The Gen Z workforce is changing the future of work. Their fresh perspective and values are creating a more inclusive, socially-conscious and collaborative environment for everyone.
The workplace is changing — and new generations are leading the way! Generation Z, also known as Gen Z, Zoomers or Gen Zers, is entering the workforce and they are shaking things up with a different approach to careers, success and corporate culture compared to previous generations.
Born between 1997 and 2012, Gen Z employees, alongside millennials, will account for the majority of the workforce in just a few years, and they are bringing fresh ideas and energies to the job market like we’ve never seen before. And at Boys & Girls Clubs, we experience firsthand how today’s teens are motivated around emotional well-being and mental health, social justice issues and self-expression. It’s no surprise that these passions are coming with them into the workforce!
So, how is Gen Z in the workplace changing the professional landscape?
We reached out to two of our national partners, Toyota and The Coca-Cola Company, which employ nearly 400k employees (Toyota) and 90k employees (The Coca-Cola Company) respectively, to see how the youngest generation in the workforce is influencing company culture. One of our company insiders, Sherry McCaskill, is the College Programs Diversity and Employment Branding Manager at Toyota and a former Club parent at Boys & Girls Clubs of America. We also met with Jason Palmer, Associate Brand Manager at The Coca-Cola Company and Gen-Zer himself, to get the inside scoop from his perspective. Both shared valuable insights into how Gen Z’s focus on things like balance, flexibility, authenticity, innovation, values and meaningful connections are creating a more inclusive and fulfilling work environment for everyone.
Gen Z may be the first generation that talks openly about mental health as part of a person’s overall well-being, and it’s a priority that translates to the workplace.
According to Sherry, two years of pandemic lockdowns, illness and uncertainty in the job market have greatly affected how Gen Z approaches work. “They had to figure out how to still be productive outside of the office setting, and they made it work,” she shared. Unlike older generations who focused on job stability, Gen Z values a solid balance between work and personal life (including all aspects of mental well-being) — with 82% reporting they want to have mental health days.
They understand that feeling personally fulfilled positively impacts their job performance, and this is something they won’t compromise on. For older generations, this could be viewed as a problem with Gen Z in the workplace, but for Gen Z, it’s a top priority. They know what it is to experience growing anxiety and stress, and are committed to finding jobs that support self-care, balance and a person-first culture.
“Gen Z’s lifestyle promotes flexibility. They’re showing companies to work in different ways that fulfill each other personally, so you can be your best self,” Jason said. “At The Coca-Cola Company, we encourage a work-life balance with Focus Fridays, a time where employees can step away from the day-to-day meetings and just refresh or focus on what they need to get done.”
Boys & Girls Clubs understand the importance of promoting a healthy balance for everyday life. By teaching social and emotional skills like self-confidence, communication and resilience, kids can better handle challenges, speak up for themselves and form meaningful relationships — skills they need to successfully navigate college or a career.
Being true to themselves is also essential for Gen Z in the workplace. According to Jason, "What I see a lot of Gen Z employees fight for and expect is authenticity, rather than conforming to a corporate culture." Put simply: they don’t want to pretend to be someone they’re not to fit in. Instead, they want to be acknowledged and appreciated for their unique strengths and talents.
Sherry highlighted, “I learn a lot from our Gen Z team members. They are confident and ready to share their ideas with folks who have been with the company for a long time. Their diverse perspectives help us continue to be innovative in everything we do.”
When Gen Z employees are authentic, they feel a strong sense of belonging and empowerment. This genuine approach motivates them to contribute their best ideas and talents, fostering creativity and innovation in the workplace.
This is a model all generations can get behind. Boys & Girls Clubs provide safe places for kids and teens to feel a sense of belonging. Because when kids feel safe, they're empowered to learn, connect with peers, use their voices and explore their interests so they can take on every opportunity that comes their way.
Gen Z employees are driven by strong values and ethics and want their employers to be too.
“ They want to work for a company that cares not only about people but also the environment and the communities they serve," Sherry continued. “When we hire Gen Zers at Toyota, those are some of the best team members that you could possibly bring in. They want to get in and make a difference.”
Environmental, social and governance practices (ESG) with a focus on sustainability and diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) initiatives are critically important to the Gen Z workforce. According to Jason, companies have to “live and breathe” their DEI values to attract Gen Z talent. Sherry echoed, “At Toyota, we are focused on philanthropy. Our culture is not just about building cars, selling cars or building great technology. It's also about caring for people and our world too.”
With 81% of today’s youth wanting to make a difference in the community,1 Clubs help kids get involved in social responsibility initiatives through community-focused programs that give back. By empowering young people to contribute to their communities, Clubs help cultivate the next generation of socially-conscious and proactive leaders.
For Gen Z in the workplace, they want to do more than just complete tasks — they want to build meaningful connections with others. “They want a workplace that has a strong sense of culture and community, with a synergy between work and personal life,” Jason continued. “When you find that community at work, it makes the experience so much better for everyone.”
When employees feel connected and supported by their peers through authentic interactions, they are more likely to share ideas, take risks and contribute to the organization’s success. “At The Coca-Cola Company, we provide many options to meet people and create new experiences to help employees grow together through our resource groups, catering to various interests,” added Jason.
Part of building connections is also developing mentor relationships. Mentorship is an essential part of professional growth, and Gen Z understands that and seeks it. “Mentors don’t have to be where you want to be professionally,” Jason explained, “they can still provide insights and valuable experience to help you achieve your own goals.”
At Clubs, kids have the guidance and support of caring mentors who encourage them to be their best selves and grow into confident, capable adults who are ready to take on the world. Young people who meet regularly with a mentor are 40% more likely to graduate on time and 55% more likely to enroll in college.
Gen Z is making the workplace better for everyone. To attract and retain Gen Z talent, organizations need to create an inclusive and supportive environment that aligns with Gen Z values.
Here are some strategies to thoughtfully support and manage Gen Z in the workplace:
Starting as early as age 6, Boys & Girls Clubs encourage young people to be their authentic selves, pursue their passions and build meaningful relationships with peers and caring adults, so they can make a positive impact on their communities. Learn how Clubs are preparing young people for college, careers and life and how we can help you, too.
The Coca-Cola Company and Toyota are founding partners of Boys & Girls Clubs of America’s Life & Workforce Readiness program, helping prepare today’s young people for the workforce and life.