What Does Gen-Z Want in a Career?

What Does Gen-Z Want in a Career

Allegedly, it’s the most challenging generation to work with. However, in the right environment, it could be the best one to have on your side.

Most managers feel that Gen-Z is “difficult to work with”, entitled and easily offended. The prevalent notion is that this generation is prone to distraction, lacks tech skills and is deficient in productivity and motivation. They want to butt heads, have their say and not listen. Harsh, yes. These studies perhaps ignore that most of the Gen-Z workforce graduated and entered the workforce during COVID-19. Their interactions were limited to digital environments, notorious for distractions, burnouts and a lack of body language cues. They weren’t taught to communicate in an in-person setting effectively.

Now, as a manager, whether you like it or not, you will need to hire Gen-Z individuals at some point, especially if you want a workforce trained with the latest knowledge. Startups, especially, need innovative people who bring new ideas to the table without incurring excessive costs. Plus, Gen-Z are not only the next generation of employees but also buyers. It would be a competitive advantage to have a trained Gen-Z workforce on board that also provides insight into what the new consumer wants.

So, here’s a look at what Gen-Z wants from the workplace and how you can meet them halfway.

Clear expectations and feedback

When it comes to Gen-Z, beating around the bush with their job responsibilities does not cut it. While asking them to observe and learn is okay, this generation craves clear role expectations. Additionally, they require feedback from their managers on what is working and what is not. 

Remember that this generation graduated and entered the workforce during COVID-19; they have experienced both the physical and mental health pandemic. There is enough confusion and chaos in their life as is, having had little time to learn interpersonal communication or applicable skills. In short, a little assistance to them goes a long way; they are willing to work hard for companies that meet them halfway. 

Career development opportunities

Over 50 percent of Gen-Z is motivated by opportunities for growth. Plus, they are contemplating leaving their jobs for better learning opportunities. Interestingly, more Gen-Zs than older generations placed a higher value on acquiring hard skills over soft skills. That said, to preserve your workforce, you not only need to provide broad learning opportunities but ones that are specific to their needs. You could also consider offering mentorship opportunities for Gen Z with older employees—the millennials and baby boomers—who have been in the game for a while, to improve their understanding of the job and boost engagement and collaboration. 

Healthy work environment

Stress and anxiety have become synonymous with work. A handful of Instagram workplace reels will reveal the larger sentiment about being overwhelmed. With 68 percent of Gen Z and younger millennials reporting feeling excessive stress, leaders should be concerned because stress and burnout can negatively impact performance and compel workers to leave. That’s why it is important to create a healthy work environment, perhaps including mental health days and offering flexible work arrangements, such as letting employees choose their remote work and in-office days. 

Fair pay and work-life balance

Covid shined a light on the need for work-life balance. Report after report covered the blurring boundaries when working from home and inadequate time off. Gen-Z workers are willing to leave workplaces that do not allow them to allocate time for themselves and their hobbies. Moreover, contrary to millennials who prioritize career progression and personal development, Gen-Zers straight up want higher pay. And who can blame them, given the economic state of affairs right now? Gen-Zers want health insurance, significant pay and economic security and are willing to walk away from jobs that will not cater to that. 

For the economic uncertainty concerns, Harvard Business Review recommends becoming more transparent and switching from a “need-to-know” to an “open-access” policy for information. Since this generation is accustomed to having untethered access to information, keeping them updated will help alleviate their stress. This is especially important in light of the recent spate of mass layoffs, which have only intensified prevailing uncertainties and confounded employees’ sense of job security.

How does Gen-Z feel about the future?

While Gen-Z is motivated to seek more, they also fear an insecure life, worrying about their inability to buy a home or retire. They are fighting the long fight, hoping to bring about change for future generations. But that comes at the cost of their own economic uncertainty. 

Over 20 percent of Gen-Z individuals are worried about the future and potentially the lack of jobs. Crippled by student debts, global crises—wars, pandemics, widening financial gaps—and competition with artificial intelligence (AI), this generation stands at the precipice of the working world as we know it, uncertain whether they will fall or fly—what a scary place.

The perks of having Gen-Z employees

Look past generalized criticisms (“entitled” and “difficult”) on Gen Z, and you will find that this generation brings some essential skills to your workplace’s table. Gen-Z has the potential to reshape the future of work, starting from diversity initiatives to technical advancements. Broader societal issues drive them, care about diversity and are more adept at AI. They can significantly contribute to newer products, research and development and innovative fields. Plus, they have an entrepreneurial and curious spirit that automatically helps build the right future leaders for your company (you probably cannot be at the helm forever).

Moreover, this generation has shown resilience during a pandemic and global financial crisis. They have made it through stronger and more well-informed, with insights that could help advance your company. 

This is not to say that you should pander to every Gen-Z whim. They stand to learn plenty from your existing business model. However, practicing empathy for their circumstances can go a long way. You might even have a more motivated workforce to pursue shared goals with top-of-the-line ideas. 

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