Attention FAE Customers:
Please be aware that NASBA credits are awarded based on whether the events are webcast or in-person, as well as on the number of CPE credits.
Please check the event registration page to see if NASBA credits are being awarded for the programs you select.

Want to save this page for later?

NextGen Magazine


Businesses Are Seeking Professional Advice on Managing Gen Z Workers

S.J. Steinhardt
Published Date:
Jun 18, 2024

Companies are hiring specialists to cope with the influx of Generation Z workers, The Financial Times reported.

This generation, born between 1997 and 2012, will comprise more than than 32 percent of the workforce by 2032, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, The Washington Post has reported. As their numbers increase, companies are hiring Gen Z “whisperers," the Financial Times reported. Ranging from 20-something social media influencers and young employees, to big consulting firms, these advisers guide multinational companies to think strategically about recruiting and managing workers, as well as attracting new customers. They encourage company executives to adopt new practices, including communicating better with younger workers and seeking their views on issues such as transparency, sustainability and work-life balance.

Jackie Cooper, chief brand officer at public relations firm Edelman, discovered the need for such advisers two years ago, when she asked a panel of top marketing executives to name their biggest challenge. The answer took her by surprise. “Every single one of the six said ‘Gen Z’,” she told the Financial Times. “I was knocked over by this.” The executives confronted the issue of how to understand the next generation of consumers and the youngest cohort of their workforce better.

That led Cooper to launch Edelman’s “Gen Z lab,” which produces research and gives advice to business leaders trying to come to grips with the perceptions and motivations of this cohort.

With Gen Z and millennials, the generation that preceded them, now making up 46 percent of the full-time U.S. workforce., companies are finding themselves forced to adapt in ways they have not had to before.

“Our corporate clients ... are not used to the extensive questions ... Gen Z has [about] work-life balance, control over what they work on and how they do it, as well as the more expected demands for good pay, financial stability and fulfillment,” Cooper told the Financial Times.

Gen Z’s support for social and political causes is already boosting activism within workplaces, putting pressure on management teams to be vocal on issues about which they may have previously stayed silent. “These individuals are getting to the commercial heart of decision making, and the guts of a business, and it’s really threatening,” said Alison Taylor, a clinical associate professor at NYU Stern School of Business, who also advises companies on ethical business practices.

Gen Z-ers also want to work somewhere they can make an impact, according to Maxime Lakat, the 25-year-old co-head of Canadian non-profit Re-generation, which aims to mobilize young people to create a greener economy. “We are starting to see C-suite people getting more headaches about how to keep a positive reputation,” Lakat said. “Employee advocacy has become such a source of potential change that it can outweigh the power of a CEO.”

That concern is one reason that businesses are reaching out to external advisers to provide them with insights into Gen Z’s preferences and expectations on issues such as flexible working to help businesses stay relevant and competitive, the Financial Times reported. LinkedIn, PepsiCo and Snapchat are among the companies working with individuals pitching themselves as Gen Z experts.

Jonah Stillman, who runs a consultancy with his father seeking to understand generational differences, gave an example of the divide at a conference last year. Asked what their preferred mode of communication was—email, text, phone or face to face—almost 85 per cent of Gen Zers said they preferred face-to-face communication. However, that meant something different to younger workers, as more than half of the respondents defined video calls such as on Zoom as face to face.

Communicating effectively with a generation that has less respect for corporate hierarchies and less tolerance of perceived wrongs is another challenge for employers, reported the Financial Times. Younger workers secretly film video calls in which they are fired or leave their jobs via “Quit-Tok,” or they air their grievances on social media or with journalists, increasing reputational risk for the companies.

“This generation sees a lack of personal agency as a real dilemma,” said Taylor. “Accessing dirty secrets and then putting it all on social media, ... to them, this is really a constructive way forward,” said Taylor. 

Recent waves of layoffs, workplace instability and management changes at major corporations have also had their effect. Younger workers want flexibility and are less inclined to commit to one employer, said Michael Franklin, a 24-year-old speechwriter who also advises businesses.

“We have other interests and passions," Franklin said. For example, if you want me to do extra work, then we need to negotiate that. And I care about deliverables rather than the amount of time spent in a particular place or office. Older generations have dealt with a lot of workplace trauma. They’re used to burnout and hustle culture. My generation, generally, are not living to work.”