5 Things Gen Zs and Millennials expect from their employers–and how I think leaders should respond

September 29, 2022

5 Things Gen Zs and Millennials expect from their employers–and how I think leaders should respond

“Today’s generation of young people holds more power than any generation before it to make a positive impact on the world.”—William J. Clinton

Almost half of the current global workforce are Millennials and Gen Zs—generations that have often been dubbed “entitled” and “anti-capitalists” by their older cohorts and the media.

As with every new generational addition to the global workforce, the younger generations brought new values and expectations to the working landscape that are shaking long-standing status quos in workplaces. The most obvious example is the flexibility to opt for remote work. There have been a lot of debates over the past years about whether these new expectations are economically beneficial and plausible, but the recent pandemic and the Great Resignation have proven that some of these expectations do hold some weight.

Recent global events have changed the job market landscape. Before, hiring is all about what employers can offer the company. Nowadays, employers are competing to attract and retain talents in their organizations. More leaders are now desperately trying to cater to what the current workforce expects from their employers. 

Every new generation brings something new to the table, from their lived experiences and the philosophies these experiences have shaped. Keeping an open mind to these things is important, and as leaders, we should respond appropriately to the changes.

These are five things that the younger generations expect from their leaders that might be worth paying attention to, and how I think we should respond as leaders.

  1. Prioritize employee wellbeing

Over recent years, burnout in the workplace has been a hot topic. There’s also been a lot of buzz about mental health care and awareness as both a personal and social, as well as institutional responsibility.

Mental health issues and burnout are real problems that need to be addressed. I think that employers should do their best to make the workplace safe. In my recent interview with Jennifer Moss, she said that the change in social contract at work has shifted mental health responsibility from being solely a personal issue to being both a personal and institutional responsibility. With work-life boundaries getting increasingly blurred, and employers expecting their employees to be “always on, and available” for work, it is fair to share that responsibility with individuals.

However, I do believe that removing the responsibility of taking care of your mental health from the “self” goes against all forms of leadership. We must all take responsibility for our own mental health daily, regardless of where we are or what our environment is like. The best book I can recommend regarding this is Victor Frankl’s Man’s Search for Meaning.

But, it goes without saying, that as leaders, we need to provide the best and safest (physically and psychologically) environment for our people to thrive.

  1. Better compensation for work they can enjoy

We all need money to be able to live comfortable and happy lives. Yet, Gen Zs and Millennials have this constant financial anxiety that many argue is brought about by growing up and witnessing the effects of multiple recessions nationally and globally. 

Better pay is increasingly becoming a major factor that can attract and retain employees, especially the Gen Z workforce. They are more likely to leave an organization for better opportunities out there, and they can get quite creative in finding other means of making a living, with the gig economy flourishing because of the Internet and social media.

Competitive salaries are well and good, but for me, work that is enjoyed and quality work are two different things. I believe that all work, even the work we find enjoyable, can be cumbersome at times.

The real question that I want to challenge both the young and old professionals with is, are we working on our craft daily so that the quality of our work determines the quality of our pay?

Let’s all challenge ourselves to grow and show up more in our crafts, keep learning and improving, and find joy in the learning process. That way, as Cal Newport’s book says, we can become so good, they can’t ignore us.

  1. Better work-life boundaries, balance, and flexibility

During the pandemic, the global experiment on “remote work” proves that businesses can be more adaptable than we think and that it is possible to work productively (and profitably) from home. More employees, of all ages, are demanding more flexible work arrangements both in time and location. There are more and more businesses considering the plausibility of a four-day workweek, and people are putting work-life balance a priority.

Personally, I think work-life balance doesn’t exist. It’s all about harmony. Some days we work hard, other days it is easier, and we focus on other areas of our lives.

We must look at life as having a set of priorities. What are the most important things in our lives that revolve around Self, Family, and Business, in that order? And what are we doing to take care of that harmony? Because it is different for everyone.

Researchers have observed that Gen Zers are more strict in protecting their work-life boundaries, a lesson that a lot of us can learn from. I do believe that boundaries are important in the workplace, but striving for work-life balance might leave most of us frustrated. So, strive for harmony instead.

  1. Companies and leaders that are socially and globally ethical and transparent

Transparency is important in trust. We can’t deny that the people’s trust in corporations has eroded over the years. Younger workers are putting increasing importance on finding employers that are personally, socially, and environmentally ethical.

And I agree. I do believe that all companies and leaders should be ethical. The challenge is, every culture and era brings some change in collective values and principles, so things are always viewed differently across the times. As leaders, it is our responsibility to pay attention to these changing landscapes and adapt accordingly.

We could always be proven wrong, and we could always change and grow for the better, no matter what generation we may be in.

  1. Meaningful work

Millennials, especially, have put greater emphasis on finding work that is purposeful and meaningful both personally and socially. They want work that impacts the lives of others in a positive way and opt to work with employers that share the same values and put those values into practice.

Meaningful work is all subjective to the person performing the work. Someone making beautiful hand-painted art can be impactful for some, whereas a person who wrote a Pulitzer Prize-winning book might change the world but not impact people’s lives directly.

This is always a tough question to answer, but it also depends on how much meaning it has to the person doing the work.

Some employees find meaning outside of work, and view work as a means to fund that purpose they are pursuing. Others want to find meaning in the work they are doing, and still, there are some who create that meaning for themselves.

Finding purpose and meaning depends on the individual. And, hopefully, as business owners and leaders, we find that same meaning in what we do.

The workplace is constantly evolving, yet, if you really look at it, what we value and expect from our employers and leaders are similar at the core: we want to be treated with respect, valued, and have an impact.

As individuals, we have the responsibility and ability to take that for ourselves and have ownership in our career decisions. As leaders, we need to be better at providing an environment that allows our people to explore and grow to their full potential.

Thank you for reading A Brilliant Tribe.