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Gen Z: Who They Are, What They Think, How They Work

December 28, 2022



Gen Z: Who They Are, What They Think, How They Work

Gen Z: Who They Are, What They Think, How They Work

Dr. Meghan Grace leads Gen Z research at the Institute of Generational Research and Education and leads research and data strategies at learning and development consultancy Plaid. She sheds light on who the youngest workers in the labor market are—a group whom leaders and managers across all sectors are struggling to attract, engage, and retain. Meghan shares illuminating research findings about Gen Z’s college experiences. She explains their concerns and desires are as they enter the workforce and develop their careers as well as how they respond to our new work environments.


[03:12] Meghan’s Gen-Z-focused career began by accident at a staff retreat.

[04:48] Meghan and her research partner’s first study in 2014 was on Gen Zs then still in their teens.

[05:39] Understanding “peer personalities” in generational theory and differences between Millennials and Gen Z which begin before college.

[07:36] Gen Z’s world feels bigger and their collective reactions to society and the world shapes their peer personality.

[08:39] How multimedia consumption of information differs by generation.

[09:35] Meghan’s research was initially driven by the need to ensure colleges and universities are structured and supporting students effectively.

[11:41] Their studies have always been mindful of exploring Gen Z’s from several different angles.

[12:42] While themes haven’t changed, Gen Z’s have evolved over the seven years of studies.

[13:00] Gen Z’s major issues/concerns: stability (especially financial), healthcare, and homelessness.

[14:10] How Generation Z has been affected by watching the challenges older adults have been facing.

[15:14] Safety and security-related issues are also key issues relating to mass violence, sexual predators, climate and environment, and inclusion.

[18:52] Without shared values—such as integrity—Gen Z feels a trust gap with older generations.

[21:47] This young generation is maturing and developing agency—such as in politics.

[23:00] Collaboration between Millennials and Gen Zs could positively influence change at work.

[26:30] Meghan observed Generation Z dealing with very tough conditions during the pandemic with maturity and grace.

[29:20] Many of this generation missed an important year when young adults typically develop their world view through different social interactions and settings.

[32:19] Gen Zs were talking about work-related issues such as flexible work structures, financial stability, and meaningful work before the pandemic.

[33:02] Gen Z’s priorities are the same as most employees’.

[34:18] It is easy for the youngest generation to be the scapegoat, and they may be the loudest voices as a cohort, however, they aren’t creating the trend.

[36:04] Core values and characteristics to attract and keep Gen Z: meaningful work, transparent and empathetic leadership, and an opportunity to participate.

[37:57] Side hustles are integral to the concept of work for this multi-faceted generation—whether developing multiple income streams or monetizing a passion.

[39:20] The world of the “lifer” is over—time at any company can be viewed as a “productive layover” for both sides.

[41:05] IMMEDIATE ACTION TIP: Gen Z’s don’t take themselves too seriously and are willing to share if you ask, with curiosity and care.

[43:13] How to approach questions—recognizing vulnerability in the conversation—by channeling Ted Lasso’s “That is fascinating”!

[46:05] The issue of “shared language” for different cultures, companies, and generations.


“Gen Z’s world feels bigger because their access to the world is bigger.”

“Financial security is at the top of the Gen Z list of concerns.”

“Gen Z is losing patience with older generations.”

“They’re heavily responsible to the people they love.” [about Gen Z]

“While we’re all being very serious about Gen Z, they don’t take themselves too seriously.”

“We are living in the same world, but we are all living in very different worlds at the same time because we exist in different spaces and different mindsets.”

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