Is Gen Z the spark we need to see the light?

Gen Z is shifting societal paradigms, creating new norms around activism, wellness and success.

Gen Z is different. It is a generation that will not be put in a box. It defies labels. And it is here to challenge your perspective of the world.

These seismic shifts bring major implications for businesses from both a consumer and employee perspective. Businesses can better predict future trends when they look through the eyes of the generation that comes next.

Understanding Gen Z: implications for employers

Money is decreasing in importance to Gen Z. Between 2020 and 2021, “making money” declined in importance and was eclipsed by this generation's desire to “be the best” and “make a difference.” Salary alone is not enough to convince Gen Zs to join or even stay at your company. It is vital to pay employees what they are worth, but you must also consider making work enjoyable and demonstrating the impact of their work on the world.

Employers need to demonstrate their values, and position Gen Z staff to be impactful through their career. This includes ongoing training needs — leveling them up to be the best.

Lean into the individualism. Companies need to think beyond a one-size-fits-all approach to managing people. For example, it’s not just work from home or work in-office — dig deeper to understand why some segments within Gen Z thrived remotely while others didn’t. 

The pandemic should be a lesson learned that we need to tailor corporate response and plans with an understanding of microsegment needs. Understanding the differences within Gen Z is just as important — if not more so — than looking at generational differences for a company’s future.

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Gen Z study methodology

Ernst & Young LLP surveyed a representative sample of 1,509 members of Gen Z from across the United States. The online survey was completed between March 24, 2021 and April 8, 2021. To be considered a member of Gen Z, a person had to have been born between January 1, 1997 (age 24 in 2021) and December 31, 2007 (age 14 in 2021). Of survey respondents, 40% were ages 14-17 and 60% were ages 18-24.

About this article

By Marcie Merriman

EY Americas Cultural Insights & Customer Strategy Leader

Student of human behavior, lover of transformative design. Living at the intersection of culture, commerce and technology to build human-centered experiences. Catalyst. Entrepreneur. Mom.