What Do Gen Z Want From the Workplace?
Get ready! Generation Z (Zoomers or Gen Z’ers) is entering the workforce and changing the corporate world. Why it matters to understand their needs and expectations?
Gen Z’ers born between 1995 and 2012 will account for almost a third of the global workforce by 2025. Soon, they will surpass Millenials as the biggest pool of new talent, and they are racially and ethnically more diverse than previous generations.
If some businesses have trouble understanding Millenials’ work habits and priorities, they must get used to a new generation. Zoomers have a different approach and perspective on careers, success and corporate culture than other working generations. They are changing old social and cultural norms between employers and employees.
So we asked talent specialists, business experts and Gen Z’ers…what Generation Z want from the workplace?
Not having to sacrifice their personal lives for a job.
An unfair and untrue stereotype of ‘Zoomers’ is that they are ‘entitled’ or ‘have no loyalty’’ because they are more likely to switch jobs if a business has a toxic culture or doesn’t prioritise work/life separation.
It is no wonder considering that many Gen Z’ers entered the workplace during the pandemic, with a recession looming and a constant influx of news about the climate crisis and other global issues.
They also have experienced their roles being made redundant or seeing dozens of colleagues being laid off, which has led them to reconsider their views about career paths.
“They saw the way many businesses ruthlessly made sweeping layoffs at the start of the pandemic and all the way through it…Businesses lay off scores of employees at the slightest whiff of an economic downturn. In GenZ’s eyes, they have done nothing to deserve the loyalty they demand”, explains Kimi Wright, Marketing & Operations at digital recruitment agency We Are Adam. “Again, after two years of lockdowns, illness, and uncertainty, is it any wonder that the younger generation is unwilling to sacrifice their personal lives for a job?”
Journalist and communications officer — and Gen Z’er — Hatty Willmoth adds that growing up and coming off working age surrounded by this context means that Gen Z talent wants their mental health prioritised and flexible working arrangements as the norm.
“In general, I don’t think we want our jobs to become our lives — we’re too filled with existential dread for that. I think we’re less willing than millennials to sell our souls to the corporate machine and more willing to consider less traditional careers, side hustles, and self-employment as viable options”, says Willmoth.
Zoomers are more value- and ethics-led and want their employers to be the same.
A general consensus is that Gen Z’ers are much more led by their values and ethics regarding job hunting, and it is not a complete surprise. According to a special report from global communications firm Edelman, 70% of all Gen Zers globally are involved in a social or political cause.
Gen Z’ers “are also much less likely to stand for certain behaviours in the workplace: racism, sexism, ableism, toxic bosses, or ‘crunch’ will result in disengagement and, likely, the worker deciding that a job just isn’t worth it”, adds Wright.
“We want an inclusive, diverse, tolerant workplace that’s not overrun with boomer ideology. I’ve had uncomfortable encounters with older colleagues who are openly against the ‘woke’ agenda (trans rights, veganism, trigger warnings, etc.). These aren’t tricky debates for my generation, and we tend to agree passionately and unanimously when it comes to these topics”, Willmoth adds.
Furthermore, they are challenging the status quo about deep-rooted corporate practices such as not disclosing pay ranges in job postings. Several studies have found that Gen Z’ers are less likely to apply for a role if the organisation does not share its salary. They are also encouraging salary transparency and discussions between colleagues.
“Trust and transparency are two non-negotiables for Gen Z. Our data shows 46% of UK jobseekers won’t even apply to a new position if they don’t know the salary up front, and Gen Z is a big driving force for that change. They understand that pay transparency is the first step to eliminating pay gaps. It’s part of a wider emphasis on ESG and looking for companies they can trust to reflect their personal values, “ comments Andrew Hunter, co-founder at job search engine Adzuna.
On the bright side, a positive outcome of these shifts is that some industries benefit from high interest from Gen Z talents, such as clean energies, social impact startups and flexible tech companies.
“There are businesses and industries that GenZ are clamouring to work for — whether this is due to values and beliefs, such as renewable energies and other work that has a social impact, or just because the company has a great reputation for how they treat their employees. We recently ran a campaign to recruit several marketing professionals for a green energy firm, and we noticed that we received a much greater number of applications from GenZ and Millennials than usual”, explains Wright.
They want freedom and control over their working environments.
For Gen Z’ers, flexibility at work is key. They want to choose remote work or in-person interactions as they are a more autonomous generation. A report from Deloitte showed that 75% of Zoomers said they would prioritise a job with flexibility over one with a higher salary.
“One thing that we are hearing loudly and clearly from our younger cohort is that they want to have full freedom and control over their working environments. Companies that embrace this with genuine Work from Home (or anywhere) policies are going to be the winners in the battle for Gen Z talent”, comments Ifty Nasir, Founder and CEO of share scheme and equity management platform Vestd.
This generation also grew up in a period where mental health is seen as a priority and are more conscious of their well-being. This translates into expecting their employers to have flexible arrangements and a commitment to work/life balance through their holiday and days-off policies.
“It’s no secret that we want to work to live rather than live to work”, says Fleurine, who works at a campervan-sharing platform Goboony. “That’s why I love the unlimited holiday policy. And in return, we know that the people who work here give it their all because they want to be here when they’re working here.”
Gen Z’ers need to feel engaged in the workplace through mentoring, development opportunities and meaningful connections.
From mentoring and learning to volunteering, Zoomers must feel connected to their workplace. According to Johnathan Haidt, NYU Stern Professor, social psychologist, and author, “the more connected a generation is, the more lonely it is.”
Though this generation was born in a world where there was always the Internet, smartphones and tablets, research from Gallup shows that Gen Z may struggle with work engagement, with 54% being ambivalent or not engaged at work.
Since this younger generation cares passionately about diversity and inclusion, climate change and community, volunteering options are a good way of connecting early-career employees with colleagues and employers.
“We’ve found that by offering candidates a chance to utilise their skills to give back to their community, and a workplace that aligns with their values, companies have been able to not fall victim to ‘The Great Recession’ of GEN Z talent in recent years”, explains Oliver Farmiloe, Marketing Executive at Matchable, an employee volunteering company.
Furthermore, Gen Z is more pragmatic and concerned with job security and advancement than Millennials. Among the most important factors in a job for them are an empowering work culture and the potential for career growth.
According to Ed Johnson, CEO of online mentoring and career progression platform PushFar, 76% of Zoomers view upskilling and learning as key components in career advancement, with 61% looking for more career advancement and development opportunities. They also value mentorship more than previous generations and see it as an important benefit the companies should offer.
“We know that Gen Z are more likely to switch career paths entirely, to find a role that suits their values, offers better financial initiatives, or the opportunity to develop their skills. Due to this, organisations are going to be investing more in keeping this generation engaged in the workforce,” says Johnson. “Over the next few years, we are going to see mentoring become an important part of building loyalty with this generation and helping them get what they want from the workplace”, adds.
Co-founder of ERIC — which specialises in career support for young people looking to enter the creative industries — Samantha Hornsby agrees that continuous learning and development are important to this new generation.
“Employers need to show they’re investing in the growth of a young employee as much as they’re investing in the growth of their own products/services…Things like monthly budgets for attending events, subscriptions to financial literacy platforms or allocation of days for volunteering. There’s no end to the plethora of things you could be giving your Gen Z employees for career and personal development!”
Finally, building meaningful relationships with coworkers and managers is essential for Zoomers to thrive in the workplace. Face-to-face communication and increased information-sharing help Gen Z’ers navigate and alleviate their uncertainty in the workplace.
“…statistics show that 72% of Gen Z prefers in-person communication with their boss and colleagues”, comment Andrew Jackson and David Tinker, co-founders of Rethinkly, a virtual world platform designed to tackle workplace and mental health challenges. “Connecting the dots between the digital world and creating strong working relationships is a huge opportunity for organisations as we move back away from the virtual into the office.”
So, there you have it. The impact Gen Z’ers have on the world of work is being seen even now, and it is challenging the status quo of how workspaces should be, and employers should act.
With that, companies should take prompt action to become attractive workplaces for this new generation or lose the opportunity of snagging top, bright professionals.
So, you might already have Zoomers in your workplace, and if not…you will notice and know soon enough.
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Written by Alejandra (Alex) Chávez Menéndez.
Alex is a Communications and Public Affairs Consultant with 8+ years of experience and the founder of Point A. She is passionate about helping entrepreneurs, small businesses, and changemakers tell their stories and shares what they believe in. She has a master’s in Public Administration and Management from University College London (UCL).
Alex is the Communications Manager for LMF Network.