What Gen Z and millennials want from employers

Young workers not only want better pay, they want previously less-popular benefits such as mental health care and four-day workweeks, according to three surveys by separate companies. And they want to work for a company that cares about personal and global ethics.

With unemployment in the tech industry hovering around 2%, companies will need to scramble to meet the concerns of new hires if they’re going to succeed in attracting — and keeping — top talent. Two new surveys show what younger workers want and just what companies need to do to navigate the Great Resignation and the workplace changes brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic.

According to the surveys, one by business consultancy Deloitte and another by workplace management software maker Robin Powered, young adult workers feel burned out, face financial anxiety, are taking on second jobs, and want more purposeful — and flexible — work.

Oh, and they want their careers to line up with personal and global ethical issues.

do you currently feel burnt out Robin Powered, Inc.

“They are burnt out — 58% of Gen Z are currently experiencing burnout,” Robin CEO Micah Remley said. “And while compensation is critical, it won't help combat stress. This group reports that additional time off and mental health resources would help them manage better.”

The Gen Z moniker generally applies to those born between 1997 and 2012, meaning the oldest members of that cohort are now roughtly 25 years old. By 2025, Gen Z will comprise about 27% of the global workforce, according to the World Economic Forum (WEF), though other data puts that figure even higher. (Millennials make up about 37% of the workforce today, according to the WEF.)

Of the two surveys, Deloitte focused more specifically on Gen Z and millenial workers. It found:

  • 46% of Gen Zs and 45% of millennials feel burned out due to the intensity/demands of their working environments.
  • 44% of Gen Zs and 43% of millennials say many people have recently left their organization due to workload pressure.
  • Almost half of Gen Zs (46%) and millennials (47%) live paycheck to paycheck and worry they won’t be able to cover expenses.
  • More than a quarter of Gen Zs (26%) and millennials (31%) worry they may not be able to retire comfortably.
  • Around three-quarters of Gen Zs (72%) and millennials (77%) agree that the gap between the richest and poorest people in their country is widening.

The overall cost of living was also named by Gen Zs (29%) and millennials (36%) as their main concern.

“Concerns about cost of living may be a symptom of the times, given high levels of inflation, but they also speak to issues that these generations have been expressing for years: they don’t feel financially secure personally, and at a broader societal level, they are deeply concerned about wealth inequality,” Deloitte said in its report.

“If we’d talk to Boomers or Gen Xers concerning mental health benefits, they would say that’s my business and not my employer’s business — whereas Gen Z is wanting assistance with mental health from their employers.” — Robin CEO Micah Remley

Amid this financial unease, many Gen Zs and millennials are redefining their working patterns. As many as 43% of Gen Zs and 33% of millennials have a second part- or full-time paying job in addition to their primary job.

Deloitte also found that a small, but growing, percentage of workers are moving to less-expensive cities with remote jobs — underlining the importance they place on flexible work arrangements.

robin stay in your position graphic Robin Powered, Inc.

“This appears to be a growing trend — roughly 15% of Gen Zs and millennials say they've done so this year, up from the 9% of respondents in last year's survey who said they'd temporarily or permanently moved out of a major city,” Deloitte reported.

When it comes to when they’d like to work, 36% said the traditional 9-5, Monday-through-Friday format works for them. A similar number of respondents (28%) prefer a four-day workweek, while 28% prefer flexible working hours beyond the usual 9-to-5 within the five-day workweek.

“As Gen Z continues to enter the workforce, flexibility will continue to be the name of the game,” Deloitte said.

There is clear demand for more flexible working: currently 49% of Gen Zs and 45% of millennials work remotely at least some of the time, while three-quarters say remote would be their preferred mode of working.

Robin’s data echoes that desire for a hybrid or flexible workplace. It found 66% of Gen Zers working from the office full time wished they were hybrid (46%) or fully remote (20%), while more than 73% of those working remotely said they liked it. The research also showed if they could design the “ideal” office space, most Gen Z workers would like assigned office spaces defined by walls, not cubicles.

Companies have already or are preparing to expand collaborative space in their office buildings to accomodate hybrid workforces that are more transient.

The Deloitte and Robin surveys both show that Gen Z and millennials want a better work-life balance, better learning and development opportunities, improved mental health and wellness support, and a greater commitment from businesses to make a positive societal impact.

deloitte top reasons employees stay graphic Deloitte

“The recurring theme with Gen Z — beside the compensation piece — is the focus on workplace flexibility and mental health. Those are two places we see a huge divergence form other generations,” Remley said. “If we’d talk to Boomers or Gen Xers concerning mental health benefits, they would say that’s my business and not my employer’s business, whereas Gen Z is wanting assistance with mental health from their employers.”

Benefits ranked high in both surveys as reasons workers are drawn to and want to remain with an organization. At the top of the list: good mental healthcare and healthcare benefits in general.

And employers do seem to be making progress when it comes to prioritizing mental health and well-being in the workplace, Deloitte reported.

"More than half agree that workplace well-being and mental health has become more of a focus for their employers since the start of the pandemic. However, there are mixed reviews on whether the increased focus is actually having a positive impact," Deloitte's report stated.

A third survey released Wednesday by clinical laboratory Quest Diagnostics found organizations are working hard to attract and retain talent — but most employees are still thinking about a job change anyway.

effective way employers can manage burnout and stress Robin Powered, Inc.

Quest surveyed 423 human resources benefits managers and executives with decision-making authority (HREs) and 846 office workers at companies with at least 100 employees. It found that nearly two-thirds (66%) of the workers it surveyed are thinking about changing jobs in the next year, have taken steps to do so, or recently started a new job. More than 22% are actively looking for a new job.

The prospect of making more money is the top motivator for 55% of employees surveyed who are eyeing a job change — followed by better benefits in general, including healthcare benefits, and work-life balance, according to Quest.

Not surprisingly, the importance of pay was reflected in the other surveys. Robin, for example, found that 44% of Gen Z workers would stay in a job where they aren’t happy — provided the pay is good. Conversely, 47% indicated they would choose happiness over money.

why are you looking for a new job Robin Powered, Inc.

In fact, Deloitte found pay was the No. 1 reason Gen Zs and millennials left a role in the last two years, a trend not lost on tech companies that are inreasing compensation to retain talent. When choosing a new employer, however, good work-life balance and learning and development opportunities were top priorities.

Robin found that 39% of Gen Z employees want to start a family and 49% want to buy a home in the next five years, “so it’s unsurprising they are so driven by compensation,” Robin’s Remley said.

For companies trying to decide how to keep employees happy, salary bumps — specifically, more than 10% — helped retain employees who were considering leaving a job. “Given that most of those we surveyed make under $40k, employers should consider a $4,000 to $8,000 salary increase to retain Gen Z talent,” Remley said.

deloitte loyalty graphic Deloitte

Generation Z and millennials are also pressing their employers to tackle climate change, particularly when it comes to efforts they can get directly involved in. But businesses may still be missing opportunities to drive broader climate action, the surveys found.

Aligning with worker values is key for employers hoping to attract and retain young talent. Nearly two in five of those surveyed by Deloitte said they have rejected a job or assignment because it did not mesh with their values. Meanwhile, those who are satisfied with their employers’ societal and environmental impact, and corporate efforts to create a diverse and inclusive culture, are more likely to want to stay with their employer for more than five years.

what salary increase would it take to stay Robin Powered, Inc.

“If you look at earlier generations, they didn’t have the opportunity to ask for these things,” Robin’s Remley said. “Gen Zers are coming of age right now in time of a very robust economy, where power has shifted to employees. They want the basics, and a lot of them, but beyond that what you’re seeing is them not being afraid to ask for other benefits like a four-day workweek. They’re coming into job market at time when, because of talent constraints in the job market, they can ask for a lot and get it.”

Deloitte gathered its responses from 14,808 Gen Z workers and 8,412 millennials from 46 countries across North America, Latin America, Western Europe, Eastern Europe, the Middle East, Africa, and Asia-Pacific. Gen Z respondents were ages 19- to 27-years old; millennial respondents (also known as Gen Y) were between 28 and 39 years old. (Robin surveyed 600 18- to 25-years old workers in the US.)

Deloitte’s survey took place between November 2021 and January 2022, with subsequent interviews in April 2022.

Copyright © 2022 IDG Communications, Inc.

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