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"No Cap": Decoding the Workplace Needs of Gen Z Via Employee Listening

As the workplace evolves, each new generation entering the workforce brings its own set of values, preferences, and expectations. Currently, Generation Z — individuals born after 1996 — has begun making its mark, as it represents about 30% of the global population and is poised to constitute approximately 24% of the global workforce by 2025. This generation is distinguished not only by its digital nativity and educational achievements but also by unique work-life expectations and values. Their preferences and expectations are not just passing trends but signals of enduring change that need to be heard by organizations looking to optimize employee engagement.

Engaging Gen Z: Priorities and Values

Every generation entering the workforce brings new ways of working that align with their inherent values. Historically, older generations tend to be less receptive to how new generations prefer to work. For example, we know that older generations value hard work and loyalty to companies while younger generations value work/life balance and continuous mobility. From an employee listening standpoint, we need to understand members of these generational cohorts so we can meet them where they are. Recognizing what drives internal motivation and intent to stay with a job for this population will be paramount as older generations start thinking about exiting the workforce.

Unlike previous generations, Gen Z's professional aspirations and workplace demands significantly diverge, emphasizing the importance of hybrid work, diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging (DEIB), and the flexibility to pursue internal and external career mobility. This shift in priorities necessitates a deeper understanding and adaptation by employers to attract, engage, and retain this burgeoning talent pool — areas where a listening partner like Perceptyx stands poised to provide assistance.

Gen Z's workplace priorities are a clear departure from traditional expectations. A LinkedIn survey highlighted a startling trend: 72% of Gen Z workers have considered leaving jobs that lacked flexible work policies. This underscores a fundamental shift towards valuing work-life balance above traditional measures of job security or loyalty. Moreover, this generation is deeply committed to social and environmental issues, demanding that their employers not only share these values but actively advocate for them within and beyond the workplace.

Their career paths reflect a desire for diversity and mobility, with many seeking opportunities to leverage their skills across different roles and departments. This is a generation that views career progression not just as a linear journey built upon securing ever greater amounts of seniority and compensation but as an ecosystem of experiences that contribute to their professional and personal growth. They expect clear career pathways, mentorship, and continuous learning opportunities, valuing companies that facilitate internal mobility and offer varied experiences within the organizational structure.

The Role of Perceptyx in Understanding Gen Z

In this context, Perceptyx emerges as a vital partner for organizations striving to connect with their Gen Z employees. Through our consulting expertise and the comprehensive surveys and analytics powered by our purpose-built People Insights Platform, Perceptyx enables businesses to delve into the nuances of what motivates, engages, and retains this unique cohort.

Engagement and Retention

Engagement is a critical metric for all demographics, but it holds particular significance for Gen Z — as they are notably the generation most likely to feel indifferent towards their workplace, with a staggering 54% categorized as "not engaged." This disengagement is a precursor to high turnover, with 65% of Gen Z talent quitting within the first 12 months of employment. A key factor behind this trend is the lack of career growth and development opportunities, driving many to pursue side hustles — more than 50% of them report working part-time jobs — to build skills and supplement income due to cost-of-living concerns and wages that have become stagnant due to inflation.

Leadership: The Shift from Authority to Mentorship

Gen Z's preference for leadership underscores a fundamental shift from hierarchical authority to mentorship and collaboration. They advocate for leaders who embody vulnerability and transparency, setting a precedent for open dialogue about successes and failures alike. This generation values leaders who provide clear rationales for decisions and changes, especially when initiatives don't pan out as expected.

The transition from a “boss” to a “mentor” paradigm fosters a workplace environment where young employees feel valued and understood, facilitating a culture of trust and mutual respect. Mentorship, characterized by open, honest communication and a focus on skill and career development, is crucial. Gen Z desires a relationship with their managers that transcends supervision, seeking guidance and partnership in their professional journey.

Growth and Development

Performance management for Gen Z goes beyond static assessments and outcomes, encompassing continuous mobility and personal growth. The concept of "micro-movement" within a company highlights the importance of both longitudinal and upward career progression. Gen Z appreciates clear career pathways that offer movement across different organizational roles, leveraging their diverse skills beyond their degrees. This adaptability is exemplified in practices where, for instance, marketing talents are encouraged to explore roles in HR, emphasizing skill application over traditional job qualifications.

Companies are increasingly implementing smaller, incremental steps for promotion, allowing employees to experience gradual but tangible progress. This "micro movement" approach, exemplified by tech giants with their multi-tiered job levels (e.g., Engineer I, II, III, IV), caters to Gen Z's aspiration for continuous advancement while accommodating those not inclined toward leadership roles. The dual ladder approach, offering parallel paths for individual contributors and managers, aligns with Gen Z's diverse career aspirations, ensuring that advancement is accessible and meaningful to all.

Perceptyx's targeted surveys can help organizations identify where they may be falling short in providing these opportunities, allowing for strategic planning around career pathways, mentorship programs, and professional development initiatives tailored to Gen Z's ambitions and expectations.

Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Belonging (DEIB)

DEIB is not just a preference but a non-negotiable demand of Gen Z workers. They expect their workplaces to be inclusive and representative of diverse backgrounds and perspectives. Research from Manpower Group found that 68% of Gen Z employees expressed dissatisfaction with their organization's efforts in fostering diversity and inclusion in the workplace, while 56% indicated they would not accept a job at a company that lacks diverse leadership. Further, members of Gen Z tend to shape their career choices influenced by their societal convictions. Manpower Group also found that 40% of individuals belonging to Gen Z have turned down opportunities that go against their personal values.

Through Perceptyx, companies can gain actionable insights into how their DEIB efforts are perceived, identifying gaps and areas for improvement. This not only helps in aligning with Gen Z's expectations but also in building a more cohesive and inclusive workplace culture that benefits all employees.

The Perceptyx Solution: Tailored Strategies for Gen Z Engagement

Perceptyx’s People Insights Platform offers the surveys and people analytics features necessary for understanding and engaging Gen Z employees. By facilitating detailed feedback on engagement, growth opportunities, and DEIB efforts, Perceptyx helps organizations tailor their strategies to meet Gen Z's expectations. Surveys can reveal insights into the effectiveness of leadership styles, the adequacy of career development paths, and the company's commitment to diversity and inclusion — factors critical to Gen Z's satisfaction and loyalty.

Perceptyx's lifecycle surveys offer a granular view of the employee experience, from onboarding through to development and beyond. These surveys can reveal how well new hires, particularly from Gen Z, are integrating into the company culture and whether they feel they have access to the resources and opportunities promised to them. Understanding these early experiences is crucial for addressing any disconnects and ensuring that Gen Z employees feel valued and understood from the outset.

Identifying and retaining high performers is a priority for any organization, but it takes on added importance with Gen Z. This generation's propensity for job-hopping makes it essential to recognize and address the needs of top talent early. Perceptyx’s People Insights Platforms enables companies to “age-band” their people and then analyze the feedback of high-performing Gen Z employees, offering insights into what keeps them engaged and committed to the company. This data-driven approach allows for targeted strategies to nurture and retain these key performers, ultimately driving the organization's success and innovation.

Meet Gen Z Workers Where They Are 

The entrance of Gen Z into the workforce is not just a demographic shift but a transformative movement that will challenge and eventually upend traditional norms and expectations in the workplace. Organizations that wish to thrive in this new era must be willing to listen, adapt, and respond to their needs and values.

With Perceptyx, organizations have a powerful ally in their efforts to engage and retain this critical demographic. By listening and responding to Gen Z's sentiments, companies can foster a workplace where innovation, inclusivity, and satisfaction drive collective success. 


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