutively been named to Inc.‘s Best Places to Work, as well as Best Place to Work by Baltimore Business Journal. She holds an MS in human resources management.

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