How employers can up the ante to attract Gen Z

Anxiety. It is defined as “a feeling of worry, nervousness, or unease, typically about an imminent event or something with an uncertain outcome.”

How employers can up the ante to attract Gen Z

Anxiety. It is defined as “a feeling of worry, nervousness, or unease, typically about an imminent event or something with an uncertain outcome.”

It is also, according to their own admission, the biggest barrier to professional achievement for Generation Z, the cohort of people born in the late 90s and early 2000s.

According to research by The Workforce Institute, “my anxiety” got the top slot when survey participants were asked to rank a list of potential barriers that included options like education, family finances and location. Across respondents, 34% percent felt anxiety was their top barrier, with women reporting a higher level than men, 39% to 29%. When responses were broken down by country, anxiety jumped to 44% in Canada - higher than the 40% reported in the U.S. and the U.K.

“Since this was such an interesting finding, we dug into this more,” says Joyce Maroney, executive director of the institute.

She says they wanted to know if the high rating was specific to this generation, as discussing anxiety and mental health have become more commonplace in recent years.  Maroney found other reports - most notably, a 2018 report from the American Psychological Association titled Stress in America – Gen Z - which found 77% of Gen Z adults in the U.S. were stressed about work versus 64% of adults overall.

“However, that same report notes that Gen Z adults are the most likely to report poor mental health,” Maroney adds. “If theres a silver lining here, they are also most likely to seek professional help for mental health issues.”

She notes its important to educate managers about issues like burnout, fatigue and depression, and make sure employees are aware of mental health resources available to them.

The institute conducted a three-part global survey of 3,400 members of Gen Z across 12 countries — Australia, Belgium, Canada, China, France, Germany, India, Mexico, the Netherlands, New Zealand, the United Kingdom and the United States.

Maroney says the high level of anxiety was the most surprising finding of the research the think tank at Kronos Inc. conducted into the needs and expectations of this cohort in the workplace, defined as the demographic following Millennials.

“As a global think tank, we always want to explore critical workplace issues — and those that our board members are seeing arise before they become popular headlines,” Maroney says. “Gen Z was one of those topics where we wanted to know more from them, to hear how they really felt, and articulate our findings to empower organizations to better prepare and effectively manage their workforce.”

The third and final piece of research, How to Be an Employer of Choice for Gen Z - Fulfilling the next-generation workplace wish list, looked at the full Gen Z employee lifecycle from recruitment to promotion, and lays out suggestions on how companies should prepare to recruit — and retain — members of this generation in 2020. It offers “prescriptive advice to employers,” Maroney says.

It’s important employers realize that while many of this generation’s preferences mimic those of the generations before, and will likely change as they age, their current priorities shouldn’t be overlooked. Offering these things would be “savvy strategies” on the part of companies, she adds.

One example is a desire for flexible scheduling. While 21% of Gen Zers surveyed reported they prefer a consistent and predictable schedule, 23% also expected employers to offer flexibility.

“This generation is looking for alternatives to the 40-hour workweek so that they can live more balanced lives than those that older workers have accepted,” Maroney says. She encourages employers to support flexibility where possible.

While perks around the office that might be seen as modern and progressive — like free snacks, happy hours and gym membership reimbursements — are enticing, traditional benefits such as healthcare coverage, retirement plans and life insurance are preferred by a 2-1 ratio by Gen Z, regardless of age or stage of life.

The members of Gen Z surveyed did identify “employer red flags” that would make them less likely to accept a position with a company. These include a delayed response from a recruiter (44%), workplaces that have a “dated” feel (24%) and application portals that are not mobile-friendly (29%). Mobile technology and personalization are “not only only ubiquitous, they are absolutely expected.” 

“There is an app for everything on the smartphones they carry – from banking to travel to education,” Maroney notes. “If the tech you expect them to use at work doesnt match the ease of use and customer experience of that personal tech, theyll be turned off.”

Doing work that they enjoy or care about is as important as a paycheck, which are the top two motivations cited by about half of respondents worldwide (both 51%)

“Another interesting finding was that Gen Zers give equal weight to pay and work that is meaningful when asked what would motivate them to work harder and stay longer at a company, Maroney says, adding that meaningful work doesnt have to mean curing cancer.

“It does mean that managers should take the time to explain how individuals contribute to the mission of the organization and why what they do is important to successful outcomes.”

When it comes to leadership, Gen Z expects help in charting a path to promotion. Hands-on training, managers who listen and value opinions and the freedom to work independently were listed by 44%, 44% ad 39% respectively. If they had a supportive manager, 32% said they would stay longer at their place of work.

Employers will often have a range of ages in their employee group, from Boomers (or older) to Gen Z, and Maroney says at the end of the day there are core values that make a great workplace and span the generations — elements like trust, communication, fair wages, medical benefits, adequate resources to perform their jobs well and opportunities to advance.

Younger employees do tend to value benefits like parental leave, student loan consolidation or tuition assistance, for example, more than their older peers. They also tend to be more worried about the impact of global issues like climate change, and expect their employers to invest in helping the communities they operate in.

“Employers should take a hard look at their workplace policies, benefits and offerings and see where things can be improved and updated to reasonably adapt to the future of work, and what the modern workforce wants and expects,” Maroney says. "Ensure youre providing the most advanced workplace technologies that meet their expectations and help keep them engaged.”

While employers should be aware of these general differences, it’s equally important not to paint all age groups with too broad a brush.

All that being said, how can an employer really understand what’s important to the younger generation of workers? It’s simple, Maroney says — ask them.

“Its clear that the modern employee is looking long for mentorship, training and development programs, and to experience meaningful work. Knowing that, managers have a huge area of opportunity to embrace Gen Z workers, connect with them, develop them and have ongoing candid conversations at work to help them flourish and remain at the company,” she says.

“Good management still comes down to clear communication and investing in developing trusting relationships.”

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