Gen Z Workers: What They Want & How to Attract Them

What do Gen Z workers want? And how do you attract them? Here are our insights on what makes them tick, plus top tips for businesses.
Fanbytes | Gen Z workers

In 30 seconds:

  • Meet the Gen Z worker: flexible, confident, and with an entirely revamped view of work versus their millennial predecessors.
  • In order to attract Gen Z employees, companies will need to understand how living through both a pandemic and the ‘Great Resignation’ has changed Gen Z’s expectations of work.
  • So what do Gen Z workers want? The research shows they’re demanding more from their employers. We’ve done a deep dive to bring you the details.

Your average Gen Z worker has an entirely different view of the world of work than companies have come to expect from older generations. 

Some experts like Sarah Damaske, an associate professor at Penn State University, have suggested this shift is far more to do with the state of the workplace they enter than Gen Z as a whole. But nevertheless there’s no doubt that the workplace has transformed just in time for Generation Z to make their entrance. 

As Damaske says, “they’ve witnessed two recessions, back-to-back. This is a very different labour market experience than what their parents and grandparents encountered.” 

Social media has also played a key role in Gen Zers’ relationship with their jobs. They’re far more likely to openly discuss their roles, salaries and grievances – and this sense of being “in it together” has led to a generation of workers more confident in demanding change, setting limits, and – if pushed – simply switching one role for another. In fact, Gen Z’s job transitions increased by 80% after the pandemic.

So, for employers, some big questions need to be answered: What do Gen Z workers want? And how can you successfully attract them? 

Luckily for you, we’ve got the answers. 

Are Gen Zers hard workers?

Gen Z workplace and company culture is less centred around ‘the grind’. 

Unlike baby boomers or Gen X, you won’t find Gen Zers romanticising their long hours, multiple jobs or steady fight up the corporate promotion ladder. Members of Gen Z place less emphasis on the role work has in deciding their overall happiness. Instead, this demographic considers their job to be just one of many elements necessary in order to feel fulfilled. 

A study conducted by Deloitte into the state of the workplace found that, while salary was the top priority in Gen Zers choosing a job, overall it matters less to them than to previous generations. And, if given the choice between accepting a better-paying but boring job, or work that was more interesting but which didn’t pay as well, Gen Z was fairly evenly split over the choice. That’s particularly significant in light of the recessions they’ve witnessed, and the rising cost of living. 

So we know that, to a Gen Z worker, work and money aren’t everything. But does that mean younger generations don’t work hard?

Absolutely not. In fact, you only need to look at Gen Z’s educational history to get a clear idea of the reality. Gen Z are on track to become the most college-educated generation in history. Not only that, but once they finish school, young people turn to online spaces like TikTok to continue to study. 

An aversion to hard work isn’t a barrier. So, what do companies need to focus on?

What motivates Gen Z in the workplace?

Coronavirus disrupted many Gen Z workers’ plans for entering the workplace. In the US, a huge 30% of students had their internship offers rescinded as a direct result of the pandemicYoung people are still feeling the knock-on effect of all those cancelled experiences. 

Another change to working life that came as a result of Covid-19 was a move to more hybrid and remote-working structures. Many people assume that Gen Z, as digital natives, would be hungry for these digital-first, remote positions. But the reality is that only 30% of young workers want to stay remote full time. They value face-to-face interactions; after all, they’re at the beginning of their careers and are keen to build social bonds at work that go beyond LinkedIn connections.

That said, one study did find that 71% of Gen Z would look for a new role if they were forced to go into an office full-time. For Gen Z, flexibility is key. 

At work, they’re motivated by that flexibility. By freedom, communication, collaboration, work environment, and by working for a company that they feel reflects their views on social justice and sense of purpose

How to attract Gen Z workers: 5 top tips

Attracting Gen Z workers is a high priority for any growing business. You need to not only grab their attention, but also get younger workers to stick around. So how do you show potential Gen Z employees that they should prioritise your company over another? And how do you get them to want to stay? 

Here’s five ways brands can attract Gen Z workers

1. Highlight workplace diversity

As is the case with any brand in any industry, modern workplaces must appeal to Gen Zers’ activist nature to be attractive to them. 

Gen Z has famously disrupted huge industries like fashion and beauty by demanding better representation, both externally through advertising, and internally through company structure. This is no longer the “future of work” – the youngest workers are already demanding inclusivity and holding brands to account.

That means that in order to attract members of the most diverse generation in history, companies need to focus on making sure their messaging around diversity and inclusion is forward-thinking, and matched by core internal efforts.

2. Embrace continuous learning

Managing Gen Z in the workplace means understanding the background they’re coming from. 

After education and internships were severely disrupted by the pandemic, much of Generation Z believes that they have more to learn in order to guarantee future success. In fact, only 54% of them believe that their current education has been sufficient enough to prepare them for this. 

Having learning form part of a Gen Z worker’s role is also one way to undercut apprehension about a new position – potentially cutting down on instances of “shift shock”, where regret sets in after starting a new role and feeling out of your depth or surprised by what’s expected. 

It’s a problem, because 72% of jobseekers reported feeling shift-shock in a 2022 survey – and since Gen Z aren’t afraid to move on if they dislike their role, guiding them through those first few months is key to keeping them around. 

3. Work-life balance

According to one 2022 survey by TalentLMs, 82% of Gen Zers want mental health days at work. 

Gen Zers are much more open about mental health struggles than previous generations – and they are keen to identify and avoid burnout, especially post-pandemic

Additionally, after listing an ‘unsatisfactory salary’, burnout and lack of work-life balance was the number one reason Gen Z said they’d quit a role. 

This desire for a better work-life balance than their parents is something Gen Z shares with Millennials – but the key difference is that Gen Z are less afraid to act on their displeasure when the balance is disrupted, being less afraid to go job-hopping if they feel the need to for their well-being

4. Understand their differences

The good news for employers is that if you take the time to truly understand how Gen Z ticks, you’re already one step ahead of most of the competition. 

There are studies that wrongly claim that Gen Z are majority anti-capitalist and entitled – but that’s a fundamental misunderstanding of the way they think. In reality, Gen Z wants it all

That means that some methods of motivating them, like rising targets and pressure, might just have the opposite effect – bringing into focus a disconnect between their working experience and the kind of lives they want to live. 

Perhaps counterintuitively, giving Gen Z more freedom to focus on themselves, their personal lives and free time, might just mean they’ll focus more on work. 

5. Use social media

Social media is, of course, where Gen Z primarily communicates. It’s also full of conversations about work: what to wear, how to write a cover letter, who to speak with, what to avoid… 

If you’ve thought about it, somewhere on social media, it’s being discussed. 

Which means that brands who aren’t using social media to attract Gen Z workers are missing a trick. We’re not saying you should post your job adverts on TikTok, but having an active TikTok account that leans into Gen Z culture highlights that your brand potentially shares a lot of Gen Z’s values, and perhaps understands them better than a lot of legacy companies – or your competitors. 

Just look at examples from M&S and Yellow Express. Both went viral with lighthearted videos that showed a little of what their workplaces were like, and in doing so introduced themselves to a wider, Gen Z market. 

In practice

We are long-term partners with the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (ACCA). The company came to us after struggling to attract Gen Z workers. We worked with our network of influencers to run polls on their Instagram Stories to build insights on how Gen Z views accounting – and found that young people thought that it would be a career for “white men” from a “privileged background.”

We worked with a diverse group of creators across TikTok, Instagram and Snapchat to share different experiences and stories and challenge this perception. We appealed to Gen Zers’ desire to set up their own business and prove that young people can be entrepreneurs.

We not only managed to dispel stereotypes; we’ve over-achieved in every KPI set by ACCA, including views, engagement and conversions. In fact, our campaign caused the highest number of sign ups for an event run by the Guardian, ever.

To read more about our work with the ACCA, check out our case study.

Working with Gen Z employees

When it comes to working with Gen Z employees, there’s a lot that organisations can do to attract new talent and show that their companies are the right fit for a new generation of workers

By properly highlighting their company values – especially those which align with Gen Z’s ethical expectations for brands – brands can attract Gen Z workers. Then through ensuring that the workplace is set up to allow for continuous learning, flexibility, and a good work-life balance, you’ll skyrocket your appeal. 

Finally, by using Gen Z-orientated tools like social media to better understand their younger employees (as well as to reach them in the first instance), brands can to signal that they can offer the kind of modern, digital-first environment that Gen Z is most comfortable with – and where they have the most to offer. 

Understanding young people is what we do best. If you’d like to get inside the mind of Gen Z and make them fall in love with your brand, get in touch. We’d love to talk you through how we’ll put your company at the top of their wish lists.

As your resident Gen Z experts, we spend our time figuring out how best to approach and excite this generation of changemakers. If you want to learn more, check out the below: 

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