There’s a new generational cohort that’s just beginning to enter the workforce, and like Millennials, Gen X, and Boomers before them, they are bringing with them their own unique goals, preferences, and ideals. Generation Z, according to Pew Research1, is defined as those born after 1996, making the oldest of this generation 25-26 years of age. HealthStream’s most recent trends article 2 cited the entrance of the Gen Z employee into the workforce as a top of mind issue for 2023, as they represent more than 32% of the population worldwide 3.
Considering the current age of Gen Zers, this is admittedly a small cohort within the workforce – for now. But it’s important to understand the drivers of this cohort, because perhaps more than any other previous generation, they bring with them a unique set of interests and a passion for technology that will impact healthcare organizations’ ability to recruit and retain these workers.
The healthcare industry needs to pay particular attention, because a large portion of future workers will likely be coming from this generation given their interest in fields where they feel they can make a difference – according to the Deloitte study, more than a third (37%) were interested in working in healthcare. Let’s take a look at some of the most defining characteristics of Gen Z that you will need to prepare for as this latest group enters the workforce:
Pew Research findings indicate that Gen Z is the most racially and ethnically diverse of all the generations in the U.S. workforce. A slim majority (52%) identify as non-Hispanic whites as compared to 61% of Millennials, 70% of Gen X, and 82% of Boomers, while Hispanic, Black, and Asian populations are consistently growing. They are also, according to Deloitte, the most likely generation to identify as non-binary or third gendered. As such, it will be increasingly important to account for the needs of a very diverse group of workers. Considering many of them cite their own experiences with racial bias or discrimination, Gen Z is attuned to the need to remove bias from clinical healthcare settings. Training for diversity, equity, and inclusion will be essential.
If Millennials were considered the “digital natives” of the workforce, then perhaps Gen Z should be viewed as “digital from birth,” because not only does this cohort navigate new technology with ease, they simply expect to be using technology to perform any number of regular tasks. According to a study by Ernst & Young4, this begins with the job search, where Gen Z workers feel at ease interacting through familiar social platforms, such as Instagram and TikTok. They are also readily comfortable with a wide variety of technologies and are used to technology-assisted independent learning. The World Economic Forum5 notes that Gen Z employees overwhelmingly prefer mobile apps (62%) for training, followed by 48% online learning and 38% videos. Because 86% of Gen Z associate learning and development with career progress, providing robust learning opportunities will be integral to advancement.
According to surveys cited by the World Economic Forum6, Gen Z works to live, not the other way around, and they are not afraid to leave a job if they feel it is not meeting their needs. In one survey, 62% of respondents indicated they are looking for a new job almost all the time, either actively or passively. They know their worth and aren’t afraid to move on if a job isn’t working out for them. A lot of this has to do with Gen Z’s desire to be in a position that offers them a sense of purpose as well as opportunities to upskill, cross-train, or otherwise gain new knowledge. This generation craves training and opportunities for growth, with 42% indicating that they look for training opportunities when selecting a new job, while 40% specifically want mentorship programs. The side hustle culture has also greatly affected the way they see their career trajectory – according to Deloitte’s study, Gen Z is looking for more opportunities to try out a diverse set of skills, and would like more “latticed” career paths where they can find their best fit. For this reason, onboarding and residency, as well as career development opportunities, should be a key focus for recruiting the best and brightest young cohorts.
There is no need to sugarcoat it – Gen Z is very susceptible to stress, anxiety, and burnout, and they know it. In a survey done by Gallup7, a whopping 63% of Gen Z and younger Millennials indicated they felt stressed at work, while 34% said they were burned out. That’s compared to 40% and 18% of Boomers, respectively. They are also acutely aware of the need to address their mental health, which is almost as important to them as their physical health. In the McKinsey & Company American Opportunity Survey8, 55% of Gen Z respondents reported having received or sought out a diagnosis for a mental health condition, and 26% of them worry that this condition will hinder their ability to work effectively. There is little doubt this cohort will greatly impact employers’ views on providing access to mental health care and support for wellness and mental well-being. Resilience programs, like the one offered by HealthStream, as well as better training on critical mental health topics, are essential to meet this generation’s focused need for self-care and prevention of mental health issues in the workplace.
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