Generation Z (Gen Z)—the first generation of the 21st century and shaped by internet culture, mobile systems, and social feeds—is now coming of age and emerging into the workforce. They are filling internships and entry-level roles in many organizations.
According to the World Economic Forum, Gen Z will represent 27% of the workforce by 2025. Their behavior patterns will shape our organizations in a few years, if not already.
How prepared are we to meet Gen Z in the workplace? Is our workplace ready to set young talent up for success? It is time to take a step back from the millennial mindset and understand the wants and needs of our new set of employees.
GEN Z and the “Preparation Gap”
Despite high college enrollment, Gen Z still feels unprepared to enter the workforce. Only half of Gen Z credit their college or high school experience as critical preparation for
the working world.
A study conducted by Kronos shows that they feel they lack common workplace skills. In Table 1, we provide a list of areas where Gen Z feels both prepared and unprepared.
How does Gen Z choose a workplace
Reaching this pragmatic and entrepreneurial generation may take more than a high salary and a big name. For companies to stand out to Gen Z, they need to heavily emphasize opportunities for professional development and the chance to grow with the company, along with offering an inclusive and collaborative environment. According to the Deloitte Global 2022 Gen Z and Millennial Survey , the top 7 reasons for Gen Z to choose to work for an organization are:
- Good work-life balance. According to a 2020 Gallup Poll, Gen Z prioritizes employers that care about their wellbeing; Gen Z is confidently and assertively demanding a better work-life balance.
Microsoft and Monster studies showed that people prioritize health and wellbeing over work. In fact, 69% say well-being is more important than a high-status job, and 51% place well-being above a salary increase.
Smart organizations are showing they care by offering mental health support, expanded benefits, stipends for fitness, greater options for childcare support, affinity groups for social support, and extended training for all kinds of growth, from tech skills to financial planning.
Even if employees don’t take advantage of all the well-being benefits available, knowing they are available reinforces their employer cares and is committed to their positive work and life experience.
- Learning and development opportunities. According to a new LinkedIn study, Gen-Z wants to learn their way up the career ladder—and smart companies are providing the rungs. Train them to retain them. Lack of learning opportunities will make Gen Z a flight risk. Here are research-backed insights on how to create compelling and engaging training for young adults:
Gen Z doesn’t want a once-a-year employee evaluation to find out how they’re doing. They’re used to continual feedback about their performance and expect their employers to follow suit.
- A high salary or other financial benefits. A competitive salary ranks highly with every working generation. And even though Gen Z values their salary the least of any generation, it’s still the top reason they’d consider leaving their current employment (54%). Some of the most-desired benefits by Gen Z include:
- Health benefits
- Paid time off (PTO) and sick leave
- Parental leave
- Student loan repayment/tuition reimbursement
- Wellness benefits
- Commuter benefits
Gen-Z would be more committed to staying with their employer for longer if they offered financial wellness benefits.
- Positive workplace culture (e.g., employees feel valued, have a sense of belonging, etc.). A survey of Gen Z by EY in 2021 found that 63% of Gen Z felt it was very or extremely important to work for a company that shares their values. They want to enjoy their work, be the best at it, and make a difference in the world. What values does Gen Z wants to promote?
More than half said they were very or extremely interested in environmental issues. They put their money where their values are — 57% say it’s very important to buy from brands that protect and preserve the environment.
In a Monster survey, most (76%) of Gen Z say they’re responsible for driving their career trajectory. Almost 60% said they’d be willing to work nights and weekends if it meant higher pay.
Data collected from over 7,000 Gen Z-ers found mentorship at the top of their list when it comes to working. A whopping 82% said they want their supervisor to help them set performance goals, while 83% want their supervisor to care about their life.
A study released by TalentLMS, alongside HR software BambooHR, reveals that among Gen Z workers, 77% want to work for a company with a commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion, and 73% believe that people should be allowed to express themselves freely, authentically and spontaneously at work. One thing that Gen Z has learned is how to speak up. Gen Z won’t hesitate to question and critique their leadership. While they know all about likes and follows, they won’t like and follow blindly.
The top traits that Gen Z workers value in leaders and managers are transparency, empathy, and honesty.
- Opportunities to progress/grow in career/take on the leadership role Organizations need to invest in building professional development tools to allow Gen Z to grow in the workplace and offer career mapping to show Gen Z their potential for promotion within the company. Research by LinkedIn found when companies offer more job growth internally, their employees stay with them twice as long compared with companies that have less internal mobility.
Interestingly, for Gen Z, upward mobility is not synonymous with higher compensation. Working on fulfilling projects and making an impact within a company is more valuable than a high salary. A survey conducted by Ernst and Young on Gen Z interns found that potential for career progression and growth is the most important factor to Gen Z when searching for a job. 75% feel that their first position should only last a year before a promotion.
Provide Gen Z with a roadmap of how their career path could progress within the company. The emphasis on culture and engagement is more important than ever to help bridge many concerns.
- Derive a sense of meaning from work. Gen Z is increasingly looking for purpose-driven work, where they are empowered to drive change—both within their organizations and in society. They want to work for organizations with a positive societal impact and where they have an opportunity to get directly involved and make a difference through their work.
I want to work for an organization that I feel proud of, which means they care about their contribution to the world. This refers to having ethics regarding its treatment of people within and outside of the organization, caring for the environment, and participating in and encouraging philanthropic efforts. – Millie, 21, Sydney
- Flexible working model (e.g., can work remotely, on location, or in a combination). The data is from a Microsoft study that shows that extreme flexibility and hybrid work will define the post-pandemic workplace.
According to a survey conducted by Ripple Match, when it comes down to what Gen Z women vs. Gen Z men want at work, there are a few key differences, as shown in the below graph:
Right from mouths of Gen Z
I want to be surrounded by people that challenge and teach me. It is important to me that I am with people that want to and are encouraged to innovate new solutions and question traditional methods. If an organization is very conventional and sticky in its ways, I would not be interested in collaborating with them. – Bella, 20, Colorado
I believe that people and organizations with power and influence have the moral obligation to use that privilege to advocate for social change. I would not work for an organization that ignored this responsibility.” – Nandini, 20, UK
I think it is important that an organization is open to continual growth, innovation, and progression to persistently aim to improve their current methods to grow alongside our society. – Millie, 21, Sydney
An organization must respect its employees and value their opinions, even in an entry-level position.
Values closest to my heart- Honesty, kindness, respect. – Skye, 21, New York
People, variety of work, and ability to make a change/ impact will influence my decision to work or not work for an organization. – Ankit, 20, Canada
I want to work for an organization that shows me a career path and collaborates with me to attain my goals. – Mukund, 20, India
Key Take-Aways for The Leadership Team
1. Acknowledge the Values of Gen Z. Be prepared if the Gen Z leaders expect their organization to be:
- Flexible and humane, prioritizing work-life balance and the wellbeing of its associates over client demands.
- Egalitarian, bringing more diversity into leadership positions.
- Positive work culture with zero tolerance for toxic behavior.
- Environment friendly, working towards mitigating the climate disasters and accelerating decarbonization
2. Acclimatize the Leadership style.
Top 3 traits young professionals value in leaders:
- Empathy and honesty.
- The ability to listen
- Supportive attitude
The key takeaway may be empowerment and not micro-management.
3. Play an expanded role in employees’ financial, physical and mental wellbeing. Support includes enhanced sick leave, financial assistance, adjusted hours of operation, counseling, and childcare provisions
4. Two top most areas to invest in:
- Latest and updated technology.
- Learning and Development
To convince a Gen Z student that your company is right for them, showcase your mentorship and skill-building programs and make it clear that you’re invested in helping them grow as people. While this financially responsible generation still cares about compensation, having abundant opportunities for professional development could help you edge out a competitor with a better CTC offering.