gen-z in the workplace

The Emoji Generation In The Workforce

The baby boomers did not fall out of their mothers’ wombs running Coca-Cola and Kodak. They too were young, wild and reckless once.

When the 1980s came around, the new generation — self-absorbed, independent and self-sufficient Gen X joined the workforce. Arguably the most overlooked generation in a while, they are the geeks who automated most of our lives, and even they are misunderstood.

And then we, the millennials, came along and hell has been let loose. We are over scrutinized and analyzed in the workplace and even while we are back home. You can hardly go a day without hearing or reading an article with the keyword ‘millennial.’

However, as we get closer to our 30s, we can heave a sigh of relief as yet another generation comes into the workplace spotlight. Ring the alarm and usher in Gen Z. In this article, we will refer to them as the emoji generation in the workplace.

So, who are the Gen-Zs? They were born in the 1990s and raised in the 2000s. They grew up using the Internet, smartphones and digital media. Gen Z is the most educated and tech-savvy group to enter the labor market. They know as much as they do not know. They are entrepreneurial, pragmatic and impatient.

Having worked with most of these younglings as my bosses lately, here are some of my recent observations about the emoji generation and how they live their lives on and off work.

Unfazed By Diversity

The emoji generation has grown up in a globally connected world that is ethnically-diverse and open. A world where a black US President is not the eighth wonder of the world, where women run their own businesses and 21-year-olds are legitimate billionaires who sell makeup.

With their easy access to information and stories from around the world, embracing diversity is almost instinctive in this group. They are eons more accepting than any generation before them of racial and sexual differences, even though the news does not always reflect this. In a study by Ernst & Young surveying 3,200 Gen-Zs, researchers discovered that participants favor employers that provide equal opportunity for pay and promotion and could give up a high salary to stand for inclusivity and representation of minority groups.

What this means for hiring organizations is that unless they review the way things have always been done, they are at risk of missing out on some of the best minds of the new world who would rather work for themselves than ‘sell out.’

Environmentally and Socially Conscious

Gen-Zs prefer to work for organizations that are socially responsible and show a genuine commitment to the communities they work in and other stakeholders.

With real-time information being easily accessible at all times, Gen-Z has a larger awareness of social issues around the world. This makes them socially and culturally aware from a young age, and theirs is a generation characterized by loud advocacy for equal rights. Given the constant access to these sensitive issues, many Gen-Zs look to work for impact, not wealth — environment and animals inclusive.

Organizations that want to make a difference and change the world should consider hiring Gen-Zs as they make loyal advocates once their hearts are involved.

Limited Social Skills

Ironically, since they grew up globally connected with free digital communications like Blackberry Messenger and WhatsApp, the emoji generation has real difficulty adjusting to face-to-face communications which often take place in the workplace.

With remote working on the rise, this does not seem like a problem many are in a hurry to solve. Today’s managers encourage digital team communications like Slack usage which has over eight million daily active users!

But even with these limited communications of texts and emoticons, Gen-Zs are known to appreciate short meetings with their superiors to discuss current projects, performance or ask any questions.

It is important for employers to build a spirit of community, transparency, and openness in the workplace in order to attract and retain Gen-Zs.

Prioritize Passion For Work

Gen-Zs are also more readily concerned with fueling their passions and take pride in the work they do. These are the people for whom a Week of Saturdays was created! For the first time, the global workforce is observing a generation boldly prioritize purpose and passion in their work.

Gen-Zs value interesting work and continuous learning. They are curious and fearless. In this new world, most Gen-Zs wish to pursue their passions as full-time work which is a characteristic that is absent from previous generations.


Last but not least, and most older Individuals may beg to differ but most Gen-Zs set very high career goals for themselves, and are not willing to wait long to meet these expectations. Most plan to be managing employees in big companies by the time they’re five years out of the university and see nothing crazy about this goal.

The seeming majority expect to start their own businesses fresh from the university. They proactively seek mentoring, professional development and training opportunities to build their network early.

Understandably, each older generation has its stories of growing up, wise and old. We are all shaped by the times in which we live and the experiences that that shaped those before us. Someday, even the Gen-Zs will replace the baby boomers in the workforce — old, grumpy and disbelieving of all the innovation. So, rather than obsess over the weaknesses of Gen-Zs, hiring managers and organizations have the opportunity to move with the times and take advantage of their unique strengths.

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