What Gen Z wants in a career (and how to give it to them)
February 6, 2019
After four (or more) years of hard work, young men and women at college campuses across the country have earned their degrees and are looking to enter the workforce. The class of 2018 is unique, however. For the first time in over a decade, the majority of this year’s graduates are from a new generation.
Generation Z is defined as anyone born between 1996 and 2010. It is a generation defined by optimism in the face of tragedy, pragmatism in an age of innovation. It is a generation unlike any before it, and as these resourceful graduates descend upon the workforce this year, employers will need to adapt to embrace them.
Our research, as well as recent industry insights, sheds light on what Gen Z seeks in a career and provides tips to help businesses address these desires.
Our survey of 400 college students found that 77% of participants said “feeling safe” was their top office environment quality. This is hardly surprising when you consider the amount of violence Gen Z has witnessed. A shooting or spree killing has made headlines almost every year the class of 2018 has been in college.
Young people are often accused of believing they are invincible, but Gen Z has constantly faced its own mortality. Employers need to be sensitive of this fact. Businesses can use the following tips to build an atmosphere of security:
- Tout your building’s safety measures on job descriptions and during interviews, and address these policies with your staff on an ongoing basis.
- Ensure your organization has a robust support network in place to deal with threats and harassment.
- Consider implementing an anonymous tip line between employees and human resources, so workers feel more comfortable reporting threatening behavior.
Show Them The Money
When asked what they would like to achieve before they turn 30, 65 percent of Gen Z members said financial independence, according to a report from the Barna Group. Financial independence ranked third among all priorities — just 1% below finishing school and starting a career. This might come as a surprise considering Gen Z was virtually untouched by the recession, with 76% of college students we surveyed reporting that their parents did not lose their jobs. Before you throw allegations of greed, however, remember this is the same generation that chose safety and security as its top workplace priority.
The Consumer Price Index has increased 2% in the last year alone, and if you don’t think young adults born in 1996 have noticed the climbing costs of gasoline since they started driving in 2012, consider this: This generation lives in a world where U.S. adults spend more than 11 hours per day interacting with media. During this time, graduates are often bombarded by dozens of articles about the skyrocketing interest rates of their student loans and inflating rent prices in cities where they are applying for jobs.
Prospective employers can use the following tips to help assuage Gen Z’s worries:
- Allot a generous amount of time, and provide housing resources for new hires anxious about relocating.
- Consider having your finance team work with employees new to the workforce on personal finances, so they can make the most of their salaries.
- Provide incentives beyond salary, such as fitness and transportation reimbursement, to lighten expenses.
Better Off Than Their Parents
Despite the barrage of bad news, Gen Z is remarkably optimistic. Half of the college students we surveyed believe in the American dream, and 52% believe that they will be better off than their parents.
While this generation has witnessed its share of tragedy, it has also witnessed some monumental moments of humanity. Barack Obama was elected as the first black president of the United States in 2008. In 2015, the Supreme Court voted in favor of marriage equality across every state.
In addition, Gen Z was the first generation to grow up with social media. Platforms have given life to social movements, and emerging tech like video capabilities on smartphones have brought exposure to injustice.
Seeing the impact of these campaigns and networks has possibly given Gen Z the confidence to make a difference. Employers would be wise to foster this sense of efficacy by implementing the following tips:
- Get to know your employees and what matters to them. Use corporate philanthropy days to work with projects and organizations your workers care about.
- Consider relaxing your standards around social media. Rather than reprimand an employee for making a political post on social media, try to understand his or her point of view.
The 9-To-5 Is More Than Enough
While money is definitely important to Gen Z, only 15% would choose financial security over job satisfaction, according to a recent Ernst & Young survey. Furthermore, 50% of these respondents cited flexibility as a key priority when looking for an employer.
In our research, 88% cited being happy, and 73% cited having good work-life balance as the biggest measures of success. Members of Gen Z also said the most important trait a good boss can possess is respect for work hours. These numbers allude to the idea that as much as Gen Z values security, they also expect a high degree of autonomy in their work.
Employers can accommodate Gen Z’s values by incorporating these tips:
- Give junior employees visibility into the timeline of projects, so they can see the value and relevance of their deadlines.
- Provide generous compensation for overtime, if possible, and benefits such as expensed meals and transportation after a certain hour.
- Look into offering on-site services, such as pet grooming or fitness classes, so workers can complete personal tasks and have fun while at work.
The Workforce Of Tomorrow
At approximately 60 million, Gen Z has surpassed millennials to become the largest generation. Savvy and practical, the skills and attitudes they have acquired in the brief span of their lives will impact the future of work. And smart employers will pay attention to them. Quite frankly, they will be difficult to ignore.
By Samantha Sackin