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 organisations’ 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.
So, how can senior leaders design jobs and benefits packages to meet the needs of Gen Z?
Prioritise mental health and preventive care
Crucially, employers need to prioritise 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 supports 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.
Enable safe, secure access to digital health and well-being solutions
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 recognise 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:
Gen Z’s ‘most helpful interventions’
An app to help find medical care when and where I need it, even in the middle of the night
Targeted services to assist with mental health, socialisation and learning issues faced by youth
Preventive cancer screenings
Apps and devices to help self-manage health conditions
Genetic test that reveals health risks and suggests lifestyle changes and screenings
Demonstrate a commitment to critical societal issues
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 organisations 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.
The key societal concerns for Gen Z
The interests and equity of women
Diversity, equity and inclusion
Employers have a great opportunity to demonstrate their commitments 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 through 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 ensure women’s health needs through all life stages are addressed, from fertility support and access to contraception to post-partum care and menopause support.
Organisations can also provide professional opportunities for employees to affect critical societal issues themselves. They can organise formal volunteering programmes, 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.
Actions for employers
Prioritise the benefits that Gen Z is looking for, like mental health and digital apps and wearables
Involve Gen Z in your benefits communication strategy, using them as ambassadors in areas such as digital health
Take a stance on the issues that align with your company purpose and values, and on which you can have an impact; implement benefits and programmes that align to those goals