New research uncovers some surprising preferences of Generation ZÂ workers.
By Chas Fields
Generation Z workers may not be so different from theÂ rest of us after all.
A 2019 study from The Workforce Institute at Kronos,Â How to Be an Employer of Choice for Gen Z, uncoveredÂ the familiarâand at times contradictoryâmotivationsÂ and anxieties of Gen Z, the youngest entrants to theÂ workforce. Regardless of education, location, or vocation,Â itâs clear that Gen Z workers are seeking the sameÂ things as the generations that came before: stabilityÂ and recognition. However, there is one big caveat: TheirÂ hopefulness for success in the workforce is met withÂ equally prominent anxiety.
Across the globe, more than half (56 percent) of GenÂ Z workers are hopeful about the future. However, thisÂ optimism is met with climbing anxiety about workÂ expectations and achieving success. These feelings seemÂ to stem from emotional barriers that stand betweenÂ them and the workplace; Gen Z employees worldwideÂ feel that their anxiety (34 percent), lack of motivation (20Â percent), and low self-esteem (17 percent) are holdingÂ them back from achieving success in the workforce.
âDespite being called lazy by older generations, Gen ZÂ workers are eager to get started in their careers and toÂ work hard to move up the ladder,â says Dan Schawbel,Â managing partner of Workplace Intelligence and leaderÂ of the 2019 Kronos study. âItâs no secret that Gen ZÂ workers suffer from anxiety. In turn, theyâre looking forÂ trusting, compassionate leaders who express care forÂ them as humans, not just as employees. OrganizationsÂ need to focus on their human needs before they canÂ address their workplace needs.â
In order to alleviate this anxiety and set Gen Z up forÂ success in the workplace, organizations must understandÂ and align corporate culture with three expectations ofÂ young workers:
1. Despite being digital natives, face-to-face interactionÂ reigns supreme. When given a list of names that bestÂ personify their generation, the majority of Gen Z selectedÂ the âdigital generation.â However, despite this moniker,Â Gen Z employees by and large prefer to work (44 percent)Â and communicate (39 percent) with their manager andÂ team in person.
Embracing in-person conversations could have lastingÂ impacts on long-term engagement; Gen Z workers areÂ most encouraged to do their best work when they feelÂ their ideas, projects, and contributions are valued by theÂ organization and its mission. Specifically, young workersÂ are eager for leadership to listen to their ideas and showÂ they value their opinions (44 percent)âand doing thisÂ effectively is usually much easier in person.
2. Money still talks and itâs louder than company culture.Â More than half of Gen Z workers worldwide (54 percent)Â report that pay is the most important consideration whenÂ applying for their first full-time jobâand thatâs evenÂ higher in the U.S. at 59 percent. This means salary is moreÂ critical to young workers than working for a companyÂ that does meaningful work (32 percent) and offers greatÂ employee benefits (30 percent). Money continues toÂ remain important as the primary way that Gen Z workersÂ measure their success at a company (44 percent) and theirÂ preferred method of recognition for a job well done (43Â percent).
Raised in the thick of the global 2008 financial crisis andÂ often facing surmounting student loan debt, it shouldÂ come as no surprise that Gen Z workers crave financialÂ stability and prioritize it in the beginning of their jobÂ search. However, while money can help attract andÂ engage, an exceptional company culture can be theÂ important difference between turnover and tenure. InÂ fact, when asked what would make them work harderÂ and stay longer at a company, Gen Z workers rank doingÂ work that they care about just as highly as their paycheckÂ (both 51 percent).
Organizations must manage the precarious balanceÂ between monetary rewards and a culture of caring ifÂ they want to retain the Gen Z workforce for the longÂ haul. After all, nearly half (48 percent) of Gen Z workersÂ say a stressful working environment would personallyÂ impact their performance at work, a third (34 percent)Â say their performance would be affected if they wereÂ unable to get along with their team, and another thirdÂ (32 percent) feel motivated to work harder and stayÂ longer at a company if they have a supportive manager.
3. The grass is always greener in a gig-friendly world. AsÂ the gig economy spreads across the globe, Gen Z workersÂ are drawn to its inherently independent attributes.Â Theyâre particularly excited by the independence thatÂ comes from flexible work schedules (55 percent) andÂ the notion that they can be their own boss (53 percent),Â suggesting theyâre eager for an opportunity to growÂ their professional skills without fear of failure.
However, not all that glitters is gold. While more thanÂ half (53 percent) of Gen Z workers say theyâd pass upÂ a traditional job for full-time gig work, the perceivedÂ drawbacks of gig work spark some hesitation. WhenÂ asked what they want in a career, these employees desireÂ the benefits that only traditional work guarantees,Â namely stability (47 percent), predictable pay (46Â percent), workplace structure (26 percent), and healthÂ benefits (26 percent).
As one of the largest catering companies in the U.S., MÂ Culinary Concepts relies on engaging young workersÂ during seasonal hot spots and is no stranger to marryingÂ traditional expectations with gig independence. âWeÂ have 300 full-time employees but during our busy season,Â we routinely swell to more than 1,000 temporary staffÂ members, many of them Gen Z workers,â says BrandyJoÂ Guzman, the companyâs director of HR. âThe secretÂ to our success is trust. We allow employees to chooseÂ their schedule. We push out a schedule of events andÂ employees let us know if theyâre available or not. ThatâsÂ what schedules are based on. Mobile communicationÂ allows employees to quickly and easily create theÂ schedule they truly want to work. They donât have toÂ tell us if theyâre going on vacation or if they have a longÂ doctorâs appointment. They just donât accept a shiftÂ when they need that time off. Itâs as simple as that.â
Itâs important for leaders to realize that for many Gen ZÂ workers, flexibility and independence arenât just nice toÂ haveâtheyâre necessities. One-third (33 percent) of themÂ wouldnât tolerate an employer that gave them âno sayâÂ over their schedule, and, particularly in the U.S., theyÂ are motivated to deliver their best work when they haveÂ flexibility to work when, where, and how they want toÂ (31 percent).
With this in mind, leaders should consider investing inÂ the other ways that young workers seek independence inÂ the workplace, such as standalone projects or leadershipÂ opportunities, to engage them well past the first fewÂ months of employment. Plus, organizations shouldÂ consider Gen Zâs desire to make the world a better place:Â Creating a culture that promotes flexibility to volunteer,Â both inside and outside the workplace, can increaseÂ corporate visibility and encourage employee well-being.
Despite how successful any given organization may be atÂ attracting, developing, and motivating its workforce, atÂ the end of the day, Gen Z workers are just starting outÂ and exploring what matters to them most within theÂ workplace. With a baseline of flexibility, a combinationÂ of digital and in-person communication, and a cultureÂ that embraces desired measures of success, employers canÂ open the door even wider for great Gen Z talent eager toÂ kick-start their careers.
Chas Fields is an HCM strategic advisor at Kronos.