Hire Gen Z UX Designers
Here are four reasons why (cover photo by Tom Fishburne).
We’re not just the entry-level position puppies you keep as entertainment on your design teams. So, while we may not know what life was like before technology (or how to moderate our Netflix/Hulu binges), having a Gen Z presence within your UX teams can provide some great insight into current events, ethics, and your end-users.
Every generation knows itself as the ‘best’ generation, and I understand that I am not immune to these beliefs about my own. Though, there are some fairly unique traits of Gen Z that make us great designers. Yes, we are still young and most of us are still fairly inexperienced, but even in entry-level positions, as long as we are provided enough mentoring and support, we can truly make an impact within your company and on your products.
The most racially and ethnically diverse generation
According to a Pew Research Center report, nearly half (48%) of Gen Z belongs to a community of color. White non-Hispanic Gen Z-ers within the US are barely a majority of the generation anymore, comprising 52% percent of the generation’s population.
Design-based and creative careers (and any career, for that matter) greatly benefit from hiring employees who represent their customer demographic. Hiring people who match your customer demographic on your team is not a form of user research and should not be perceived as one (because designers aren’t the users of our products), but it does allow divergent thinking, perspectives, and backgrounds to influence products and reduce the amount of collective unconscious biases among the team. Creating diverse and inclusive company cultures increases innovation and team performance. Race, ethnicity, gender, religion, sexual orientation, and age are all facets of diversity that each can be more widely represented within a company and design team — not exclusively race and/or ethnicity, but these do play a large contributing factor in how an individual navigates the world around them.
Diversity, specifically within the Gen Z generation, is highly valued in the workplace. Hiring managers, executives, and leaders should prepare to promote and follow through on DEI initiatives in order to attract and retain the next generation of workers.
Motivated to become better workers and prioritize job security
We are commonly intrigued in pursuing careers and companies which offer professional development and upward mobility. These upward mobility opportunities can be represented through mentoring programs, encouraging managers and seniors, valuing the growth mindset, and providing constructive feedback on work.
From what current research depicts, we will not be the Millennial-like ‘job-hoppers.’ We aren’t as concerned with the prestige of a company as previous generations when job-hunting, as we are more motivated by the potential of moving upward within a company, seeking ways to take up mentoring and coaching from leaders within the company. We value a career in which we can evolve, develop, and thrive, and you can count on us to most likely stay within the company for the long ride, as long as we have room to grow and advance.
From watching the previous generation enter the workforce during the Great Recession to living through the COVID-19 pandemic, job security is a very large portion of Gen Z’s priorities. Many of us are moving toward finding jobs in civil service, health, and science sectors so that we may be confident in keeping our jobs through whatever troubled waters lie ahead.
Even though the ‘UX design position’ itself may change and split apart into different, more specific subsets in the future, the skillset a current UX designer uses is applicable in nearly any design-related career, and can easily morph and adapt to the changing times and technologies when needed.
First tech natives
While older generations remember a time before technology, Gen Z grew up right alongside these good ‘ol days of website UI experimentations, software evolutions, information privacy debates, and social media crazes. In 2018, 80% of Gen Z participants in a survey conducted by Dell said they wanted to work on cutting-edge technology, and 77% were willing to be tech mentors at work. Us tech natives see technology as a necessary tool and are interested in leading the technological advances of the future, which goes in hand with the core attributes of a typical UX designer’s job in the tech industry (that is, if the UX designer works on technological products).
We think and communicate in beneficial ways
Even though Gen Z has an average attention span of roughly 8 seconds (quite the puppies indeed), what we say and what we do is succinct and to the point, representative of how we communicate on many digital platforms, such as Twitter and Snapchat. Due to the format and framework we typically communicate with people, we have grown to value efficient communication and to-the-point messaging. One of the most important tenets of UX design (and UX writing) is the ability to provide users with clear and direct messages, and we’re very adept at communicating in this manner.
Another core feature of Gen Z is that we find greater purpose and engagement with companies that hold strong and meaningful mission statements. WARC states “82% of Gen Zers say it’s important that their job contributes to the greater good and 70% would rather do something meaningful than make a lot of money.” Along with this, we prefer to support companies and products which also align with our beliefs (possibly resolving internet privacy, sustainability, transparency, and implementing proper ethics). In a Forbes survey, the majority of Gen Z-ers stated they would “spend an incremental 10 percent or more [for] sustainable products” over non-sustainable products, and in another study conducted by McKinsey, 70% stated they buy products from companies they consider ethical.
Needless to say, UX designers (and UX researchers, UX writers, UI designers, service designers, etc.) serve as ethic compasses for a lot of companies and products. Gen Z’s ability to communicate succinctly and carry an innate drive to contribute to good-in-morals companies align with many characteristics thought to make a good UX designer: Problem-solving, effective communication, big-picture thinking, and a drive for innovation.
Hire these puppies
This isn’t to say older-generation designers aren’t swift communicators or low-attention puppies as well, but our unique upbringing during the Recession, COVID-19 global pandemic, and emerging technological era have changed the way we approach topics, how we view the world, and how we understand the ways we can change it. We are still a very undiscovered generation, but we are perfect candidates for your design teams. Prepare for us: We entering the workforce head-on. . .
. . . Soon after we finish this Netflix marathon.
Kathryn is a user experience designer in Denver, CO. They uncover practical, inclusive, and accessible digital solutions with great attention to detail and precision. Since graduating from a UX/UI boot camp in 2020, Kathryn has worked as a UX designer for two tech startups and a B2G software company. They're currently enrolled in the undergrad Emergent Digital Practices program at the University of Denver.