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What Gen Z Talent Want and How to Give it to Them

3 min read.



Employer Branding

Think you know what makes Gen Z tick? Athlete, writer, portfolio career consultant, and Gen Zer Charlie Rogers does, and recently revealed what motivates the youngest part of the workforce...

It sometimes seems that among the many conundrums that employer branders and HR leaders are struggling to solve  - Quiet Quitting, Lazy Girl Jobs, Hush Trips – that it is the younger end of the employment market at the centre of it. The so-called Generation Z (also referred to as Younger Millennials), born between the mid-90s and late-00s.

According to data by Gallup, 54% are not engaged at work. It might seem like a lot but that’s only a couple of per cent points higher than other generations who are also scoring around the 50% mark, and they are also less likely to be actively disengaged than their older counterparts.

So, rhetoric that paints them as “Genlazy” might not be quite so on the mark. According to that data, no age group is particularly in love with their work right now.

What then, are they actually after?

Sixty-five percent of younger millennials rate greater work-life balance and better personal wellbeing as "very important" when considering a new job says Gallup.

But there’s more to it than just wanting to get out to their Pilates class on time.

At the recent Elite Business Live conference, Charlie Rogers, career consultant, speaker, writer, and Team GB endurance athlete outlined just what it is that motivates the youngest part of the workforce.

In fact, his multi-faceted career is typical of a member of Gen Z.

"Many Interests, Many Incomes and Many Careers" as he puts it.

The Golden Thread in Gen Z Careers

In his newsletter What Do You Do? Rogers talks about the “Golden Thread” which sews together a range of personal and professional interests. It’s another way of talking about the Purpose, Impact and Belonging that we refer to in our employer branding work.

“Your golden thread is what holds together all that interests you. It’s not what you do. It’s that one cause that you care about, those people you love helping and the one industry you know needs changing. Put simply, it’s your why.”

“The key is knowing what you’re optimising for right now. Which could mean maximising…

  • Income to pay the bills.
  • Having fun with your work
  • Learning as much as you can
  • Travelling around the world
  • Meeting awesome people
  • Or an infinite list of alternatives.

“Being honest with the approach that is important to you right now is crucial. For the needle of each option leads to drastically different results, which will compound over time and sew together a drastically different life.”

“Gen Z live in a world of exponential uncertainty,” he says. “They've seen a climate crisis destroy their planet, a pandemic curtail their freedom and a cost-of-living crisis continuously delay their life milestones. As a result, many have become disillusioned by the traditional life path that promises a home and a family, opting to maximise for freedom, fun and making a difference instead.

“In pursuit of this they are negotiating on more than just salary, opting for flexible working environments, fast learning opportunities and purpose-driven organisations which, if they don't receive, they will happily job-hop until they do or take matters into their own hands and create their own side hustles or full-time ventures.”

For employer brand professionals, appreciating Gen Z's desire for integration of personal and professional interests, multiple income streams, fluid career paths, and work aligned with purpose, impact and belonging is paramount. It is a generation that seeks a very different employee value proposition compared to previous generations and it is shaping the future of work.

By understanding the motivations and values that drive Gen Z, employer brand strategies can be tailored to resonate powerfully with the demographic. Everything from messaging to experience design to promoting your organisational culture must account for Gen Z's unique perspectives.

Ultimately, winning over Gen Z requires rethinking traditional approaches to work. Embracing its ideals around work/life balance, autonomy and customised career journeys can strengthen an organisation's ability to captivate Gen Z as both candidates and employees.

What’s in the heads of Gen Z?

Here are some typical characteristics of Generation Z…

Integration of personal and professional interests

Gen Z desires to blend their various passions and interests, both personal and professional, into their careers rather than separating them.

Multiple income streams

Many Gen Zers (59% according to one stat) have a "side hustle" or freelance work in addition to a full-time job, earning income from multiple sources simultaneously. The 9-5 and the so-called 5-9.

Portfolio careers

Gen Z is embracing "portfolio careers" where they engage in different styles of work and roles that may not be obviously connected.

Fluid career paths

Traditional linear career progression is being replaced by more fluid, non-obvious pathways – so-called Squiggly Careers - that may involve switching careers, acquiring new skills, or taking unconventional routes.

Meaningful work

Gen Z seeks work that aligns with their sense of purpose and desire to create a positive impact on society.

Authentic self-expression

They want to bring their full, authentic selves to the workplace and have the freedom to express their passions and convictions.

Flexible work environments

Gen Z values remote and hybrid work models, as well as flexible schedules that move beyond the traditional 9-to-5 structure.

Lifelong learning

They recognise the need for continuous, self-directed learning to navigate their ever-evolving careers and keep up with changing job demands.

Social responsibility

Gen Z prioritises working for organisations that prioritize social responsibility, have an evolutionary purpose, and involve employees in decision-making processes.

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