Skip to main content
Back

Gen Z are ambitious - but not at any cost

young woman in pink and blue coat

Harnessing Gen Z's ambition in the right way pays dividends in productivity. 

In a nutshell

  1. Gen Z are the most progressive demographic group in the country and are determined to succeed for themselves and for the planet.
  2. There is a big opportunity for employers to harness the ambition of Gen Z by addressing their wellbeing – and by being seen to do so. 
  3. Gen Z don’t just want or hope for genuine care for their wellbeing from their employer, they demand it. Their ambition to succeed is not at any cost.

The Gen Z generation are the top of the funnel feeding into the workforce. Understanding what drives them is crucial for organisations looking to build a productive workforce. The global talent shortage is a very real threat to organisational productivity and growth, so we need to look to the desires and ambitions of Gen Z to tap into their talents and ensure growth. Fortunately, we know a lot about them.  

They are the most progressive demographic group in the country and they are determined to succeed for themselves and for the planet – this is the activist generation. They care about the environment, about global warming and especially they care about inequality because they value fairness very highly.  

They are setting their sights high and are intent on being successful. Their elevated expectations could almost be viewed as unrealistic. They are critical when education falls short, for example, and they are equally critical of employers who do not provide appropriate support, career development, training and mentoring.  

The most anxious generation ever

The flip side of this optimism and drive to succeed is a high level of anxiety among this cohort. Suicide, cost of living and mental health are dominant conversations. 35% have taken time off work due to stress in the past 12 months.  

They are more anxious than Millennials and see positive wellbeing as a signal of success. They also think of wellbeing holistically. One thing driving this perspective is that the 18-24 age group are the most diverse generation New Zealand has ever seen (only 50% identify as Pakeha). As a result, we are seeing a blend of western and eastern worldviews and the growing influence of tiro ā-Māori ki tōna ake ao. The result is a shift to more holistic ways of thinking, which includes wellbeing. 

There is a big opportunity for employers to harness the ambition of this cohort by addressing their wellbeing and by being seen to do so. They expect their manager to exercise care, they expect the organisation to create the structures needed to facilitate genuine care and they hold their employer responsible to a large extent for their wellbeing. 

Feeling like they aren't cared for can drive them to seek employment elsewhere.

Creating a culture of authentic care is key 

Gen Zers pride themselves on being able to detect and call out inauthentic claims and messages – unlike Millennials, they are less interested in what organisations say and more interested in what they do. That includes employers. 

Authenticity comes from a source of genuine care for the wellbeing of the workforce and our study findings were unequivocal on the relationship between genuine care and the outcome of wellbeing. Gen Zers don’t want or hope for this from their employer, they demand it. Their ambition to succeed is not at any cost.  

The reward for an employer who delivers, is an alignment between the Gen Z ambition to succeed with the organisations drive to succeed with an effective, committed workforce, delivering increased productivity. 

For more insights into a productive workforce and supporting wellbeing in the workplace, get in touch with us today. 

Colleen Ryan
Partner at TRA
Colleen has a curious and strategic mindset fueled by 40 years of experience in business across Europe, North America and APAC countries. With a fascination and deep understanding of what it is to be human, specifically applying principles from cultural sociology, social psychology, behavioural science, and cultural analysis, she brings breakthrough insights to brand strategy, creative development and customer centricity.

Understand the forces of culture and shape radical ideas

back to top

Stay in touch!

Sign up to receive our latest thinking straight to your inbox each month.