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Generation Z

From boomers to gen Z: Is your office ready to hire some “zoomers”?

Jan. 20, 2022
With a new generation entering the workforce, there's the potential for five generations in one workplace. What sets generation Z apart from the others, and how can their strengths benefit your practice?

Editor's note: This is the last of a six part series on generational differences in the workplace. Scroll down for links to the other articles in the series.

A new generation has arrived in the workplace—generation Z. They were born between 1996 and the early 2000s, although different references note different birth years, such as 1997 to 2009/2012. Gen Z is also called zoomers, iGeneration, and digital natives.1 Gen Z largely consists of children of gen X, and this is the first generation to grow up with access to the internet and mobile phones 24/7, hence, they’re called digital natives and often view smartphones and other devices as essential. 

Who is gen Z in the generational jungle?

Gen Z will soon surpass millennials as the most populous generation. In the United States, gen Z constitutes more than a quarter of the population and, in 2020, became the most diverse generation in the nation’s history.2 Their gen X parents raised them to be independent. As a result, gen X tends to need less positive reinforcement than millennials.3 In the US, gen Z is on track to be the best-educated generation to date, as well as the most culturally and ethnically diverse. A large chunk of this cohort today is either in college or just entering the workforce, and they’re a lot different characteristically from millennials.2 In 2017, only 5% of the workforce was comprised of gen Z. By 2025, they’re expected to make up 27% of the global workforce.4 

Influences of the generation

Generation Z witnessed the Great Recession of 2008, so they have seen the economy’s downfall. They have seen their parents lose jobs and families lose houses, and watched their grandparents rejoin the workforce to keep the family afloat.1 Other influences on this generation include terrorism, social networking, gun violence, Barack Obama’s election, shared family responsibilities, climate change, and gender equality, to name a few.3 Given its experience growing up in the aftermath of the Great Recession, you might think gen Z emerged as a pragmatic, risk-averse, nonentrepreneurial group motivated by job security.2 Instead, a more distinctive picture has emerged in their career aspirations, development, working styles, core values, character, education, and stance on diversity.2

What are gen Z characteristics?

Growing up amid economic ruin made gen Z’s characteristics quite distinctive. They stand out from their predecessors with their different goals and expectations. Moreover, gen Z characteristics are different from gen Y, and they’re all ready to take the workforce by storm. Approximately 40% of gen Z wants to interact with their boss daily,5 and 84% assumes their employer will provide formal training at the start of employment.6

Core values and attributes

Because gen Z was raised around financial insecurity, they’re driven to succeed financially. They learned the importance of independence, self-motivation, and success, and as a result, they’re future-focused, realistic, and want to work for their success and career advancement.4 This inherent skepticism about financial insecurity explains their caution in the workplace around coworkers and employers as they’re wary of being taken advantage of and mindful to not let emotions interfere with work.7

More generational reading

Time to shine, millennials!
Gen X: There’s no overlooking this “middle child” at work
Boomers still want to be heard in the dental workplace

Workplace views

Gen Z paid attention to the criticism millennials received when they entered the workforce. One of the most common was their dependence on technology and lack of skills for professional face-to-face interactions.4 This likely led gen Z to prefer face-to-face interactions to texts or emails.4 With in-person communication comes a penchant to collaborate. Gen Z is used to receiving constant feedback; therefore, they crave feedback on their projects.4 They also value independence and working alone and will often be entrepreneurial, driven, and competitive, which warrants alone time and self-sufficiency within a team.4 

What does gen Z want in a position?

Gen Z prefers their own workspace and are realistic due to growing up during a recession. They are more cautious and selective about what information they share online, even though they’re connected 24/7. They prefer educational alternatives such as on-demand learning, YouTube tutorials, or on-the-job training, and are wary of college debt.8 With concerns about innovation, they’re interested in role-hopping and learning different tasks.

Keys to working with gen Z

While salary is often the most important factor in choosing a job, gen Z values salary less than all other generations. If given the choice of accepting a better paying but boring job versus one that is more interesting but doesn’t pay as well, gen Z is evenly split over the choice.2 To win the hearts of gen Z, companies and employers need to be good global citizens. Actions speak louder than words: companies must demonstrate their commitment to a broad set of societal challenges such as sustainability, climate change, and hunger.2 To attract gen Z, employers must be ready to adopt a speed of evolution that matches the external environment, meaning developing strong training and leadership programs with a real focus on variety.2

For the most part, the world has figured out gen X and millennials. There is abundant research about how they behave socially and professionally. At this point, we’ve been able to see how these studies fare. In 2017, 33% of the workforce was gen X and 35% was millennials.4 Don’t treat gen Z employees differently because of their age or experience; value their ideas and contributions.7

Leverage the expertise of gens X, Y, and boomers to mentor gen Z into strong leaders.2

I hope you’ve enjoyed reading this series as much as I enjoyed writing it, and I hope you’ve learned a tip or two on how to interact with the generational differences in your dental practice.


  1. Generation Z characteristics and work ethics in the workplace. Empxtrack. August 9, 2021. Accessed December 21,eration 2021. https://empxtrack.com/blog/generation-z-characteristics-and-work-ethics-in-the-workplace/
  1. Understanding Generation Z in the workplace: New employee engagement tactics for changing demographics. Accessed December 23, 2021. https://www2.deloitte.com/us/en/pages/consumer-business/articles/understanding-generation-z-in-the-workplace.html
  1. Tanner R. Generation Z: Who are they and what events influenced them? Management is a journey. Updated November 26, 2020. Accessed December 27, 2021. https://managementisajourney.com/generation-z-who-are-they-and-what-events-influenced-them/
  1. Zibell K. What your new gen z employees want. Newsroom. August 5, 2021. Accessed December 28, 2021. https://www.nccer.org/news-research/newsroom/blogpost/breaking-ground-the-nccer-blog/2021/08/05/what-your-gen-z-employees-want 
  1. Morris C. 61 million gen Zers are about to enter the US workforce and radically change it forever. CNBC. May 2, 2018. Accessed December 30, 2021. https://www.cnbc.com/2018/05/01/61-million-gen-zers-about-to-enter-us-workforce-and-change-it.html
  1. Lyons M, Lavelle K, Smith D. Gen Z rising. Accenture. 2017. Accessed December 28, 2021. https://www.accenture.com/t20170901T082427Z__w__/us-en/_acnmedia/PDF-50/Accenture-Strategy-Workforce-Gen-Z-Rising-POV.pdf#zoom=50
  1. How to manage generation Z workplace (Spoiler: They aren’t like millennials). BambooHR. March 26, 2020. Accessed December 31, 2021 from https://www.bamboohr.com/blog/how-to-manage-generation-z/
  1. Gen Z in the workplace: Everything you need to know. Firstup. Accessed December 29, 2021. https://firstup.io/blog/gen-z-in-the-workplace/