The New Normal And Gen Z

By Siobhan Smith

Co-President of Catapult

Understanding new graduates entering the workforce

The college graduates of 2021 are entering the workforce after experiencing a tumultuous senior year. Their senior year has been like no other – having their college dreams replaced with uncertainty, disappointment and fear.

The cancellations of classes, senior rituals, traveling abroad excursions and graduation have left its mark. They were deprived of the traditional practices of building relationships with professors and friends. They missed out on coveted internships, research projects and mentoring – all relished in senior year. These were replaced with the disturbing headlines of COVID deaths, racial unrest, political turmoil, record gun violence, climate change debates, etc.

Generation Z will be leading your organization someday. Do you know what they’ve been through in the past year and a half, and how this will shape them throughout their professional careers?

Now, Gen Z is entering the new normal without ever knowing what it was like in the old normal. They listened to speeches about adaptability, resilience and social responsibility. Each speaker addressed the unmistakable role the pandemic has played on their college education and how it will shape their future careers. Recent college graduates want to work yet they are having difficulty finding employment, especially in their desired careers. Today, 43% of new graduates are underemployed.

This pandemic has shaped their future and expectations – epitomizing the struggle of the Gen Z generation. They are responding to the effects of the pandemic with both apprehension and courage. COVID-19 has forever changed them, providing a unique perspective, creating new behaviors and presenting challenging circumstances to navigate. Although underemployed, they plan to make a difference. Employers need to understand this impressive generation.

Before the pandemic, Deloitte did a research study on Gen Z and found the following as general characteristics:

  • Work in industries that they personally align with
  • Work with the safety of stable employment with diverse and entrepreneurial opportunities
  • Have independence but not isolation
  • Work with socially-conscious organizations
  • Prioritize financial security over personal fulfillment
  • Social media has implications on how they interact and want to be perceived
  • Diversity matters

All these beliefs are now more entrenched and then some. They were born and lived through a world of struggle, which makes them more risk averse.

  • Financial security and stability are important as well as promotional opportunities
  • Financial rewards, career paths, flexible work schedules and excellent benefits are sought after
  • Although they enjoy social media and technology, they value face-to-face personalized interaction
  • Diversity matters to them through many dimensions beyond race and gender, as they understand intersectionality

Combining this with their preferences on how they work, where they work and who they work with means that companies will need to fundamentally change how they organize, hire, retain and develop talent.

Organizations who want to capitalize on this growing demographic need to understand them. In 2020, Gen Z made up 24% of the global workforce. They are a meaningful demographic different from millennials. Setbacks and stressors are more novel to this group as they have not yet developed the same coping mechanisms as other generations. Employers will need a new mindset and new tactics in their talent strategy to attract, retain, motivate and develop this crucial generation. This generation has the necessary competencies needed for future success – resilience, adaptability and diversity of thought.

The Catapult team can help you navigate this new normal terrain by working with you on your talent strategy for Gen Z and all generations. Contact us for more information.


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