Survey: How do Gen Z workers see themselves?

A new study reveals Gen Z has some contradictory workplace views.

According to a global survey of 3,400 members of Gen Z from The Workforce Institute at Kronos Inc., 32% respondents say Gen Z is the hardest-working generation ever, with millennials ranked as the second-hardest working generation at 25%. More than half (56%) say the Silent Generation (age 79-94) is the least hardworking generation of all time.

The survey, Meet Gen Z: Hopeful, Anxious, Hardworking, and Searching for Inspiration,” defines Gen Z as young adults age 16-25 and covered 12 countries including the U.S., Canada, U.K., and Australia.

While Gen Zers believe they are hardworking, one in four (26%) admit they would work harder and stay longer at a company that supports flexible schedules, with flexibility desired most in Canada (33%), the U.K. (31%), and the U.S. (31%).

Although Gen Z sees themselves as hardworking, there are actions from employers that roughly one-third of respondents say they would never tolerate. These include being forced to work when they don’t want to (35%), inability to use vacation days when they want to (34%), and working back-to-back shifts (30%).

Despite record-high Gen Z educational enrollment levels, less than half of respondents credit their high school (39%) or college (42%) education for preparing them to enter the working world. One in four Gen Zers say they are least prepared to handle negotiating (26%), networking (24%), speaking confidently in front of crowds (24%); and resolving work conflict (23%).

Conversely, more than half of respondents feel well-equipped to handle working in a team (57%), hitting project deadlines (57%), and working with customers (56%).

One in five respondents (21%) say they are not prepared to be managed by another person (21%), although nearly one-third (32%) say they would be motivated to work harder and stay longer at a company if they have a supportive manager. The top three attributes respondents value in a manager are: “they trust me” (47%), “they support me” (40%), and “they care about me” (35%).

Despite being “digital natives,” three out of four respondents (75%) prefer to receive manager feedback in person, and 39% prefer to communicate with their team or employer in person.

Across the globe, more than half (56%) of respondents are optimistic about their professional future, including 31% of U.S. Gen Zers who say they are “extremely optimistic.” However, half (50%) of those who are currently serving in an internship and one-third (28%) of those working full-time are only “moderately” optimistic about their professional future.

Between roughly one-fifth and one-third of respondents cited emotional barriers they feel they must overcome to achieve workplace success, including anxiety (34%), lack of motivation/drive (20%), and low self-esteem (17%). Anxiety, specifically, is a greater concern among female Gen Zers (39% vs. 29% for male) and most prevalent in Canada (44%), the U.K. (40%), and the U.S. (40%).

About one-third of respondents measure their success based on how respected they are by their co-workers (34%) and the recognition they receive from their manager (32%). However, traditional benchmarks still matter, with salary (44%) and advancement (35%) coming in with the highest responses.