by Jason Miller
Generation Z, the next large group of future employees and soon-to-be college and trade school graduates, are looking at work differently than any generation before. They’ve lived through a pandemic right at the time of their lives when many teens and young adults choose college majors, potential career paths, and still find time for a gap year to explore the world around them.
But what do these young people want from work? What are their expectations when entering the workforce? And how do employers tap into this emerging resource?
Who is Gen Z?
Generation Z, or Gen Z, is defined by the Pew research center as anyone who was born in or after 1997, referred to as the post-millennial or iGeneration from time to time. The oldest of this group is just turning 24 years old, so barely reaching post-secondary graduation age.
However, in an increasingly tight job market, employers are turning to this generation to fill vacancies and to entice the workforce of tomorrow.
However, this generation has learned from watching their parents attend college, enter the workforce with crippling student debt all while working at jobs that in many cases are less than ideal.
So when it comes to where, how, and who Gen Z wants to work for, how are they applying these lessons?
What will Gen Z’s education look like?
A large number of students from Gen Z are approaching high school graduation and beyond. And post-COVID we are seeing a drop in college enrollments even in community colleges and universities. This same decline is not being seen in vocational-based programs though. In fact, enrollment in those programs is on the rise.
Why? Places like Google, Tesla, and other big tech companies are waiving college degree requirements, basing hiring on skills instead, and are even offering training. Examples include Google Career Certificate programs, Facebook’s learning initiatives, and IBM Education. In many cases, completion of these programs and the resulting certificates lead directly to well-paying employment.
Many are concerned with the ROI of higher education, the cost and debt involved, and the time and energy needed to complete a traditional degree. When they leave school, where do they want to work, and how?
Where and how do they want to work?
A new survey conducted by Censuswide for Promoleaf of just over 1,000 members of Gen Z provides some insight into how and where Gen Z wants to work, and for how long.
While we have long suspected that the lifetime career is nearly a thing of the past, with the average worker staying at a job just over 4 years, members of Gen Z would want to stay in one job for only 3.72 years on average, and just over 25% would only want to spend 1-2 years in a job before moving on.
But even more telling is that only 15% of respondents would want to work in an office full time, around 15% want to work remotely full time, and the rest (apart from those with no preference) would prefer some kind of hybrid work environment.
Although the younger portion of this generation (18 and under) who were surveyed would not take a pay cut to get the type of job environment they prefer, just over 50% of those 18-23 would.
So how do their answers correspond with other age groups? Well, it depends. Around 65% of those adults whose jobs can be done remotely would take a 5% cut in pay to not have to return to the office.
The other takeaway from this survey? Gen Z is pretty savvy about what incentives would keep them engaged in their jobs and what would make them more productive, and those perks are not what employers would expect or what has worked with previous generations. Gen Z is looking for flexible schedules over gym memberships, healthcare over hype, and financial perks, and transparency.
In fact, when asked what would make them more productive, happier in the workplace, and more likely to stay in a job, flexible schedules ranked in the top three for all of them. What does this look at the educational outlook and employment desires of Gen Z means to employers?
The Bottom Line: Takeaways for Employers
All this information can seem to send some mixed messages to employers. Different perks matter more to different people, and to different aspects of job satisfaction and retention. Money plays a role, but not the role it once did. Younger people want more transparency when it comes to salary and perks than their parents did. They’re skipping college for vocational training or no training at all in numbers greater than we’ve ever seen.
In the end, it brings up one word for employers: flexibility. Instead of a standard package of perks, perhaps a perk menu the employee can pick and choose from is an option. Rather than rigid schedules and work formulas, the ability for employees to choose when and from where they work will have more appeal over the long run.
It’s also worth considering that while you can’t please everyone all the time, you can tailor perks and compensation for your goals: want to attract new talent and increase employee satisfaction. Offer the incentives that spark that reaction in workers from Gen Z. Want to hire for the long term? Health insurance, flexible schedules, and a clear career path defined by financial incentives top the list of things Gen Z wants.
How, when, and where we work is changing, and employers who change with the times and rise to meet these challenges will be the most successful in engaging with the workers of Gen Z. And that could be the key to leadership with tomorrow’s career professionals.
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