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Generation Z In The Boardroom

Whether in gender, race, or age, diversity can allow companies to tap into a variety of perspectives, experiences, and expertise to solve problems and generate new ideas. But for the first time, we have workplaces today where four, even five generations work side by side. Conflict and unconscious bias can arise from generational differences in values and working styles. Unfortunately, research shows that those in senior positions (and often more senior in age) are the most biased.

Left unchecked, inter-generational conflict could lead to resentment, low morale, less engagement, and as a result lower productivity. Therefore, boards must understand the management challenges of a multi-generational workforce. They also need to examine their level of understanding of the youngest under 24 – Generation Z.

In this podcast, Dr Sabine Dembkowski, Founder and Managing Partner of Better Boards, discusses Generation Z with Hana Ben-Shabat, Founder of research and advisory firm Gen Z Planet, and previously an elected partner and board member of the global management consulting firm Kearney. Hana helps business leaders prepare for the next generation of employees and consumers. She is the author of Gen Z 360: Preparing for the Inevitable Change in Culture, Work, and Commerce.

“Gen Z-ers are important because they are going to be the future talent of every company”
Hana explains that Generation Z is defined as anyone who was born from 1998 to 2016, so aged 6 to 24.   Many of them are still children, but we are already starting to see this generation’s effect on culture, the workplace and consumer markets. Generation Z is important because these individuals will be the future talent of every company and will form one of the largest consumer segments ever seen.

“Diversity is not only a demographic statistic, but it is also a cultural lens through which they view the world”
Hana relates that Generation Z is unique in many ways, and she believes that this will affect company performance, either from a talent management perspective or from a customer perspective. This is the most diverse generation ever, and she is conscious that diversity is not only a demographic statistic to them. It is also a cultural lens through which they view the world. She also notes that this is the most digitally connected generation with a direct impact on the way they learn, think, communicate, interact, and the way they want to work. It is also the most educated generation. Hana also notes that this generation is challenged by mental health issues on a global scale, with 45% reporting being stressed most/all of the time.

“The Z brands are demonstrating an excellent understanding of who this consumer is and what is important to them”
Hana believes organisations need to focus on how successful they are in hiring and retaining Generation Z talent, especially in industries where the turnover of employees is very high. She notes that especially in the consumer market, a new wave of direct-to-consumer brands arises that she refers to as the ‘Z brands’.

The three key takeaways from our conversation are:

1.      Check your biases; how often have you dismissed someone just because they are younger or didn’t have the same experience as yours?
     This generation is the most educated, and they are the digital natives. They have a lot to bring to the table and want to contribute, so listening to them and embracing what they have to say will be beneficial for everyone.
     Hiring Generation Z and giving them both roles in which they can shine and opportunities to contribute will be critical in retaining them.

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