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Hybrid Work
Multigenerational workforce

Gen Z’s work ethic and values: what matters most to them and what makes them thrive?


March 23, 2023


December 28, 2023

Born between 1997 and 2012, Generation Z has just started to enter the workplace, yet, they are already considered the hardest-working generation. However, this is only true if they are in a work environment that matches Gen Z’s work ethics and values. If not, they are known for speaking their minds and quiet quitting if they don’t have any other choice but to stay.

Are you interested in discovering more about Generation Z’s vision of work? What are they looking for and what are the corporate aspects that matter to them? How does a company retain this young talent?

Working with Gen Z employees has many advantages. However, it is important to be aware of what inspires the best from this generation, including motivation, engagement, and loyalty. Once you understand their needs and how they differ from previous generations, your young workforce won’t disappoint you with their pragmatic but creative minds!

Each person is unique and, for this reason, we don’t like making generalizations. This article is based on the analysis of multiple surveys conducted about this demographic group, also called iGen, digital natives, or Zoomers. Yet, we recommend always considering the individuality of each of your team members.

What is work ethic?

Definition of work ethic

Work ethic is a concept based on the idea that different values influence how people approach their work. The more that companies match their employees’ requirements, the more their staff is satisfied, happy, motivated to do their job, and eager to go beyond expectations.

For example, your colleague Sarah might value having good remuneration, being considered, and working for a company that has sustainable initiatives. If these three elements are fulfilled, it is very likely that she will thrive. If one of them is lacking, no matter the other efforts in place, an important aspect is still missing. This will keep her from being fully engaged and staying by your side if a better opportunity comes on her way.

The aspects influencing work ethic

The values your workers are prioritizing are related to all aspects of your organization. For instance, your workplace culture has to match their values, employee benefits have to fulfill their expectations and your leadership style also has to meet their needs. This is especially true when talking about Gen Z’s work ethics and values. 

This demographic group is often called “the generation that wants it all”. As illustrated in our previous example, if one aspect doesn’t fit their vision of work and their expectations, they are not fulfilled and it can directly impact their work ethic. It might sound very bold, but the future of work is employee-centric and the young generation is not going to give up on this.

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Woman working from home writing in journal
Gen Z woman working remotely

What are Gen Z’s work ethics and values?

Gen Z workers count on themselves to succeed professionally

Gen Z employees are very pragmatic and don’t count on others to succeed. 76% of them believe their career path is their responsibility, according to a Monster multigenerational survey. The good thing is, if you meet their needs, they will do everything to develop their skills, climb the professional ladder and thrive. If you don’t, they will find other ways to do so. 

This generation is ready to work hard to get what they want for career progression. If they don’t find a company that matches their values, they are not scared to build their own business and become entrepreneurs. Therefore, they work hard for themselves and get what they want from their professional lives. For example, they can work on a flexible schedule and have the freedom they are looking for.

Good remuneration is a key driver for the youngest generation in the workplace

The Great Reshuffle has shaken the world of work and given employees the steering. If you don’t want your ship to sink or remain still, fulfilling your workers’ expectations is key.

The young workforce puts salary as one of their top priorities when looking for a job. One of the reasons for this is that the cost of living is a main concern. Therefore, providing them with good and fair remuneration is fundamental. Working at night and on weekends is not a problem for this generation if it means having a bigger pay slip at the end of the month.

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DEI (Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion) is a core value for the most diverse generation of workers

83% of Gen Z workers affirm that workplace diversity matters and around 33% declare they wouldn’t apply for a job in a company where diversity is not considered. Diversity, equity, and inclusion of all communities are core values for this demographic group. They do not want to work  in a homogenous environment. 

This goes beyond gender, race, religion, disability, sexual orientation, culture, and age diversity. You can read our article about examples of diversity in the workplace to learn more in detail about this topic.

group of young people working together
Diverse group of colleagues working together

Gen Z highly values employee mental health initiatives

Burnout statistics are alarming and, the younger your workforce is, the more depressed they are likely to be. According to a Deloitte study regarding Gen Z and Millennials, 44% of Gen Z have recently left their jobs due to work depression. Although they agree companies talk more and more about it, they struggle to see concrete results. 

As they have just entered the workplace and still have decades to work, this generation knows they have no choice but to take care of their mental health. Giving them access to useful resources, implementing workplace well-being initiatives, and providing support systems are essential.

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In-person interactions play a major role in iGen’s work experience

Being digital natives doesn’t mean Gen Z employees care less about in-person interactions. It is quite the opposite. They appreciate face-to-face conversations and want to collaborate in person with their colleagues. 

This is why a hybrid work model is a perfect solution to fulfill their expectations. It gives them the freedom and autonomy they require while allowing them to meet their peers on-site regularly. 

When meeting in person is impossible, they would rather video call their teammates than send them an email. Yet, having the right communication tools to fulfill the needs of this generation is fundamental.

Authenticity and transparency are deeply appreciated 

These digital natives have grown up in an era when:

  • having access to information has almost no limit;
  • getting negative and positive feedback (sometimes without asking for it) is the norm;
  • being exposed to scams is quite common. 

Obviously, these aspects influence Gen Z’s vision of work and their behaviors in the workplace. They know how to look for information but they have difficulty trusting people and expect to receive immediate feedback. Authenticity and transparency are also two core values they require from their employers, managers, and colleagues. For example, when it comes to DEI or sustainable initiatives, they are not fooled by tokenism or greenwashing practices. Be genuine and you will have full support and engagement from this generation.

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Micromanagement practices keep Gen Z from developing a strong work ethic

While gaining the trust of Gen Z trust takes time, they expect to be trusted in their abilities and given responsibilities. Like Millennials, Gen Z workers like to learn and are always eager to develop new skills. Micromanagement practices keep them from doing so. It is therefore a common reason for quitting, concretely or quietly.

Also, their relationship with authority and hierarchy is different from other generations. Consequently, they don’t hesitate to challenge people around them if they disagree. They can sometimes sound arrogant. But, if you provide them with the right tools, like nonviolent communication (NVC) training, for example, it can be positive and bring new ideas and opportunities.

How does Generation Z’s vision of work differ from previous generations?

The impact of growing up with online technology

Gen Z is the first generation born in an era when the Internet already existed. This is why they are sometimes called “digital natives” and are very comfortable with online technology. They use it for everything: develop their skills, communicate with their family and friends, entertain themselves, do their groceries, and much more. However, it can also have a negative impact on their mental health. For example, being exposed to many scams on social media has made them doubtful about people’s honesty and authenticity. Plus, seeing various forms of injustice through their screens, including social and environmental injustice, has created a generation more worried about the future than any other.

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man laying on bed with technology
Technology is central in the lives of Gen Z

Gen Z’s straightforward vision of work

In comparison to previous generations, Gen Z doesn’t see their expectations as options that would be “nice to have”. If their employer doesn’t fulfill them, they look for a new job opportunity with a company that matches their needs and values better. Alternatively, while they value stability, they are more willing to create their own businesses. If they are happy and satisfied with their jobs, they are fully dedicated. They know what they want for their professional lives and do whatever they can to make it happen. This is also due to the fact that we are used to getting everything we want fast. If we need a new laptop, we can get it the next day on our doorstep. When we are wondering if we should travel to Italy or Greece, we can ask our online community and get tons of replies within a few hours. Gen Z tends to expect the same fast and efficient approach in the workplace.

The consequence of the Covid-19 crisis on this demographic group

Covid-19 has had a massive impact on Gen Z’s mental health. Many of them finished their degrees separated from their classmates and tried to keep learning through online, sometimes ineffective, systems. Moreover, social interactions are vital for everyone, especially for young people who are figuring out who they are and who they want to be. For those who started to work during the pandemic, their onboarding experience was unusual. They never had their “first day at work”, meeting their colleagues in person, creating genuine relationships, and feeling the support from their peers in a real work environment. All their first steps in the world of work were made virtually. This never happened before for any other generations and certainly impacted their connection to the workplace

You are now fully equipped with all of the knowledge about Gen Z’s work ethics and values to work successfully with this generation and help them thrive. Although Gen Z’s vision of work differs from previous generations, they still aspire to achieve the same goals. They want to be part of a corporate system that values people, fosters employee happiness, and enhances job satisfaction. We also want to see a world of work based on these principles. We can help you reach this goal by providing you with the best hybrid work management platform. Request a free demo of the deskbird app and discover how our features support you in creating a more employee-centric work environment!

Gen Z’s work ethic and values: what matters most to them and what makes them thrive?

Paulyne Sombret

Paulyne is a highly respected expert in hybrid work. She's known for her writing on sustainability in the hybrid office, flexible work models, and employee experience. With a strong background in content and SEO, her work explores the exciting trends and latest news in the world of work.

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