Market Development Leader
Members of Generation Z (born between 1997 and 2012) are unlike any of the generations that have preceded them. They are self-reliant, yet openly collaborative. They pursue personal fulfilment, while actively campaigning against social injustice. And, as a group, they have very different expectations from the world of work than their predecessors.
Gen Zers have little interest in climbing the corporate ladder. They will not be defined by their job titles. And they have little loyalty to their employers. Instead, they see work as a means of funding a more fulfilling life outside the workplace – a way to earn money to fund their real passions.
For senior leaders, this means rethinking their organizations’ approaches to job design and rewards. Gen Z will not toil away for years in unrewarding jobs in the hopes of funding a comfortable retirement. They are looking for roles that offer them the flexibility and autonomy they need to enjoy their lives in the here and now. They want benefits packages that will help them navigate the day-to-day stress of modern living. And they want to work for employers that are committed to making a difference to the world.
Crucially, employers need to prioritize the health and well-being of their employees – particularly their mental well-being. This is a major area of concern for Gen Z, a group that has grown up in the shadow of financial crises, climate change events, the pressures of social media and a global pandemic. In the face of such challenges, it is perhaps no surprise that our 2023 Health on Demand report found that more than half of Gen Zers feel stressed in their everyday lives.
Gen Zers are looking for their employers to show an authentic understanding of the factors both inside and outside work that are affecting their well-being, and to design jobs and workplaces that mitigate the risks of stress and burnout. In particular, employers should be conscious of the risks of work pressures, toxic culture, poor leadership, job security, and a lack of flexibility in work schedules or locations in contributing to burnout, and make a concerted effort to stay on top of these issues.
It's also important for employers to have two-way, open communications with employees combined with preventive mental health support to help build individuals’ resilience and capacity for self-care. Gen Zers are helping to overcome some of the stigma attached to mental health – for example, 58% are comfortable telling their manager or colleagues that they see a therapist or take medicine for a mental health issue, – and employers need to maintain this progress by readying managers to have empathetic and supportive conversations.
Gen Zers are the first true digital natives. They grew up with technology, and it’s an integral part of their everyday lives. Employers need to recognize this and ensure they provide benefits that cater to Gen Z’s appetite for digital solutions.
Our Health on Demand report revealed that more than three-quarters (76%) of Gen Z find a future appealing in which technological innovations allow healthcare to be delivered through virtual reality at home, with Siri and Alexa making appointments on their behalf. And three of their top five most helpful well-being interventions relate to digital solutions:
When it comes to benefits communications, employers also need to fully embrace digital platforms. A benefits PDF booklet downloaded from an employer’s intranet is unlikely to engage this segment. Instead, employers must embrace the digital channels where Gen Z resides: on-demand video, audio, and social media. And they should expect to engage in a two-way dialogue with this group: Gen Zers will always ask questions, and employers must be willing to have these conversations with this group.
Gen Zers genuinely care about societal issues, and they want to see their employers actively engage with their concerns. They expect employers to take a stance on important causes, such as social justice, women’s health and neurodiversity. Our research found, for example, that 79% of Gen Zers say it’s important to them that their employers strongly support living wages. But this means more than just voicing support on corporate Twitter feeds. Gen Zers will quickly identify inauthentic messaging and “greenwashing”. They expect their organizations to back up public statements with real, tangible actions that benefit society.
Failure to do so can have serious consequences. If they feel their employer is not engaged in social issues, Gen Zers are 75% more likely than previous generations to consider other jobs that better align with their values and 80% more likely to be less engaged in day-to-day activities at work.
It is important to me that my employer strongly supports these cause:
Employers have a great opportunity to demonstrate their commitment to critical societal issues in the way they design their jobs and approaches to employee benefits. For example, employers can show they support environmental sustainability by introducing environmentally-friendly benefits into their portfolios.
Employers should also audit their benefits packages to check whether every group within the workforce has access to the support they need to support diversity, equity, and inclusion goals. For example, they should conduct a gap analysis to address women’s health needs through all life stages, from fertility support and access to contraception to post-partum care and menopause support.
Organizations can also provide professional opportunities for employees to affect critical societal issues themselves. They can organize formal volunteering programs, for example, where individuals go into the community and give their time and expertise to important projects – or they can offer paid time off for employees to pursue social causes of their choosing.
Helping Generation Z sustainably thrive at work has to be a priority for benefits teams worldwide. This group represents the future of business – they’re today’s employees and tomorrow’s leaders. Employers need to recognize and address the unique needs of Gen Z. Those that fail face a future defined by labor shortages. Gen Zers will be quick to walk away from organizations that don’t meet their expectations and once they’re done, they may never return.
Market Development Leader