Easy as XYZ…What Employers Need to Know About the Gen Z Workforce

Their thumbs spastically banging out two-way conversations composed entirely of over-punctuated and under-constructed sentences and if they look up long enough from their smartphone or mobile device, they may realize that they are on deck to enter the global workforce.


This is Generation Z, and they have never known a world without the Internet, cell phones or iPods. They are also growing up in uncertain times, a world shaped by 9/11, high school shootings and the War on Terror.

Experts disagree on when exactly Gen Z begins. Some argue that the inaugural members were born as early as 1991 and as late as 2001 while others contend that anyone born after 1995 is part of Gen Z. What is not in dispute, however, is what sets this generation apart from any that came before, and that’s the unique era in which they are being raised.


According to the U.S. Census Bureau, in the United States Gen Z makes up 25% of the population, outnumbering Millennials and Baby Boomers.

Global research and advisory firm Universum surveyed 49,000 members of Gen Z across 47 countries, throughout America, Europe, Asia, South America, and the Middle East to explore their plans for school and work and what they hope to achieve in their future careers, finding that companies may need to retool what they think they know about this next wave of talent.

According to the survey, while most of this generation are still in high school, 15% are pursuing bachelor’s degrees, almost 10% are in some stage of vocational education, 3% are pursuing master’s degrees, and 3% have already joined the workforce.

Here are some of the survey key takeaways posted in Forbes magazine.

Decisions regarding education and career

Globally, roughly 60% of Gen Z feels their parents have the strongest influence over “decisions regarding your education and career.” Roughly a quarter of respondents around the world felt their friends had the greatest influence over their decisions, and just slightly fewer said their teachers filled this role.

What motivates course of study choices

An overwhelming segment of this generation — 67% — around the world said they would choose their course of study based on being “very interested in the subject.” That number is even higher in Africa (74%) and Western Europe (79%), and highest in North America (83%).

Other influencers include potential compensation with 39% of students around the world using it to determine their course of study and the opportunity to help people also sways a third of this global population, and nudges 44% of students in the Middle East.

College may not be in their future

A significant number of students around the world responded that they would be “interested in finding out more about how companies offer education to people who have no university degree,” particularly in Latin America, where 76% of Gen Z respondents indicated feeling this way.

They want to be their own boss

More than half of Gen Z respondents around the world indicated an interest in starting their own company. A full 76% of respondents in Africa and those in Central and Eastern Europe indicated an interest in becoming a founder. Top reasons cited for this entrepreneurial spirt are, “I want to be my own boss” and “I want to have an impact.”

Work-life balance and job security are king

An equal 40% of students around the world cited “work-life balance” and “to be secure or stable in my job” as their top career goals, more than 50% of respondents in North America emphasizing them.

Other goals scoring high marks include autonomy, leadership opportunities, dedication to a cause, and the chance to be creative.

This is an area in which Gen Z differs from Millennials, who placed greater emphasis on work-life balance, while still ranking it ahead of other goals. Millennials were also more invested in being continually challenged and serving a greater good, and less interested in autonomy.

Glass is half-empty

Overall, they have more anxiety than Millennials when it comes to fear of underperformance, not meeting their career goals, and they will be trapped in a dead end job with no opportunities.

Of greatest concern, according the Forbes article, seventy-one percent of Millennials believe they will achieve a higher standard of living than their parents. Just 56% of Gen Z feels the same.