Worst-hit by the crisis, have their career expectations changed?
The pandemic has pushed leaders worldwide to rethink the employee experience. Issues like well-being, and diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) have taken centre stage – areas that Gen Z employees have been seeking out from employers for years. Back in 2018, Gallup asked what employees wanted most out of work and Gen-Zers cited:
- An organisation that cares about employee well-being
- Ethical leadership
- A diverse and inclusive workplace
Fast forward to 2021, have those expectations of HR changed? With data predicting that Gen Z will make up more than a quarter (27%) of the workforce by 2025, we set to find out what this group of employees wanted out of their careers.
Read more: Why Gen Z will change the way we work
Who are your Generation Z employees?
Firstly, who are the Gen Zs or “Zoomers” in your organisation? The Pew Research Center categorised individuals born between 1997 and 2012 as Gen Z. By 2021, the older Zoomers have turned 24 and likely taken up junior roles in your company.
According to research by Deloitte and the Network of Executive Women (NEW), Gen Z-ers have never known a world without the internet and are a hyper-connected, mobile-led generation. With many starting out their careers during a pandemic, remote working as well as virtual interviews and onboarding processes have likely impacted their first steps into the world of work.
What does work look like for Gen Z?
It shouldn’t come as a surprise then that a recent study by ADP Research Institute found that Gen Z workers were less likely to want a return to the office compared with older staffers. Their study found that barely a quarter (26%) of Gen Z employees said they wanted a complete return to the office. On the other hand, a third of mid-career employees (36%) and nearly half of older staffers (45%) were looking forward to returning.
However, this doesn’t mean that the digital natives want a completely virtual work experience. A study by Dell Technologies found that Gen Z-ers yearned for human interaction in the workplace. About 79% of those surveyed said they wanted to work with cutting-edge tech, with almost all (91%) saying that the accessibility to tech would be a factor in choosing between employers. Most (60%) believed that humans and machines will eventually work as integrated teams, while a third (32%) of employees saw machines as useful tools for humans.
Despite this, human touch still trumped a fully virtual work experience:
- 76% expected to learn on the job from co-workers – not online
- 50% preferred in-person communications. Versus 11% through phone and 26% through messaging apps
- 51% wanted to work as part of a team instead of independently
What does Gen Z want from employers?
Beyond the day-to-day work experience, what do Zoomers want out of their careers? Many studies have tried to nail down this group’s concerns, interests and desires. While a sense of purpose and personal values continue to rank highly on their checklists, research showed that job security and a decent paycheck remain just as much a priority for Gen Z-ers – especially after the devastating impact of the pandemic.
Impact of crisis on Gen Z
78% see an impact on their careers
39% have lost jobs, been furloughed
36% are used to changing jobs to get by
15% actively looking for ‘future proof’ jobs
Source: ADP Research Institute
Job security and salary
Many reports, including by the OECD, found that Gen Z has been bearing the brunt of the crisis. ADP Research Institute found three-quarters of (78%) young workers citing an impact on their professional lives. About two in five (39%) said they’ve lost jobs, were furloughed, or suffered a temporary layoff during the pandemic.
Gen Z-ers have thus been forced to become the most agile group of employees. More than one in three (36%) have gotten used to changing roles or taking on new ones to get by, and one in seven workers (15%) have been actively trying to move into a new industry that they consider more ‘future proof’. Gen Z-ers were also the most proactive (20%) about making a change in their careers and doing what they can to seek out jobs with better pay or security.
Read more: Gen Z is bearing the brunt of the virus
L&D and opportunities for growth
Many reports have also highlighted younger workers’ ambitions for career development. With the pandemic impacting this group’s learning and job opportunities, Randstad found that younger candidates were especially struggling to learn new skills amidst a pandemic. This suggested that learning and training opportunities are a top concern for staffers.
Mental health support and work-life balance
Another area that remains a top priority for Gen Z-ers is well-being and mental health support. Deloitte found that younger employees still find employers’ efforts lacking in this area. They’ve also found a persistent stigma around mental health challenges in the workplace. About a third of Gen Zs (35%) said they’ve taken time off work due to stress and anxiety caused by the pandemic.
Among the two-thirds who didn’t take time off, four in 10 felt stressed ‘all of the time’ but chose to work through it, likely due to prevailing stigma around the issue. Also, about 40% of Gen Zs felt that their employers have done a poor job of supporting their mental well-being during this period.
‘Failed’ mental health support
40% feel employers have done ‘poor job’
35% have taken mental health days
40% stressed ‘all the time’, worked due to stigma
Work that creates positive impact
Although health and employment status have climbed the list of top concerns, Deloitte’s annual study on millennials and Gen Zs found that younger staffers remain deeply concerned about issues related to society and sustainability.
Climate change and the environment, for instance, are still a top concern for Gen Z-ers when deciding which businesses to support and align themselves with. They’re also personally invested in the cause: more than four in 10 believe it’s too late to repair climate-related damage, but a majority were optimistic that a commitment to take personal action can help address environmental issues.
They’re also concerned about issues like wealth and income inequality, with two-thirds of younger workers worried about the unequal distribution in society. Unfortunately, about half of individuals surveyed think that business organisations fail to leave a positive impact on society. Regardless, they believe that companies are trying, with business’ ambitions and agendas showing promise.
Diversity and inclusion a personal issue
Finally, an issue that Gen Zs wish to see prioritised in their workplaces is the fight for diversity and inclusion. Deloitte found that Gen Z-ers believe discrimination is widespread and a personal issue. Almost a quarter of those surveyed (23%) said they’ve felt discriminated against in their workplaces.
People’s ethnicity or race are the most common cited causes for discrimination, but there are multiple reasons that also include socioeconomic status, physical or mental disability, sexual orientation, gender identification, and sex. Among those who identify as ethnic minorities, 39% of Gen Zs said they feel discriminated against ‘all the time’ or frequently in the workplace. Roughly three in 10 who identify as homosexual, gay, lesbian, or bisexual felt the same way. On a positive note, two-thirds of those surveyed said their organisation does well in creating diverse and inclusive working environments.
Despite all the changes happening in our work environments, HR leaders must focus on driving inclusion to sustain engagement and retention. Ken Hoskin, HR director, biz and tech, APAC at Facebook explained why inclusion remains top on their HR agenda in a hybrid work environment. “We have a really strong emphasis on inclusion,” Hoskin said.
“Our goal is to create an empowered and supportive environment, both at work as well as for people when they are working for home. We want to help people to make sure that they're comfortable to be bold, to focus on impact, so they're able to move fast, and know that they can be open in their feedback. This continues to be important, even as many of parts of the region [continue] working from home.”