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Workforce Enablement

Gen Z: Eager to Innovate

Younger generation comes to work with innovation mindset: curious and ready for a challenge

While many are a bit uneasy about digital disruption, it seems Generation Z—those 61 million born in the mid-1990s to the early 2000s—may very well be designed for it. And they are arriving into the workforce just in time, according to a survey conducted at the 22nd annual EY International Intern Leadership Conference (IILC) this past summer.

The survey of 1,400 Gen Z respondents, designed to gauge their sentiments about the future of work, found more than 80 percent think embracing failure on a project will help them become more innovative. Another 17 percent said failure will help them become more comfortable tackling new risks.

“With the next generation of our workforce not afraid to fail in order to grow and innovate, organizations should create an environment that allows them to bring their ideas forward, fail fast, and then learn from that failure,” said Natasha Stough, EY Americas campus recruiting leader.

Despite the workforce becoming unquestionably more digital, automated, and malleable, more than 90 percent of Gen Z respondents said they prefer to have a human element on their teams. This can mean working directly with innovative co-workers or with co-workers and new technologies paired together.

This generation also prefers younger managers, with 77 percent stating they’d rather have a Millennial manager than a Gen X or Baby Boomer manager. Interesting, two-thirds of males and females said they’d prefer to have a manager of the same gender.

While Gen Z is often labelled as having less-than-average social skills—they are the first generation who truly can’t remember a smartphone not being in their hands—they do appreciate diversity. According to the survey, 63 percent said it is most important to work on a team with people who have diverse education and skill levels. An additional 20 percent said having people from different cultures is the most important.

Also interesting, Gen Z has a certain stance about what it takes to succeed in the workplace. Seventy percent of respondents said it is more important to be seen as having a curious and open mindset than a specific skill or expertise. They’re also up for a challenge: Twenty-four percent said they would be excited and honored for such an opportunity.

As for workplace priorities, Gen Z males and females think differently, the survey found. The potential for progression and growth is important for 39 percent of Gen Z respondents, while competitive salary is a key priority for males (16.5 percent). Meantime, more females (22 percent) prioritize flexible work opportunities.

Despite some wariness about automation, artificial intelligence, robotics, and the future of work prospects for mere mortals, Gen Z is optimistic about the future, with 65 percent who said they felt confident they will be better off financially and happier at work than their parents.

“We are eager to watch Gen Z thrive as they enter the workforce,” Stough said. “By supporting a collaborative, team-friendly environment, organizations can successfully leverage this generation’s skills to manage and propel these forward-thinking individuals to solve the problems of the future.”

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