A new wave of Gen Zers is entering our workplaces. But are employers ready to tap their talent?
Anyone born from 1997 onwards is classified as being part of Generation Z. The top end of this new grouping is aged 18 to 25, with many now finishing high school or university and embarking on their careers.
Entrepreneur and Gen Z expert Maddie Bregman told Randstad that her generation is the most enterprising the world has ever seen. “The defining event for Gen Z was the 2008 recession,” she says. “Gen Z was taught that there are winners and losers and that we must work for what we want.”
She is living proof of that, having founded the youth marketing consultancy GirlZ at age 19, which now advises some of the world’s leading brands.
But it isn’t only about money.
Randstad research suggests that Gen Zers also seek out a sense of purpose – and want more than a purely transactional relationship with their employers.
Making a difference is really big for people right now”
“The younger generations don’t want to transact their way through life – they spend a lot of time at work and want to get some good stuff back. And good stuff isn’t just financial reward. It's learning and opportunities. It's networking. It's variation and experiences.”
Here are three key areas where the Gen Z mindset may differ from that of older employees – and what companies can do to respond.
1) living out personal values
Climate change and racial inequality are two of the biggest challenges that Gen Zers are passionate about. In the US, where sensitivities around race are particularly acute, Gen Z is more racially and ethnically diverse than previous generations, according to the Pew Research Center.
And a study in The Lancet has revealed worrying levels of climate anxiety among 16 to 25-year-olds, with more than 45% of survey respondents saying their feelings about climate change negatively affected their daily life and functioning.
These strong values inevitably impact on the working life and career decisions of Gen Z.
Indeed, almost half of Gen Zers said they would not accept a job with an employer that is not actively working to become more sustainable, according to the latest Randstad Workmonitor report, which gathered the opinions of 35,000 employees across 34 markets. That compares to an average of 39% across all generations, and 30% of the oldest generation (those aged 55 to 67).
There was a similar reluctance among Gen Zers to work for organizations that are not proactively making efforts to improve diversity and equity. To attract Gen Z job seekers, companies should clearly communicate the progress they are making with environmental, social and governance targets and other goals.
41% of Gen Zers say they have quit a job because it didn’t fit with their personal life.”
2) money matters
Financial security is hugely important to Gen Zers. For those now entering the workforce, their childhood may have been dominated by the global financial crisis and the decade of slow growth that followed. The pandemic is likely to have caused huge disruption and economic instability towards the end of their studies. And they are beginning their careers during a cost-of-living crisis.
“There’s a degree of financial anxiety that we ought not to dismiss – it’s tougher now,” says Perry Timms, who recommends that companies do more to support the financial wellbeing of their staff, whether that’s by helping younger people navigate the rental market or offering advice about loans.
Despite the clear need for competitive pay to attract and retain talent, an attractive salary alone may not be enough to keep Gen Zers on board. The Workmonitor report reveals that 42% of Gen Zers say they wouldn’t mind earning less money if they felt their job contributed towards society.
3) a balanced life
The increased flexibility that developed during the pandemic will continue to be a priority for all generations, but is notably important to younger workers.
Four out of 10 Gen Zers said they wouldn’t accept a job if it didn’t provide flexibility around where they work, while 46% said they also wanted to maintain flexibility over working hours. That compares to 30% and 35% of the oldest workers (aged 55-67) respectively.
Despite the strong desire for freedom to choose work location, the importance of meeting up in person should not be underestimated. Regular office days and team events will help new team members feel integrated and be especially helpful for those entering the workforce for the first time.
The preference for flexibility goes hand in hand with wanting a healthy work-life balance. Just over two-fifths (41%) of Gen Zers say they have quit a job because it didn’t fit with their personal life, according to the Workmonitor report. That compares to just 25% of the oldest group who were surveyed.
For Maddie Bregman, it’s an absolute priority that Gen Z are given the option to work remotely if they want to. And she lists greater transparency around salaries and brand mission as other important factors for retention.
lessons for employers
Employers need to appeal to a wide range of demographics to attract the best talent from every generation. But they also need to keep a close eye on how the younger generations are turning the dial when it comes to expectations at work.
Younger people are often at the forefront of societal change. And Gen Z looks set to lead the charge when it comes to establishing a new social contract with employers.