What Gen Z Wants From Work

By  //  June 16, 2022

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We also seem to be talking about the different generations coming up in the workplace. The focus for years was Millennials, and now, it’s shifting to Gen Z. 

Employers are facing a talent shortage as it is, and they have to adjust to the best ways to appeal to younger demographics in their recruitment and retention strategies. 

So what does Gen Z want from work? Do they want traditional things like gifts to recognize their achievements and opportunities for development? Are they more interested in remote work or hybrid opportunities? How does Gen Z feel about corporate social responsibility and shared values?

These are all top-of-mind questions for employers, and we delve into some of these things below. 

Who is Gen Z?

Generation Z also referred to as Gen Z, is the generation of current young people. Pew Research defines them as the people born between 1997 and 2012. The oldest of this generation is around 25 years old, and many of them are now out of college and looking toward getting married and starting families. 

Gen Z is behind Millennials, who were born between 1981 and 1996. 

Gen Z has faced a tremendous amount of uncertainty as they’ve started their adult lives, largely because of the COVID-19 pandemic and now because of economic uncertainty and issues like inflation and rising interest rates. 

The Pew Research Center says this is the most diverse generation of Americans so far. Non-Hispanic white Gen Z’ers hold a small majority at 52%, while Hispanics make up 25% of the generation. Black Generation Z’ers account for 14% of the demographic, and 6% are Asian. The rest are either a different race or two or more races. 

The majority aren’t immigrants, with only 6% having been born outside the U.S.

The generation appears to be more socially minded than previous generations, and the Annie E. Casey Foundation found they’re focused on seven primary social issues. 

These are:


Mental health

Economic security

Higher education

Race equity

Civic engagement

The environment

There are a lot of issues facing Gen Z’ers right now. First, many are approaching the age that they’ll no longer be able to stay on their parent’s health insurance, so they’re thinking about how they’ll get coverage. This problem is made worse by an increase in the number of Gen Z individuals seeking mental health treatment. According to the American Psychological Association, it’s 37%. 

Education is a top priority for this generation, with nearly 60% between the ages of 18 to 21 enrolled at either a two- or four-year college. 

The generation cares about fighting for social change, and Pew Research indicates around 70% of people in the Gen Z demographic feels the government needs to take on a more active role in addressing problems. 

The 21st Annual Transamerica Retirement Survey of Workers looked at how Gen Z views money, finances, and retirement, compared to other generations. 

In this study, nearly six in 10 Gen Z workers said their employment situation had been affected negatively as a result of the pandemic. The most common specific effect is cited as a reduction in their work hours. This was significantly higher than millennials, Gen Z, and baby boomers. 

All three previous generations are significantly more likely than Gen Z to prioritize saving for retirement, and Gen X and Millennials are more likely to prioritize emergency savings than Gen Z. 

The generation currently has little or no financial security, and workers in this younger generation are more likely to say they’re just getting by and covering basic living expenses than older generations. 

Around 70% are saving for retirement through employer-sponsored plans when they’re available, and some Gen Z’ers started saving for retirement at age 19—much earlier than older generations. 

What Does This Generation Want At Work?

The workplace has changed in the past few years in major ways because of the pandemic. Employees wanted and demanded different perks, such as support for hybrid work and an expansion of health care benefits. These are still a priority, but now, Generation Z’s expectations for the workplace look to be different. 

The 2022 Career Interest Study from the National Society of High School Scholars (NSHSS) looked at what the priorities are for Gen Z as far as career motivations. 

Highlights from the study include:

Around 22% of survey respondents said their own experiences with discrimination and racial inequality had influenced the choices they make in their careers. As such, they prioritize equitable treatment for people of all races and genders. This, at least according to this study, is their biggest concern. Generation Z workers want to be associated with organizations that treat everyone fairly and provide an opportunity for all, as well as an environment embracing diversity and inclusion. 

Remote work might not be as popular with Gen Z as you would think. In fact, according to the results of this study, the generation is tired of online training and working. Many also went through remote schooling, and they’d rather be gaining hands-on experience. Sixty-three percent of survey participants said they want in-person training from employers, compared to only 13% favoring online training. This generation may simply not want to work from home in the way that Millennials tend to favor. This can be big news for employers because many do want to return to office cultures as they existed before the pandemic. 

The generation loves learning and the potential for upward mobility it can bring. It seems that opportunities for learning, training, and development could be key priorities if you want to attract younger talent. Around 67% of survey respondents said they want to work for companies that let them learn skills to facilitate career advancement. Sixty-five percent of respondents said they have a lot to learn, but they’re eager to have the opportunity to do so. 

Characteristics of the Typical Gen Z Employee

Of course, we’re all unique individuals, and you can’t entirely generalize a generation, but overall, there seem to be some consistent trends in the characteristics of a typical Gen Z employee. Understanding these characteristics is important for businesses that want to attract young talent and retain them. 

First, Gen Z is setting new norms in the workplace. For example, even though they may not prioritize remote work, this generation wants work-life balance. Some of the demands of the generation are intimidating even to their Millennial bosses. For example, they’re asking for mental health days, working less once they’ve accomplished their tasks, and setting their own hours. 

While the desire to enjoy life more and live at a slower pace leads some younger people to leave the workforce altogether, more commonly, Gen Z workers are job-hopping. The remote work era has given the generation the upper hand when it comes to demanding what they want in a job, including autonomy. 

Last fall, the CEO of LinkedIn said rather than going through the Great Resignation right now, it’s more accurately the Great Reshuffle. Workers are quitting their jobs for better ones, and Gen Z job transitions have increased by 80%. 

Personal well-being and work-life balance are key drivers in employment decisions ahead of salary. These young people are looking for employers who prioritize mental health care and benefits that support their well-being on a holistic level. 

The workers want meaningful work as well, in terms of their own careers and also the impact their employer makes on the world. 

One report found that 42% of surveyed Gen Zers would rather be at a company they felt gives them purpose than one that pays more. 

Since the younger generation appears to be less motivated by money, they are also looking at entrepreneurial opportunities that they feel would allow them to improve the world. 

What Gen Z Brings to the Table

We talk a lot about what the generation demands from employers, but they also bring some interesting and compelling things to the table. 

One thing that employers are likely to find beneficial about working with younger people is that they are highly receptive to technology. This generation has grown up with technology, so not only are they more likely to embrace working with it, but they’re probably even going to push for it. 

The generation also appears to value social interaction. Surprisingly, many young people say they prefer to speak to people face-to-face instead of by text, which can open up the opportunity for some unique teamwork and collaborative efforts to take place. 

Finally, the values-driven approach that the generation brings into the workplace could be beneficial from a business standpoint. Many consumers want to do business with companies they feel reflect their values and priorities, and Generation Z can provide insight into how to convey company values in new, unique ways. 

Generation Z employees are going to gravitate toward transparent, socially conscious employers that really practice what they preach, and this is also what customers look for. Gen Z, as a result, can be part of a broader corporate strategy.