Generation Z (born 1997–2012) accounts for roughly a quarter of the workforce today. As older generations move up the career ladder and Gen Zers enter the workforce in larger numbers, employers will want to understand what motivates this age group and adapt their talent attraction and retention strategies accordingly.
While Gen Z shares many characteristics with their Millennial (born 1981–1996) predecessors, the major world events and cultural shifts they experienced in their youth have significantly impacted what they want and expect from their careers. Here are six key attributes of Generation Z for future employers to keep in mind:
1. Freedom and flexibility
Thanks to sites like Wikipedia, Google, and YouTube, Gen Zers grew up with a world of knowledge at their fingertips. For them, finding answers has always been as instinctive as typing keywords into a web browser. Information could always be accessed in seconds. As a result, Gen Zers crave independence and prefer to learn on their own terms rather than depend on peers and colleagues for answers.
This mindset also reflects their view on work, as they expect a high degree of workplace autonomy and freedom. Flexjobs reports that nearly 75% of Gen Zers list workplace flexibility as the number-one employee benefit they seek. Young workers envisage remote work options, flexible hours, paid family leave, and generous vacation time. In return, however, they’ve shown a willingness to engage with work outside of traditional work hours, often even on vacation.
2. Technology-rich work environments
Unlike Millennials, who remember the days before widespread internet access, Gen Zers grew up immersed in technology. They used collaboration tools for school projects and video conferencing for seeing friends and family, and they expect their workplaces to offer the same technology-first experience.
According to a recent survey, 80% of Gen Zers aspire to work with cutting-edge technology, and 91% consider an organization’s technology an important factor when choosing an employer. Knowing this, employers should adopt a “tech-first” approach to Gen Z recruitment. In other words, employers should show their younger candidates how they leverage technological solutions in all aspects of their work, from the hiring process to the day-to-day workflow.
Keep in mind that this generation values efficiency, so gimmicky tech trends like virtual reality or augmented reality won’t impress. Instead, invest in tech solutions that’ll help young hires work efficiently and productively. As organizations embrace flexible work to attract Gen Z candidates, the ability to communicate and collaborate from any location and on any device will be critical in keeping employees engaged. Communications solutions like the RingCentral app, for example, combine team messaging, video conferencing, and cloud phone into a single, unified platform where employees can seamlessly communicate from anywhere.
3. Employee nurture and growth
Many Gen Zers grew up experiencing the effects of the Great Recession in the late 2000s. Learning from their parents’ struggles, Gen Z job seekers tend to be more money-conscious than Millennials. As a result, Gen Zers prioritize financial responsibility—71% already think about saving for retirement.
Gen Zers want to achieve financial independence as soon as possible, with 65% saying they want to achieve this milestone by age 30. They’re attracted to workplaces that reward their hard work with raises, promotions, and growth opportunities. They’re highly receptive to feedback and want managers who show interest in their growth.
4. Stability and security
The recession in the late 2000s made Gen Zers more risk-averse than previous generations. Compared to passion-driven, job-hopping Millennials, 69% of Gen Zers prefer a stable job to one they’re truly passionate about. Thirty-six percent also said they worry about getting stuck in jobs that don’t offer growth opportunities.
Trendy perks like beer fridges and bean bag chairs won’t have much pull with Gen Z candidates. They want jobs with serious benefits, like a 401(k) program or student loan repayment initiative. If an employer meets their financial needs and offers plenty of opportunities for career advancement, Gen Z hires are likely to stay with their employers for the long haul.
5. Health and wellness
Millennials may be all about the “hustle,” but Gen Zers want clear boundaries between work and life. The majority (84%) view work-life balance as a priority, and 73% consider it an important measure of success. They have an in-depth understanding of how mental health can impact physical health, and vice-versa, so managing stress is one of their top concerns as employees.
A culture of wellness will be critical to Gen Z talent attraction. Programs like promoting healthy eating habits, good sleep, and regular exercise help employees minimize burnout at work and improve well-being. Employers can also encourage employees to take advantage of flex hours, mental health days, and vacation time when they need it.
6. Purpose-driven organizations
Gen Zers volunteer regularly, donate to fundraising campaigns, and express concern for a variety of social issues, from climate change to the depletion of natural resources. Sixty-eight percent of Gen Zers say it’s important for them to contribute to a better world.
Naturally, this purpose-driven mindset extends to their work, as 94% believe that companies should play a role in addressing social and environmental issues. They want to work for organizations that positively impact the world. For example, Gen Z candidates seek out organizations that work with ethical business partners, reinvest their profits in social or environmental sustainability programs, and regularly support charitable organizations.
Preparing for the next generation of employees
If there’s one thing organizations should know about Gen Z, it’s that they see employment as a two-way street. They’re smart, resourceful, and ambitious workers, but they’re not just working for a paycheck. They want to work with organizations that quickly see the value of their efforts, as well as their loyalty, and reward their commitment with opportunities to learn, advance, and succeed.
As they enter your organization’s roster, make sure you have the technology that satisfies their technical prowess and supports their work preferences. Unified communications apps like the RingCentral app allow Gen Z employees to embrace their flexibility, freedom, and high standards for technology by enabling communication and collaboration from anywhere on any device. Whether they work from home or in the office, Gen Z employees can leverage the versatility unified communications offers and stay productive at all times.
Many of the first Gen Zers graduate college this year and are applying for jobs. Is your organization ready to meet their needs?
Originally published May 15, 2020, updated Jan 18, 2023