As Generation Z joins the workforce in droves, this wave of young people and their different values and expectations are shaking up workplaces. Employers who understand what motivates Gen Z can do better at attracting, engaging, and retaining them as talent.
Companies that focus on six key areas—diversity, compensation, technology, wellbeing and mental health, work-life balance, and meaning—will build a strong workplace for all employees, especially the next generation of workers.
Attracting Gen Z talent starts with awareness
What is Gen Z? Sometimes known as Zoomers, this peer group encompasses people born between 1997 and 2012. Gen Z accounted for 17.6% of Canada’s working-age population in 2021, Statistics Canada data shows, and it’s expected they will make up 31.5% of the working-age population by 2031.
Sandwiched between Generation Y (or millennials) and Generation Alpha, this educated generation is tech-savvy, as they grew up in an interconnected digital world.
Significant global events have shaped Gen Z’s formative years: The 2008 recession and its aftermath, as well as the COVID-19 pandemic. Experiencing such social and economic disruption, and in some cases, being let go just as they began their careers, has led Gen Z to have a different relationship with work than previous generations. They are demanding more from employers, especially in the following six areas:
Gen Z is more educated, more diverse than previous generations and more exposed to ethnocultural, religious, and gender diversity. This generation cares deeply about diversity and inclusion—and expects the same from employers. A diverse workforce is also good for business. Research shows that companies with more diverse workforces financially outperform less diverse ones.
Nearly three-quarters (72%) of workers aged 18-34 that responded to an Indeed & Glassdoor survey said they would consider turning down a job offer or leaving a company if they didn’t think their manager supported diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) initiatives.
To build successful DEI initiatives at your company:
- Incorporate diversity and inclusion into recruiting and hiring. Make your job descriptions and interviews more inclusive
- Embed diversity into your company culture and employer brand to help everyone feel included
- Consider implementing practices such as employee resource groups and making DEIB+ activities and learning experiences available
Compensation is key for job seekers, including Gen Z. Recent research from Robert Half examined the multigenerational workforce and found Zoomers—alongside millennials and Gen X—say a competitive salary is the most important influence on their job satisfaction and desire to stay with an employer.
Pay transparency—when companies provide information about how they compensate their roles—is a priority for Gen Z in the workplace, with Robert Half survey respondents listing a lack of transparency as their top deal breaker on a job search. Indeed's recent white paper on salary transparency in Canada spells out why it’s time to embrace the trend.
Gen Z also expects benefits and perks to be part of a compensation package. Benefits such as mental health support, paid time off, and activities that create a sense of community are popular with younger workers.
The elder Zoomers graduated from university and college during the pandemic, were onboarded virtually, and met new colleagues through screens. Gen Z is extremely connected to technology, social media, and the internet. However, they still highly value human interaction at work regarding their role and interactions with coworkers. An Indeed research found that the key drivers of workplace wellbeing involved the social dynamics around work.
Gen Z workers are also more concerned about AI affecting their job than millennials, Gen Xers, and baby boomers, but they’re willing to reskill to pursue new roles within their companies. Consider offering your employees opportunities to learn new skills to stay up to date with technology.
Wellbeing and mental health
Workplace wellbeing has quickly become an important issue for talent management and is a top priority for Gen Zs in the workforce. This generation is more open to discussing mental health and seeks a workplace culture prioritizing mental health and wellbeing.
According to a recent Canadian survey, roughly 40% of Gen Z employees say they’re at a mental health breaking point because of:
- The pandemic
- Not forging meaningful connections when they start a job
- Regressive perceptions about their generation
Employers can create a culture that supports mental health through mindfulness training, health benefits, and mental health training for managers. Another step to support mental health and wellbeing is listening to employees. Indeed’s research into what makes Canadians happy at work identifies the leading wellbeing indicators as a sense of belonging, having a goal, and feeling useful and motivated. You can measure work wellbeing with questions like:
- Do employees have a sense of purpose?
- Are they satisfied?
- Are they stress-free?
- Do they have opportunities for additional learning?
- Are they being recognized for achievements?
- Do they have flexibility?
- Do they experience a sense of trust in their organization?
Numerous surveys show that work-life balance is significant to Zoomers, with more than half (56%) of Gen Z saying they would leave their job if it interfered with their personal lives according to a global study.
Companies can prioritize a healthy work-life balance for employees in numerous ways, such as the right to disconnect from work, four-day workweeks, unpaid time off, and sabbaticals. Surveys also show employees prefer hybrid work models that offer flexibility for both in-office and remote work, as they feel it improves their work-life balance. Offering a flexible work schedule that differs from the standard 37.5-hour 9-5 schedule is also attractive to Gen Z employees.
Meaning and purpose
Gen Z employees have a strong desire for a meaningful workplace—for both their career and the company’s impact on the world. Nearly half (42%) of Gen Z would rather be at a company that gives them a sense of purpose than one that pays more.
They are also passionate about addressing climate change and racial inequality and expect a company’s views on social and environmental issues to align with their own. Randstad’s research shows that almost half of Zoomers said they would not work with an employer that isn’t actively working to become more sustainable.
Recruiters can highlight a sense of purpose and impact in roles to reach Gen Z hires, while managers can explain to them how their contributions matter and how broader organizational goals will have a positive impact on the world. Companies can also communicate their environmental and social goals through their employee brand and introduce policies such as paid time off for volunteering.
Help Gen Z thrive in the workplace
Just as prior generations brought new expectations and attitudes to the workplace, Gen Z are doing the same. Employers who understand this generation and act on the issues that matter most to them are better positioned to attract, engage, and retain the next generation of workers.