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Carson College of Business BNW 2021: Gen Z Spotlight Report

Gen Z Spotlight Report

Business in the Northwest 2021

Nearly a year after the first stay-at-home orders were first enacted in Washington, Pacific Northwest (PNW) businesses are still adapting to different ways of working amid the constantly evolving pandemic. For the first time since December 2019, the Carson College of Business heard directly from the youngest members of our workforce – Gen Z employees. They face unique struggles and offer a vastly different perspective than their more tenured colleagues. While they’re the most likely to feel optimistic for the future of the PNW business climate, they’re also the most likely to struggle with working from home. In this spotlight report, we share a closer look at how the youngest generation is faring during an uncertain time.

Key Finding 1:

Entering the job market during such a tumultuous time has taken a toll on PNW Gen Z employees.

Amid the pandemic, 70% of Gen Z employees feel unsure what the future holds for their company, more than doubling from 34% in December of 2019. Nearly two-thirds (60%) are worried their companies will be forced to downsize in the next year, compared to 40% of older employees. Their careers are also top-of-mind, with 68% worried about their career growth potential, compared to just 43% of older employees.

 PNW EmployeesGen Z Employees
I am worried that my company may have to downsize in the next year
I am worried about the growth potential of business/my career
I am not sure what the future holds for my company

Key Finding 2:

Gen Z employees are more likely to be impacted by mental health challenges associated with working from home.

Navigating remote work with little experience to fall back on has proved challenging for Gen Z employees, and 47% report working from home has a negative impact on their mental wellbeing, compared to 34% of older employees. Compared to older employees, they’re also more likely to be impacted by pain points such as at-home distractions (54% vs. 40%), decreased ability to focus (44% vs. 31%), and a disrupted work/life balance (36% vs. 23%).

Although Gen Z fares worse with certain challenges—all groups are ready to return to the office. After a year of working from home, most of the region’s business leaders (66%), employees (65%), and Gen Z employees (63%) feel ready to return to the office at least part-time.

Key Finding 3:

Gen Z are a valued part of the workforce and have a lot to offer, but employers need to understand their needs and expectations in order to keep them engaged.

Along with different perspectives and skills, Gen Z employees hold vastly different values and expectations than employees from older generations, and it’s crucial that employers recognize these differences in order to keep them engaged. The following needs and expectations are top-of-mind for Gen Z employees:

  • Wanting to make a positive impact on the world (83%)
  • Having a high ambition and drive (79%)
  • Healthy work-life balance (75%)
  • The desire to work for a company whose values align with their own (70%)
  • Expecting gratification for a job well done (63%)
  • Expecting to be able to move up the ranks quickly (63%)

Key Finding 4:

Older generations will need to keep an open mind as Gen Z continues to join the workforce.

While many recognize the value Gen Z employees bring to the workforce, colleagues from older generations – along with Gen Z employees themselves – often hold negative pre-conceived notions about the group. As Gen Z employees come from a generation that hold their values in high regard, they desire or expect careers that positively impact their lives and society and facilitate a sense of personal achievement. It’s important that employees from older generations remain open minded when examining the expectations and potential of Gen Z colleagues to build effective working relationships.

Common negative perceptions of Gen Z employees include thinking they:

 PNW Business LeadersPNW EmployeesGen Z Employees
Expect immediate gratification
Have short attention spans
Are entitled
Expect their parents to help them in the workforce

However, all groups agree Gen Z employees bring useful skills to the table – but these views are less common among all groups, especially business leaders and older employees. However, their older colleagues reported seeing these skills to a lesser extent. Positive perceptions of Gen Z employees’ skills include thinking they:

 PNW Business LeadersPNW EmployeesPNW Gen Z Employees
Have more technical skills
Are more creative
Have more developed STEM training/skills

Gen Z will continue making up a larger portion of the workforce, and while their idealism may waver a bit, they will likely remain more idealistic than their colleagues, just as they have remained more optimistic. Although the post-pandemic future remains uncertain, the young, creative – and perhaps a bit expectant – Gen Z employees are confident in the region’s ability to recover and will certainly continue to reshape the workforce.

Key Finding 5:

Despite significant challenges, Gen Z employees are energized and maintain a youthful optimism for what’s to come.

Optimism for the next three years has diminished from 89% (December 2019) to 68% among Gen Z employees. However, they still exude more confidence than more tenured employees, with just over half (52%) feeling optimistic for the future.

Additionally, nearly three quarters (73%) of Gen Z employees agree the PNW business climate is changing in a good way, compared to less than half (49%) of older employees.

Regarding job opportunities in the region, Gen Z employees aren’t as worried as their colleagues, with 60% feeling optimistic about job prospects in the PNW, compared to 49% of employees.