We have been avid students, learning about the impact that emerging generations have in the workforce. Now, we’re excited to be learning about the newest: Generation Z (Gen Z) born after 1996. Pew Research currently defines Gen Z as being born between 1997-2012, so the oldest is 27 this year. With five generations in the workforce today, including some lingering Silent Generation, it is important to understand how this new generation is shaping organizations and the way we work.

Understanding and embracing the attributes, qualities, and values of Gen Z within CPA firms can be instrumental in creating a dynamic and inclusive work environment. Here is what we have learned so far about the characteristics of this fabulous new generation:

1. Digital Everything: Gen Z individuals are true digital natives, compared to the Millennials who were digital pioneers in the age of the Internet explosion. Gen Z grew up with technology and the Internet from the start and most of their education has been delivered with some digital material. They leverage digital tools and platforms for communication, collaboration, and problem-solving and expect a tech-savvy work culture to help streamline processes, improve efficiency, and communicate with team members and clients

2. Flexibility and Work-Life Balance: Gen Z places a high value on flexibility and work-life balance. With those now in the workplace having finished high school or college online during the COVID-19 pandemic, they expect flexible work arrangements around where they work and when they work. They prioritize experience and personal fulfillment alongside their professional pursuits and want to have the time and flexibility to pursue them

3. Mental Health and Overall Well-Being: Tied to flexibility, Gen Z looks for organizations that promote a healthy work-life balance to support employee well-being. This generation is transparent and vocal about the importance of good mental health and likely to take “mental health days.” Most refreshingly, they will tell the truth about the purpose of their time off which is helping to remove the stigma that still exists around mental health

4. Diversity and Inclusion: Gen Z is the most diverse generation yet. According to Pew Research “a bare majority (52%) are non-Hispanic white – significantly smaller than the share of Millennials who were non-Hispanic white in 2002 (61%),” . Diversity is not isolated to race; Gen Z values diversity in sexual orientation and gender identity, too, in addition to perspectives and ideas. They expect their workplaces to embrace diversity and create a culture of belonging and inclusion

5. Social Responsibility: Gen Z is socially conscious and values firms that demonstrate a commitment to environmental sustainability, social justice, and ethical business practices. CPA firms can align with these values by promoting social responsibility initiatives and engaging in community outreach efforts

6. Entrepreneurial Spirit: Many Gen Z individuals exhibit an entrepreneurial spirit, seeking opportunities to innovate and make a meaningful impact. They also desire continuous learning and want access to mentors and different experiences. Including Gen Z participants in planning meetings, client conversations, and firm initiatives will motivate them and allow firm leaders to harness Gen Z’s entrepreneurial thinking, tech savvy and positive drive for change

7. Transparent Communication: Gen Z values transparency and authenticity in communication. CPA firms should strive to maintain open and honest communication channels with employees, providing regular feedback, updates, and opportunities for dialogue. Building trust through transparent communication can strengthen employee engagement and foster a sense of belonging within the firm

An article by Stanford University sums up Gen Zs this way:

“In summary, a typical Gen Zer is a self-driver who deeply cares about others, strives for a diverse community, is highly collaborative and social, values flexibility, relevance, authenticity and non-hierarchical leadership, and, while dismayed about inherited issues like climate change, has a pragmatic attitude about the work that has to be done to address those issues.”

By understanding and embracing the attributes, qualities, and values of Gen Z, CPA firm partners, managers, and operations leaders can create a workplace culture that is inclusive, innovative, and future-ready. Incorporating the principles that Gen Z values into your firm can help attract, retain, and empower the next generation of team members.

As we continue to learn about Gen Z and its impact in the workplace, we’ll share our insights and practical strategies. We’d also like to learn from you as you recruit, engage, and develop Gen Z in your firm – please share with us!

Our future is bright as we harness the power and gifts of this new generation!

Warmly,

Tamera

P.S. Check our latest HR Huddle podcast on Embracing the Newest Generation: Gen Z!