What does Gen Z want from potential employers?

employee engagement DV.png

Gen Z, the youngest generation in the workforce, is arguably the most vocal in terms of what they expect their employers to do for them and for the greater good. About 61 million Gen Zers entered the workforce in 2018, according to the consulting firm BridgeWorks, and they are overwhelmingly purpose driven.

Indeed, about 65% of Gen Z say they want to “make a difference to a cause they care about” and 60% wants to “personally create something innovative,” according to data from the non-profit education organization Girls With Impact with the support of the S&P Global Foundation. The research found that Gen Z wants a future centered on world change and innovation.

“It’s no longer about just getting a paycheck,” says Jennifer Openshaw, CEO of Girls With Impact. “Gen Z is hungry for purpose in their work — the sense that they are having a larger impact on the world — even if they’re employed by someone else.”

Although Gen Z has grand ambitions they also have considerable concerns that weigh on them, which could impact their ability to realize those aspirations. When asked about their top worries, being successful and getting a job ranked first and second (69% and 59%, respectively). Mental health ranked third, ahead of body image, grades, or getting into college. Employers are becoming more aware of the need for mental health focused benefits as employees — especially the younger generations — become more vocal about the need for mental wellness focused benefits.

Openshaw connected with Employee Benefit News to discuss the results of the survey and what employers need to know about hiring Gen Z talent.

What does the study show about what Gen Z wants from their employers?

More than ever this generation is focused on world change, and they really want to be a part of it. We think about this generation as seeing some pretty big crises, from political crises to the environment to race and diversity. They are saying we want to solve these problems. We asked what their biggest worries are, and it basically boils down to financial security. We asked what factors would be most important in their job; getting a regular paycheck and job stability came out loud and clear. The other item was following their passions. So that theme of social impact still continues to be a major focus and is something that employers absolutely cannot ignore. Over the last 10 years we’ve been hearing about the idea of bringing purpose into corporate America. Gen Z is saying you better have purpose in my job or I’m going to think about becoming an entrepreneur.

What is Gen Z most concerned about both in and out of the workplace?

Number one was being successful, getting a job was number two, number three was the big aha, and that is mental health. When you look at the rate of teen suicide it’s no surprise. Things like stress, depression and suicide have come up a lot in the last two years we’ve been running this mini-MBA program. It’s got big implications for employers because if I’m a company, my employees might be having to deal with their own issues, and they could bring that stuff into the job. It would be wise to help them manage it. Companies need to bring purpose into their everyday work. It needs to be more than lip service. Employers need to connect what they do to the common good on a larger scale. They shouldn’t ignore the skills that Gen Z can bring into the workplace. Companies should find ways to include their younger employees into their innovative efforts.

What advice should employers consider when hiring Gen Z?

If you’re hiring young people, offer clear career pathways. Incorporate opportunities to participate in senior level meetings, because this generation wants to know that they are relevant and contributing to the important things that are going on within the workplace. Additionally, this generation wants mentors. They want older mentors, mentors who share their values, and they want mentors who are diverse. This is an opportunity to harness your company’s diversity.

What kind of work environment is Gen Z looking for?

Number one is they are looking for an older experienced team that they can learn from. But they are also looking to have fun at work and be in a positive and energetic environment. We asked them what the most important thing is that they look for in a mentor. Number one was similar values, number two was experience in the job they are now holding.

Where do mental health benefits fall in terms of desirability among Gen Z employees?

Mental health surprisingly came up third among Gen Z’s top five concerns. I think perhaps it’s because mental health is now in the news, we’re opening up the conversation about it, whereas five or 10 years ago we didn’t. The message here is that it’s a public crisis and something that we have to address whether it’s employees or their children because it can impact productivity in the workplace and the success of our economy. It trickles down in so many ways. Employers can have a huge impact in helping their employees and their families address this.

What is the most important thing for employers to keep in mind when recruiting Gen Z talent?

Keep Gen Z’s desire to be a part of change and innovation front and center, and communicate that in the hiring process. Illustrate how they can be a part of that and incorporate that in their career pathways.

For reprint and licensing requests for this article, click here.