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By: Kathy Morris, Zippia

While the youngest generation of workers- those under 25- are often lumped in with millennials, Gen Z is its own entity.

In 2020, Generation Z outnumber millennials and make up 24% of the workforce. However, just like millennials before them they bring different needs and desires to the workplace.

What can employers expect from the new generation of workers? How do companies attract- and retain- this new, different generation?

We conducted a survey 1,000 American job seekers to uncover what Gen Z is looking for- and what they aren’t. The results? Employers and hiring managers have misconceptions about what young workers want.

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Specific detail about the methodology and survey questions can be found in the methodology section at the end of this report.

Key findings and fast facts

  • Gen Z’s three most desired benefits are health insurance (32%), remote work (25%), and 401k/retirement benefits(25%).
  • Gen Z is 7% more likely than millennials to say “student loan assistance” is a most desired benefit.
  • Cubicles aren’t cool, but that doesn’t mean open offices are the solution: 59% of Gen Z prefers to work remotely or in private offices.
  • Nearly 1-in-3 Gen Zers say they would turn down a job due to a companies negative social impact.
  • 93% of Gen Z workers spend their own time learning new skills to advance their career- more than any other generation.
  • Gen Z workers are most likely to turn down a job due to an unpleasant office, long commute, or inflexible work environment.
  • 36% of Gen Z say poor work-life-balance is a deal breaker when it comes to accepting a job, compared to just 28% of millennials.
  • Shorter work weeks are a bigger priority than PTO for younger workers
  • Gen Z is the generation most like to rely on friends, family, and social media when looking for a job
  • 66% of Gen Z would consider turning down a job offer after an unwelcoming interview
  • 31% believe staying at a job for less than a year is fine, compared to only 20% of millennials, 14% of Gen X, and 20% of baby boomers
  • Gen Z leaves jobs sooner than they find appropriate due to lack of advancement opportunities
  • Gen Z is the “most stressed generation”, due to long work hours that do not match their work life balance expectations

What Gen Z wants: most desirable benefits, deal breakers, and dream office environment

Benefits are no substitute for competitive pay when recruiting workers. In fact, 27% of Gen Z left their last job due to pay— not because their office was missing a foosball table.

However, a strong benefit package (consisting of benefits job seekers value) can make attracting talented workers easier.

There is a perception that younger workers seek new, fun benefits over more traditional offerings. However, when surveyed, Gen Z’s most desired benefits are healthcare, remote work, and 401k/retirement benefits. Overwhelmingly, these are the most desired benefits of workers of all ages.

Ultimately, to drawn in the majority of Gen Z candidates, HR’s best tool is a strong portfolio of benefits that appeal to all workers.

However, there are some distinct differences. According to Pew Research, Gen Z job candidates are the most highly educated generation yet. Since that education comes with a big bill, it is no surprise that Gen Zers are 7% more likely than millennials to say “student loan assistance” is a most desired benefits.

Gen Z candidates are also more socially conscious than millennials. 3% say charity contributions are one of their most desired benefits. 18% go further, stating a companies negative social impact is a deal breaker when it comes to accepting a job.

Other deal breakers? Unpleasant offices, long commutes, and inflexible work environments.

Many companies align “unpleasant offices” with cubicles, old furniture, and other trappings of the traditional office. This perspective has accelerated the move to open-office to attract talented, young workers, despite compelling research they lower face-to-face collaboration and are disliked by employees.

However, while Gen Z does prefer open offices more than millennials do, it is not their most ideal work environment. 59% of Gen Z prefer to work remotely or in private offices.

As a group, Gen Z values flexible work environments where they have some level of autonomy and the privacy to deep-focus on tasks. Two of the main reasons Gen Z would turn down a job offer come down to office environment; Companies that create pleasant environments aligned with job seekers core values, will see a recruitment benefit.

Job hunting: Gen Z expects friendly, open interviews and looks to social media

Nearly 1-in-4 workers is a member of Generation Z. What interview behaviors can turn off 24% of your potential applicants?

Since Gen Z workers value pleasant work environments, it is no surprise that 66% of Gen Z workers are turned off by an unfriendly interviewer. The next biggest turn-off is discrepancies in the job listing and the interview itself, followed by workers losing enthusiasm for a role due to long, complicated interview processes. Nearly 1-in-2 Gen Z workers say these turn-offs could lead to them rejecting a job offer.

Of course, companies can only interview who applies. Where are Gen Z workers looking for jobs?

The vast majority of every generation now primarily use job search sites to find their next job, including 85% of Gen Z. However, Gen Z deeply values the perspective of trusted sources, such as friends, family, and connections on social media. They are more likely than any other group to say friend/family and social media is their primary job hunting tool.

Companies can utilize this trend by establishing a strong, positive social media presence that will appeal to Gen Z. Similarly, they can encourage current employees to act as ambassadors using referral bonuses. Of course, creating a great place to work will organically spread much of the word! Happy employees will naturally share the love.

Why Gen Z leaves their jobs sooner than they prefer

There is no denying that Gen Z does believe it is okay to stay at a job for less time than previous generations. 31% believe staying at a job for less than a year is all that is needed, compared to only 20% of millennials, 14% of Gen X, and 20% of baby boomers.

However, it is worth noting, the vast majority of Gen Z do still believe in staying with companies for more than a year. 13% even believe workers should stay at a company for the longest amount of time option available, 4+ years.

While only 31% of Gen Z says staying at a job for a year or less is fine, 47% report being at their last job for a shorter period of time. This is a pattern unique to Gen Z. This could be an age-related factor, with young workers taking on more transient roles.

However,when asked Gen Z, stated their biggest reason for leaving their last job was lack of advancement opportunity. Companies looking to retain younger workers should develop mentorship programs to improve employee retention and focus on internal candidates when filling new positions.

Following lack of advancement opportunities, work-life-balance and pay were the biggest reasons Gen Z moved jobs.

Why is Gen Z so stressed at work?

Generation Z is the “most stressed” generation, with 91% reporting anxiety or other stress related issues. That stress doesn’t stay at home and can be magnified or even caused by the work environment.

What are Gen Z’s biggest workplace stressors? 36% say long hours are their biggest stress on the job. Long hours is followed by overwork (24%) and job insecurity (9%). Since Gen Z highly values work life balance- to the extent many have left their job to restore order- it is no surprise it is a cause of tension.

While Gen Z has the greatest level of stress caused by long hours, long hours are also Millennials (26%) and Gen X’s (26%) biggest stressors. Only baby boomers’ are mostly unperturbed by their time on the clock, with the majority saying their coworkers and boss are their biggest causes of workplace stress.

Gen Z is studious and growth-focused

Gen Z may be young, but they have big goals. 31% of Gen Z workers left their last jobs due to lack of advancement opportunities.

While young workers are leaving jobs for better opportunities, they are not leaving their professional development on the job. 93% of Gen Z workers send their own time learning new skills to advance their career- more than any other generation. An impressive 31% dedicate time daily to learning new career skills.

46% learn new career related skills independently weekly.

While the youngest workers are often viewed as lazy or know-it-alls, Generation Z is actively learning skills and is highly motivated to advance professionally.

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