What Your Company Needs to Grow Gen-Z Leaders

Dr. Ryan Giffen

For a long time, Millennials dominated the headlines and marketers’ curiosity. But news, tips, and advice on understanding and attracting Generation Z are everywhere at this point. Gen-Z also makes up 30 percent of the world and will make 30 percent of the global workforce by 2030. They’re the current it generation, young adults, and trend-shapers. As the most diverse generation in history, they are intriguing and innately have different attitudes and expectations than previous generations. That explains why Gen-Z is in the spotlight, and everyone is trying to decode what makes them unique and how to convey messages in a way meaningful to them. They are also the youngest group in the workplace.

Now is the right time to groom them into future leaders, as the workforce needs new blood, empathetic and creative people who can introduce positive changes. Hence, the narrative shouldn’t only be about attracting and retaining Gen-Z. Instead, it should highlight the importance of personalized employee experiences that help grow leaders.

Here’s everything you should know about Gen-Z and what they care about in the workplace.

Who is Gen-Z?

Even though the starting date is subject to change, Gen-Z individuals were born between 1997 and 2012, meaning the oldest is only 25 years old. Their older counterparts, Millennials, are still the dominant generation due to their purchasing power and position in the workplace. However, Gen-Z is moving in that direction, as they account for 40 percent of consumers. They are the best example of digital natives, as most grew up with social media and a world of information at their disposal. No wonder 91 percent of Gen-Z said technology is a decisive factor when choosing a job. Social media is their principal source of trends and news, with TikTok being the most used platform.

These young individuals spend more than three hours watching videos, explaining their eight-second attention span. Because of that, Gen-Z loves short, straightforward, and creative content. They are innovative but prefer to make old things new again, as they are likely the most nostalgic generation to emerge to this date. After all, Gen-Z has witnessed many challenging events, such as the Great Recession, the pandemic, and the Russia-Ukraine war. That explains why they often seek comfort in the past times and have a hard time enjoying the present. However, Gen-Z is creative and loves doing things their own way.

Here’s what makes them unique.

What Makes Gen-Z Different?

Gen-Z is more politically and socially aware and involved at a young age than previous generations. Easy internet access allowed them to learn about diverse cultures and how things are done in other parts of the world. Moreover, Gen-Z can find the latest news on injustice, movements, and societal upheavals with one click, enabling them to react fast. Along with Millennials, they were the dominant group in the Black Lives Matter protests in 2020, and they organized themselves online. That also speaks about Gen-Z’s tribalistic attitudes. Unlike their older counterparts, they stick together, defend other members of their generation, and are proud to be Gen-Z.

Perhaps that played a role in why the media portrays them more positively than Millennials, even though Gen-Z, in many ways, continues their legacies. They also care about political correctness and ensuring no one feels excluded. But Gen-Z takes it to another level, making inclusion their main characteristic. That often means everything is a statement for them. For instance, many Gen-Z individuals wouldn’t buy from or work with brands that stand for opposing social views and causes. They care more about individuality and uniqueness than wearing expensive clothes.

Gen-Z is also a climate change advocate and cares deeply about protecting the environment from negative influences. It matters to them whether they collaborate with like-minded companies and professionals. And if Gen-Z individuals dislike something, they’ll make sure to let you know. They speak their mind, post their opinions online, and demand better or different when facing something that doesn’t work for them.

How does that reflect on their behavior and expectations in the workplace?

Work-related Expectations and Ambitions Among Gen-Z

Generation Z is entrepreneurial, as they grew up with the internet and had access to numerous tips and tricks on starting a business. However, most want to become influencers, and 78 percent of Gen-Z teens are willing to share identifiable data in pursuit of fame, compared to only one percent of Millennials in 2010. That isn’t to say no Gen-Z individual dreams of more traditional or creative careers. However, it matters to them to receive praise and recognition and be able to spread their influence.

This generation has spent their formative years in an era when anyone could become famous. It might be ingrained in their subconsciousness to crave the same and use their unique skills to be independent and create their own jobs. In that way, it might be challenging to attract Gen-Z employees, but they could be more willing to consider an offer if a company provides good career progression opportunities. For example, 23 percent of Gen-Z see the professional advancement and option to take on leadership roles as one of the most significant factors when looking for a job. They also hold work-life balance and learning opportunities highly.

Gen-Z cares about high salaries and financial benefits, but not as much as Millennials. That might change as this generation reaches mature adult stages when money typically plays the central role in decision-making. For now, Gen-Z cares more about working for companies with similar values, taking a stand on political matters, and leaving a positive environmental and social impact. They prefer a hybrid work model over working strictly in an office or remotely. But regardless of the location, Gen-Z must have the flexibility to decide their time. These individuals want to have enough time to do other things they care about, be with their families, and dedicate themselves to their hobbies. Moreover, they want to see employers use their influence to make a difference in the world, fight climate change, and take a stance on relevant topics. This generation is rarely interested in working with companies only after profit.

They are also the most burnt-out generation, and 44 percent have left their organization due to workload pressure. Gen-Z wants their employers to care about mental health and employee well-being. Leadership aspirations vary depending on the culture and geographic location. But according to a recent report, less than half of Danish Gen-Zs dream about becoming leaders. These individuals associate leadership roles with increased stress and lack the confidence to lead. But that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s impossible to develop Gen-Z leaders.

7 Tips on How to Grow Gen-Z Leaders

1. Provide Relevant Learning & Development Opportunities

Gen-Z hopes to have stellar learning and development opportunities at work, as they care about advancing their careers and reaching higher positions. Efficient upskilling and reskilling programs are necessary for driving their productivity and preparing them for more demanding responsibilities.

However, every workshop or lesson should align with your employees’ roles and ambitions. It should also be related to their abilities and knowledge for leadership positions.

2. Cultivate Diversity and Inclusion

Companies without well-developed and efficient DE&I initiatives will hardly attract Gen-Z’s attention. Thus, these individuals will likely not aspire to advance their careers in workplaces disregarding the importance of inclusion.

Diverse values and policies are necessary for ensuring every Gen-Z employee gets equal opportunities to grow and learn. That allows you to include everyone willing to improve themselves and gain new skills.

3. Encourage People to Bring Their Authentic Selves to Work

This generation is highly expressive and prefers to work with companies that appreciate their qualities. Encouraging your Gen-Z employees to bring their authentic selves to work will also help them feel more comfortable, be productive, and consider a long career in your company.

Listen to their ideas and acknowledge their input. Let your Gen-Z staff know they can make a difference without silencing any part of themselves to be more likable.

4. Provide Mentoring and Coaching

Mentoring and coaching are timeless techniques for teaching employees how it is to take on different and more demanding responsibilities. It is also an excellent opportunity to show them how it is to walk in leadership shoes, as they would have direct contact with those who have already been there. Besides, mentors are a good influence and can guide Gen-Z workers and clarify their doubts regarding what it is to be a leader.

5. Acknowledge Positive Results

Nurture efficient recognition and rewards program. Appreciate your employees’ efforts and acknowledge their results. That is critical when they start pursuing leadership roles, as confidence plays a significant factor in their success.

6. Provide Constructive Feedback

Let your employees know what they do well and what they should improve. Provide constructive feedback after finishing assignments and throughout their leadership journey. As a result, you keep them on track and ensure they adjust their skills and behaviors to the job role and position.

7. Clarify How Being in a Leadership Position Helps Make a Positive Impact

Many young people fear taking leadership roles and believe it might cause too much stress or disrupt their personal lives. Talk with them and explain that being a leader allows them to influence positive changes, introduce relevant policies, and make an impact. Gen-Z must understand how doing something will benefit them and the world. Clear out these doubts and remove the fears that stop them from doing more.


Leadership roles are challenging and may seem like an overly demanding or scary undertaking for Gen-Z. It is best to give them insights into how it is to be a leader and how that could help them achieve greater things and change things for the better for their communities.

About Dr. Ryan Giffen

With over 20 years of experience, Dr. Ryan Giffen is an expert in human relations and business culture. His career began in hospitality, leading operations and human resource departments for Fortune 500 companies and the like. Not long after, Ryan found his passion for teaching and consulting. He earned a Ph.D. in Hospitality Management with a Human Resources focus from Iowa State University and now works as an assistant professor at California State University, Long Beach. For over a decade, he continues to research and speak on organizational culture, relationship intelligence, and leadership effectiveness. Ryan is also the founder of Inospire, a company helping bosses and employees build stronger relationships with one another. Lastly, Dr. Giffen is the producer and host of the Corporate Shadow Podcast, a show helping everyday employees build stronger relationships with their bosses and organizations.