Gen Z in the Workforce Part III

Part III: Shaping the Future

Generation Z has emerged as a formidable force for positive change across various facets of society. They are having a transformative impact on the economy, artificial intelligence (AI), sustainability and social justice. As this generation enters the professional sphere, they bring with them a unique set of values, skills and perspectives that have the potential to reshape industries and society for the better.

Gen Z is making their presence felt in the economy, steering consumer behavior, workforce dynamics and entrepreneurial landscapes. As digital natives, they are transforming e-commerce with their preferences and choices, and businesses are taking notice. Kevin Roose of The New York Times notes, "Gen Z is driving the growth of digital-first businesses. Their online spending habits and reliance on digital platforms have reshaped the retail industry, favoring companies that prioritize online presence and seamless digital experiences." These consumer experiences by younger employees in turn become influential guides for company leadership formulating market strategy and operations. The Gen Z workforce helps to inform businesses what the trends are and where to invest resources and future development.

Previous generations, for example, may approach artificial intelligence advances with caution, but Gen Z is already experiencing AI integration into daily life from an early age. From virtual assistants to AI-driven applications, they’ve becoming accustomed to the presence and functionalities of AI, shaping their expectations and understanding of its capabilities.

Gen Z's tech-savvy nature for integrating AI in the workplace is exciting. According to a report by PwC, 69% of Gen Z employees believe that AI can improve their work efficiency. Their positive outlook towards technology drives innovation and collaboration between human workers and AI systems. Gen Z is not afraid of AI; they see it as a tool to enhance their abilities, not replace them. Characterized by an entrepreneurial spirit, many members of this generation are actively exploring and developing AI technologies, driving advancements in areas like automation, machine learning and natural language processing. Their innovative mindset positions them as custodians of AI-driven progress.

Their commitment to sustainability is reflected in their consumer choices, as well, with many actively seeking eco-friendly products and supporting companies with environmentally responsible practices. Greta Thunberg, a prominent Gen Z environmental activist, encapsulates this commitment. They are driven by the hope of a sustainable future and will not rest until they see real change. In the workplace, this might translate into the adoption of policies that minimize the company’s ecological footprint, such as eliminating single-use plastics for events. This determination has propelled Gen Z to advocate for sustainable practices, influencing corporate policies and fostering a global shift towards environmental responsibility. 

One of the defining characteristics of Gen Z is their strong commitment to social justice causes. This generation has been actively involved in advocating for equality, justice and protecting the environment. Among the issues that resonate deeply with them are The Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement, climate activism and LGBTQ+ rights.

In the wake of the BLM protests, Gen Z has been at the forefront, using social media platforms to amplify voices, raise awareness and mobilize support for racial justice. Tiana Lowe, a columnist for The Washington Examiner, writes, "Gen Z is a generation that refuses to accept the status quo, and they are leveraging their digital tools to demand change and accountability."

Their commitment to social justice is not limited to online activism. Many still actively participate in protests, engage in volunteer work and support organizations that align with their values. Their determination to stand up for what’s right has been influential in companies reevaluating workplace policies surrounding discrimination, sexual harassment and issues pertaining to diversity, equity and inclusion.

As Gen Z continues to enter the professional arena, their tech-savvy nature, commitment to environmental responsibility and push for social justice are driving positive changes in workplaces and industries around the world. As employers, managers and colleagues, it’s important to listen to what they have to say, learn from their lived experiences and help mentor them towards the most effective way to achieve their goals within the company, because their collective impact will likely shape the future of business and society.     

The Career Engineering series features the expert advice of Amy Rueda, a 25-year veteran of executive search, who has placed CEOs and C-suite executives across multiple industries and functional areas. Her passion for leading diversity initiatives that focus on change management and employee engagement is reflected in her portfolio of accomplishments. Amy studied political science and was born and raised in Los Angeles.

Email your career questions to and Amy will try and answer them in next month’s issue of Career Engineering.

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  • Gen Z in the Workforce Part III

    Gen Z in the Workforce Part III

    Part III: Shaping the Future Generation Z has emerged as a formidable force for positive change across various facets of society. They are having a transformative impact on the economy, artificial intelligence (AI), sustainability and social justice. As this generation enters the professional sphere, they bring with them a unique set of values, skills and…

    Read More

  • Gen Z in the Workforce Part II

    Gen Z in the Workforce Part II

    Part 2: A Mental Health Discovery If you work with them, you may have noticed that the newest generation entering today’s workforce has some unique characteristics. In our last article about Gen Z in the Workforce, we discussed the business philosophies predominant among 22- to 26-year-olds, citing their application of cancel culture, preference for remote…

    Read More

  • Gen Z in the Workforce Part I

    Gen Z in the Workforce Part I

    Part 1: Understanding Gen Z Philosophies Last summer, I had the privilege to teach a career management course for the Class of 2023, called The Classroom. The Classroom is a six-week program to help our most recent grads from UCLA transition from the classroom to the workforce. The sessions addressed the benefits of: As any…

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  • Interview Strategies for Success

    Interview Strategies for Success

    Landing a job, particularly your first, is nothing short of intimidating. The most challenging part of the process is the pressure to execute a stellar interview. This undertaking is not limited to those entering the workforce for the first time; it applies to everyone at all levels. Let's face it, interviewing is nerve-racking, especially when…

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  • What to Know About Recruiters

    What to Know About Recruiters

    Being contacted by a recruiter is one of the best feelings you can experience, personally and professionally. The experience of being acknowledged as a possible candidate often comes with feelings of accomplishment, recognition and pride. But are all calls from recruiters the same? Not necessarily. What varies are the types of recruiters that reach out…

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  • What Steps to Take to Land Your Next Job

    What Steps to Take to Land Your Next Job

    It's that time of year again when we revisit resolutions we've made for 2023. For those who have stuck with their goals, congratulations! Unfortunately, some of us didn't and feel guilty about breaking our promise. But the good news is that it's never too late to restart. For example, if one of your resolutions was…

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  • Where to Work

    Where to Work

    After two and a half years into this pandemic, the workforce is redefining what constitutes the optimal workplace. For individuals seeking a greater work-life balance, the flexibility to work from home offers several health, financial and productivity benefits. For others, returning to the office offers distinct advantages in relationship-building and access to key resources. As…

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  • Why References Matter

    Why References Matter

    When a company begins to evaluate a final candidate for a position, they often do a thorough background check prior to extending an offer. Unfortunately, some candidates overstate their experience and don't realize they are putting their candidacy and reputation at risk. This is why references matter. Because they help validate the candidate’s achievements. But…

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  • When a Job Search Feels Wrong

    When a Job Search Feels Wrong

    It was hard not to get excited when a recruiter called with a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. She was looking for a corporate leader to oversee talent management for a global pharmaceutical company. The job description had my name written all over it. My experience and credentials aligned perfectly with the role's requirements. And the best part…

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  • Selling Yourself

    Selling Yourself

    Congratulations! You've applied for your dream job and made it to the interview stage of the process. However, preparing for the job interview can be stressful and dominate your attention when thinking through every possible scenario that could come up during your face-to-face interaction with the executive recruiter or hiring manager. The key is to…

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  • Who Gets Hired and Why?

    Who Gets Hired and Why?

    The ideal executive candidate is the sum of multiple variables. Yes, we expect the résumé to shine and the interview to be stellar, but what is the DNA of the ideal candidate? Integrity is in the genetic code of an honest, sincere and principled leader. It is an ever-present code of conduct that is noble…

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