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What do Gen Z employees value in the workplace?

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Employee expectations are rarely static, and when a new generation joins the workforce, it can cause rumblings. The latest group to enter the workforce is Gen Z – those born from 1997-2012. Many joined the workforce during the great shift to hybrid working and are now experiencing the impact of a rising cost of living. These contextual factors have dramatically impacted what Gen Z expects at work, with priorities ranging from socially responsible work to a diverse culture, and of course, flexibility. 

This generation may appear to have high expectations, but employers cannot ignore them. Vacancies are still higher than pre-pandemic levels, and two-thirds (66%) of large UK businesses are struggling to recruit employees with the skills they need. In a difficult talent market, it is crucial that employers appear as attractive as possible to candidates to remain competitive.

Experts at CoachHub, the leading global digital coaching platform, delved into the values held by Gen Z employees to offer advice to senior leaders on how to adapt their employee experience in line with workforce expectations. 

1. Fulfilling and socially responsible work

Nearly four in 10 Gen Z employees state that they have rejected work assignments due to ethical concerns. This age bracket, as a whole, seeks roles that conform with their drive for environmental sustainability and social impact, which can put pressure on organisations to have strong environmental, social and governance (ESG) credentials. 

“Younger and older employees alike are becoming increasingly aware of the importance of sustainable business practices,” said Mat Piaggi, Behavioural Scientist at CoachHub. “All businesses should demonstrate clear commitments to ESG, and regularly communicate with employees about how these commitments are progressing.”

2. Investment in learning and development

As part of their search for meaningful work, Gen Z employees seek regular opportunities to invest in their professional development. Typically, learning and development opportunities for junior employees remain limited to on-the-job training or perhaps an external course. This just doesn’t cut it for Gen Z employees, who are looking to access a personalised programme of regular upskilling opportunities. 

In response, businesses need to invest in employee skills throughout the career development lifecycle, offering all employees the development opportunities that are usually reserved for senior leaders. Leveraging technology-driven tools, like digital coaching, is key to ensuring that this is done in a financially responsible and efficient way.

“It’s up to businesses to ensure that they are fulfilling their employees’ appetite for growth. Organisations can do so by offering a digital-first and personalised professional development programme. This scalable approach allows employees to target the topics and challenges that matter most to them in a convenient and seamless format,” said Juliane Sterzl, SVP Global Sales at CoachHub. 

3. Flexible-first working practices

Almost three-quarters (73%) of employees desire permanent flexible working options. This is certainly the case for Gen Z team members, who are driven by a desire for work-life balance. Many Gen Z employees joined the workforce in either a remote or hybrid environment, allowing them to save time on commuting and invest this time into other personal priorities. Inevitably, they don’t want to lose this benefit, and as such for many, hybrid working is no longer seen as a benefit, but a right.

“Leaders who insist on face-to-face working are likely to experience backlash from their younger workers, who see hybrid working as part-and-parcel of their jobs,” said Sterzl. “At a time when retaining top talent is so crucial, organisations must enable efficient hybrid working by facilitating learning and communication regardless of an employee’s physical location.’’ 

4. An inclusive organisational culture

According to Deloitte’s Gen Z and Millennial Survey, Gen Z employees feel empowered to drive change within their organisation, especially in the diversity, equity and inclusion (DE&I) arena. This trend suggests that Gen Z employees will prioritise working for organisations that are open to becoming more inclusive, or already have DE&I initiatives in place. 

“Organisations should actively encourage employees to engage with DE&I initiatives, such as training on how to recognise and adjust any unconscious biases or learning opportunities that celebrate cultural diversity,’’ said Piaggi. “Equally, implementing policies and opportunities that help employees from minority backgrounds to thrive is essential. It is important that leaders encourage all employees to make their voices heard, and that younger employees have the opportunity to spearhead change within their organisations.” 

5. Fair remuneration and benefits

Salary is a highly important factor in choosing a job for all generations, especially given that the cost of living remains high. In May 2023, inflation was at a rate of 7.9%, up from 7.8% in April 2023. This means that employers must ensure that their salary offerings keep up with inflation, to avoid employees seeking higher pay rates elsewhere.  

This is especially important for Gen Z employees, who are in the early stages of their careers and therefore on lower pay rates than their older colleagues. Yet, employers should not fall into the trap of prioritising salary over everything else, as some data suggest that Gen Z values salary less than every other generation. As such, whilst Gen Z will always seek a good salary with competitive benefits, they also take into account the range of other elements that impact their experience at work. 

“As a cohort, Gen Z are looking for a well-rounded employee experience, perhaps more so than the generations that came before them,” said Piaggi. “Organisations should therefore consider everything from learning and development to ESG criteria to create an environment where Gen Z can truly thrive.” 

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