What does Gen Z Expect at Work?

This post is submitted by Joyce Maroney, executive director of the Workforce Institute. Following is the final segment of our global study examining the attitudes of Generation Z – teenagers and early 20-somethings – in the workplace. In order to be an employer of choice for these newest workers, you need to be able to answer the question, “What does Gen Z expect at work?

Completing a three-part series from The Workforce Institute at Kronos and Future Workplace, “How to Be an Employer of Choice for Gen Z” uncovers the motivations and aspirations of today’s youngest working generation, including those yet to officially enter the workforce. You can find parts one and two of this research at the following links:

Part Three, our final report related to this research, completes our findings based on a survey of 3,400 Gen Zers across Australia, Belgium, Canada, China, France, Germany, India, Mexico, the Netherlands, New Zealand, the U.K., and the U.S. We find that money still talks; good managers matter more than ever; work needs to be interesting; and, while schedule stability is important, flexibility is non-negotiable.

I’ve been sharing these results with people via speeches and articles for a few months now. One of the things I like to emphasize is that many of the insights we have hear from Gen Z would probably be true of any generation, especially at the point in their lives when they were entering the workforce. Pay matters a lot. Benefits matter increasingly more as you get older and your parents are no longer supplying them to you.

What I found most interesting, and perhaps somewhat more particular to Gen Z, is the equal weight they give to pay (51%) AND work that is meaningful (51%) when asked what would motivate them to work harder and stay longer at a company.

What you’ll find in the data below, though, is that Gen Z cares a lot about the same things that motivate their workplace forebears. They are not so different from their elders in what they want at work, but they may be more likely to ignore your calls – or take someone else’s – if their expectations aren’t met.

Part Three Key Findings:

  • How to recruit Gen Z: Prioritize pay, flexibility, and stability
    • Money talks: More than half of Gen Zers worldwide (54%) – including 62% in the U.K. and 59% in the U.S. – say pay is the most important consideration when applying for their first full-time job. Money becomes increasingly important the older the Gen Zer, with 57% of 22- to 25-year-olds agreeing that nothing outweighs pay, compared to 49% of the 21-and-under crowd.
    • Flexible-yet-stable schedules are a must: One in 5 Gen Zers say they want a consistent and predictable schedule (21%) and also expect employers to offer flexibility (23%).
    • Not all benefits are equal: Employee perks like free snacks, happy hours, and gym reimbursements are enticing, but traditional benefits (e.g. healthcare coverage, retirement plan, life insurance) are preferred by a 2-1 ratio by Gen Z, regardless of age or stage of life.
    • Red flags for Gen Z prospects: A delayed response from a recruiter is a major turn-off for 44% of respondents, especially in Mexico (55%) and India (52%). Same goes for negative employee reviews online (41%), application portals that are not mobile-friendly (29%), and workplaces that have a “dated” feel (24%).
    • Customer success matters in recruiting: One in 4 Gen Zers say that having a negative customer experience with an organization would deter them from even applying to work there.
  • Help Gen Z advance: One in 5 say training and development is the top employee benefit
    • Bring out the best in Gen Z: To get their best work, Gen Zers say they need direct and constructive performance feedback (50%), hands-on training (44%), managers who listen and value their opinions (44%), and freedom to work independently (39%).
    • With advancement on the mind, Gen Z is looking for leaders to help them chart a path to promotion: One in 4 expect managers to clearly define goals and expectations (26%) and say regular check-ins during their first month makes for an ideal onboarding experience (25%).
    • Empowering leaders to meet these baseline expectations is critically linked to retention: Nearly 1 in 3 Gen Zers worldwide (32%) would stay longer at a company if they have a supportive manager, while respondents in Australia/New Zealand (51%), Canada (49%), and the U.K. (45%) would “never” tolerate an unsupportive manager.
  • Motivate with meaning: Money talks, but doing enjoyable work is just as important
    • When asked what would make them work harder and stay longer at a company, Gen Zers say doing work that they enjoy or care about is as important as a paycheck, which are the top two motivations cited by about half of respondents worldwide (both 51%).
    • Forming connections at work inspires Gen Z: Strong relationships with their teams will motivate nearly 2 in 5 Gen Zers (36%), especially part-time employees (40%).
    • A stressful work environment will do the opposite: Nearly half (48%) say stress at work would directly impact performance, and 1 in 3 (33%) would “never” tolerate a dysfunctional team.
    • Engage and reward: 1 in 3 Gen Zers say they perform best when working on projects they care about (37%) and when they are rewarded for a job well done (32%) – but make it a cash bonus, says 43% of Gen Zers.
    • Financial insecurity – i.e. the fear of being broke – motives Gen Z to enter the workforce, most prominently in the U.K. (63%), U.S. (57%), Australia/New Zealand (56%), France (55%), and Canada (52%).
    • Make sure your payroll system and processes are in check: 39% of Gen Zers would never tolerate paycheck errors, with those in the U.S. (46%) and Mexico (45%) being least tolerant.

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