Gen Z’s Approach To Work Might Not Be That Different After All

Fortune August 23, 2023


Gen Z’s Approach To Work Might Not Be That Different After All

The goals and aspirations of employees in the Gen Z demographic often bring furrowed brows to the faces of senior managers. Stereotypes abound as many leaders fail to wrap their heads around Gen Z. While this presents an important challenge, it also can be an opportunity to embrace the ways this generation will usher in new mindsets and work practices which can create a universal design benefit for organizations across the board.

Gen Zers already make up the most populous generation–more than a quarter of the global population. With unique priorities compared to their predecessors and a profound desire to attain jobs that make a difference, employers must understand this generation’s expectations of the job market.

At CFA Institute, we recently conducted a global Graduate Outlook Survey of Gen Zers (specifically those aged 18-25) and found some surprising and not-so-surprising results when it comes to the workplace and career paths.

One point came through loud and clear: 75% of U.S. respondents said that a good salary is what they want most in a job. In an era of relatively high inflation, skyrocketing housing costs, and student-loan payments, this generation unsurprisingly seeks financial stability and, simply put, a way to pay the bills.

We also think the pandemic fed into this sentiment: More than 40% of our respondents said that they reconsidered career choices during the pandemic and so much uncertainly created a desire for financial security. While seeking a good salary isn’t exactly a new or novel idea, as employers, we must recognize that wages continue to be a driving force in attracting top talent and that no substitute exists for competitive wages.

A preference for hybrid working stood out as well. Recent graduates clearly prefer to have flexibility in their work environments. In fact, 49% of U.S. graduates told us they prefer a mix of remote and in-office work–and 44% would like completely flexible working options. As some employers lean into strict return-to-office policies, they should pay heed to these findings. Being inflexible may be a turn-off to current and future employees.

While money remains important, we hear a lot about purpose from this generation. Some 91% of respondents said they want to make a positive social or environmental contribution through their careers–and 25% noted they consider a potential employer’s overall impact. It seems that earning a good salary and making a societal impact are not seen as mutually exclusive.

A career in finance can have a meaningful societal impact, but in many ways, we as an industry have done a poor job at connecting those dots for prospective employees and the general public. As this becomes an increasingly important factor for future generations, the onus remains on us to make sure that we’re clearly outlining the ways in which the financial sector makes meaningful contributions to the societies in which we live and work.

Our survey found that a desire to learn does not stop at graduation, even as some recent graduates profess that they never want to see a classroom again. Young new employees actually expect professional learning on the job and upskilling opportunities. Organizations should prioritize offering certifications and training courses that allow new hires to grow professionally and advance their careers. More than nine in 10 said upskilling or acquiring certifications are important to their careers, with 69% reporting that professional certifications will have a large impact on their job prospects and earning potential.

While this generation often gets flagged for being job-hoppers, our survey showed quite the opposite, with recent graduates saying they are likely to stay in their first roles for up to four years. They cite interest in having longevity at a company–as long as their expectations are met.

Last, despite the uncertainty of the last three years due to COVID-19 and fears over a potential recession, our respondents appear to be quite confident about the future: 75% of the respondents said they feel confident about their career prospects and more than half believe their career prospects will be better than those of their parents.

Every generation brings its own values and goals to the workplace, and employers have always sought to better understand them to build strong and resilient workforces. Times change and paradigms shift, yet our survey found some fundamental truths: Employees want to be paid well–and they want to be treated well. Based on our findings, Gen Zers might not be that different after all.

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