Creativity in the workforce – Gen Z

Group of Generation Z smiling at each other and two are shaking hands

Creativity will play an extraordinary role in the evolving workforce of the 21st century. Gen Z Expert Nancy Nessel says today’s Generation Z, is a tech-savvy multicultural generation whose creative spirit will need to be nurtured and mentored in the workplace. Employers in today’s economy of emerging technologies need to embrace Generation Zs’ creativity in order to engage and retain young employees, as well as capture ideas and insights that will ultimately fuel business growth.

Born between 1996 and 2012, Generation Z has an estimated global population of 2.5 billion, ranging in ages from 7 to 23. This ambitious, independent and curious generation has begun to enter the workforce with an entirely new perspective on productivity and the role of creativity in the workforce. Raised during the digital revolution, Generation Z speaks a very creative language, one of visual images and bursts of content to meet their 3 second filter. Based on a study by Vision Critical, Gen Z is a generation of Culture Creators “that are redefining entertainment, consumption, the workplace and marketing” and they’ve created “Cultural Currency” that values creativity, shareability and uniqueness. The study revealed that 80 percent of Gen Z say finding themselves creatively is important. According to Vision Critical, 65 percent enjoy creating and sharing content on social media, while over 25 percent post original video on a weekly basis. Not only do they communicate creatively, they want to be highly creative in the workforce and enterprising in how they approach projects. Generation Z is highly focused on making progress in whatever they do, especially if it’s a creative project. AFDA calls this the “Creative Economy”, an economy where creativity replaces raw materials and other resources,  and a movement where innovation, imagination, entrepreneurship and creativity drive professional and organizational development.

Here are four strategies that will help you channel Generation Z’s creativity into impactful contributions in the workforce:

  1. Assign multiple projects that require creativity. Give Gen Z employees projects that enable them to express their creativity in a variety of ways. According to CMO Europe 2018, “85% prefer to be productive working on creative projects than hanging out”. Gen Z responds best to not only creative projects, but also to hands-on projects (DIY) and projects that can be performed outside the office. For example, assign a Gen Z an industry trend report and let them walk the streets trend-spotting, filming and composing captivating captions. They will come back energized and focused.
  2. Encourage freedom of expression. To meet their need for freedom of expression, frequently include them in brainstorm sessions, planning processes, and any projects or meetings that encourage collaborative and expressive thinking and creative expression. Gen Zs want their voice to be heard, and creatively expressing themselves through innovative venues enable them to rap, sing, and rant their opinions with a passion and a purpose. For example, they engage in street activism and protests more than previous generations; stand firm against hate on campuses; produce Op Docs (short, opinionated documentaries) and vlogs (video blog or video log) for a purpose or cause; and perform and educate their followers to become Instafamous. This generation thrives on expression, and compared to Generation Y, prefers face-to-face communication. 
  3. Ignite their entrepreneurial spirit. Generation Z is growing up in the digital revolution and the gig economy (Uber, Airbnb).  Growing up with an entirely new set of tools in their hands, GenZ is 55 percent more likely to have a desire to start a business, as compared to Generation Y. GenZ is growing up in an era where for example, building an e-commerce storefront on Etsy requires little skill and minimal financial backing.  Assign projects where Gen Z can leverage their business-building skills.
  4. Train with the right brain. Growing up with screens, memes, vloggers and videos (YouTube), Gen Z tends to learn better visually and with a 3 second filter, they are very quick learners.  According to NST.com, 77% of Gen Z say they learn best by creating and hands-on experiences. When it comes to job training and learning, provide Gen Z with multiple opportunities to be creative and expressive such as educating through TEDx Talks, conducting store visits, or role playing; training sessions should be incremental, visual, and creative. Keeping it short will help them stay focused.

These strategies will engage and help retain the ambitious, entrepreneurial and ingenius “Culture Creators” in Generation Z. Building a more creative culture for Generation Z will also benefit your organization; Generation Z can provide numerous insights into social and digital worlds. As Generation Z enters the workforce more rapidly, let’s learn to work with them more creatively. 

Creativity is one of the critical skills that have been identified for Next Generation Leaders. Learn how to become a great leader in our ASPIRE program powered by GAIA Insights.

This post was written by Nancy Nessel, an expert in Generation Z. You can read more about Nancy’s work on her website gettinggenz.com.

About the author

Nancy Nessel

Nancy has keen behavioral insight and generational foresight, fueling her interest in different generations and their unique preferences. She is a progressive thought-leader and intelligent blogger about Generation Z, the next generation following Gen Y. Managing a career in consumer marketing plus two Gen Z kids of her own, Nancy is one of the premiere marketers to study and promote this "digital generation" of future talent.

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