• Osa Iluobe

What Do Gen-Z Want From Employers?

Updated: 3 days ago

Rod Tidwell Wanted Jerry Maguire To Show Him The Money. But, Gen-Zers Want Employers To Show Them More...

When Anthony Scaramucci began his career at Goldman Sachs in 1989, he was the protégé of then co-chairman, and future US Treasury Secretary, Robert Rubin. According to Mr Scaramucci, one of Mr Rubin’s ‘great lines’ was to consistently remind him of how good the job, and more specifically, the money was at the firm. ‘If you just sit in your seat all day and do a good job, lo and behold you’re gonna be rich’ was what Scaramucci was told, and subsequently made to remember by his mentor. However, since the 1990s, nay since the pandemic, the priorities of young graduates towards work have shifted dramatically. Purpose, flexibility, and thrill (not the kind that consists of relentless deadlines and backbreaking client commitments) are what Gen-Z are looking for from employers. In most cases, a comfortable pay cheque is not enough. What will this mean?

The fierce competition for talent is just one consequence of the cultural shift amongst younger workers who aren’t merely content with getting well paid. Top corporate firms, including Bain, Goldman Sachs, and JP Morgan have all bumped up their base salaries in the past 12 months. The logic of increasing starting salaries is, in all places, and in most times, almost always the same. Increasing salaries, it is [rightly] believed will increase the attractiveness of working at one place over another. Money talks. Big money shouts and pulls.

But, companies that fail to offer more than just bumper salaries may become less attractive to many over time as other companies that can offer workplace flexibility; have more compelling marketing propositions, and are renowned for their employee management skills will increasingly have an upper hand. Jumpstart, a UK-based company that trains and matches graduates with startups is benefitting from this shift in priorities amongst Gen-Z graduates. Behemoth businesses have responded to employee demands accordingly, and are seeking to attract young talent by making them aware of their changes and shifting marketing messages towards firm values, employee purpose, and company culture. The legal services industry is just one striking example. Before the pandemic, most ‘magic circle’ and ‘silver circle’ law firms didn’t allow hybrid working for trainee solicitors - some had no policy at all. Office culture (or facetime culture) was king as learning by osmosis was regarded with one-size fits all hegemony among many senior professionals.

How times have changed. Amid shifting attitudes to workplace attendance among other things, large firms across the board have become more sensitive to demands. And those companies that don’t bend to the changing attitudes and demands can be expected to be met with backlash. When Tim Cook announced plans to get workers at Apple back to the office in 2021 and 2022 on a more regular basis, his proposals were met with hostility. Employees at the company even launched a petition.

But whilst dissatisfaction amongst a workforce is bad, arguably worse is a lack of productivity, especially when it’s intentional. ‘Quiet-quitting’ is gaining ground amongst younger workers who hold the idea of going above and beyond at work, to any degree, as quite simply, stupid. Quiet-quitters, far from being anti-work, advocate the silent, but strict adherence to the job description and hours to which they contractually signed up to. The popularity of the approach is itself a reminder of what Gen-Z employees are increasingly opting for. Time over toil, body over burnout, and balance over a bonus.

What Gen-Z demands from employers will mean in the long-term for companies, the future of work, and the employees themselves are yet to be seen. But, as is so often the case between generations of individuals, differences in attitudes will be vast.