In recent years, Gen Z and Millennials have made their presence in the workforce known as the Great Resignation poses new challenges to employers looking to retain their talented emerging professionals.
Major news outlets claim that the Great Resignation has come to a close, but other sources claim that employees will continue to leave jobs at a faster pace this historical norms. Regardless of who is right, it should be an employer’s priority to get ahead of the demands of a workforce. Some sources indicate that 27% of the workforce could be Gen Z, while other sources project that 75% could be Millennials by 2025. As a Gen X’er myself, I just shake my head and say those two stats don’t even add up!
While Gen Z and Millennials look to be allies in an era of high employee turnover, it is important to ask, are they quitting for the same reasons? Or is their camaraderie a mere coincidence as they fight against issues specific to their generations?
To begin answering this question, we interviewed a Gen Z’er and a Millennial from our team, to get a peek into what individuals from each generation value in their work lives. We asked them a series of questions that will be recorded below, followed by our analysis.
1. How important is it for you to work on your own terms? Whether that means working in a flexible environment, or even starting a business of your own in your ideal future.
Gen Z: “I greatly value personal freedom in my professional life! As a result, I have a greater preference for remote work and the ability to choose my own hours.
It affords me more time for my other activities and helps me focus on completing a task as opposed to mindlessly working until I burn out. However, I do believe there is a place for in-person work. Having an environment for real-world socializing is important, but if I can get it somewhere else I will.
As for starting a business, I see it as a perfectly attainable (not easy) goal later in my life. I’ve grown up watching average people create online businesses through content creation or e-commerce and would love to do the same once I develop my skills.”
Millennial: “I definitely value flexibility in my work and feel it is a necessity for me in order to maintain a successful career as well as personal success and a stable home life. Having worked both in an onsite corporate office setting 100% of the time as well as in a full-time remote work environment I’ve had my fair share of both.
Due to the nature of the staffing business, many deals and conversations are had during non-traditional work hours, so it can feel like an overload to work traditional hours on top of after-business-hours conversations and meetings.
In entering the phase of my career where I have a stable book of business that is successful along with family life with children, I’m able to be all-around productive and successful and make my own schedule. I still have a mix of virtual and in-person contact and will always value the traditional in-person handshake deals and networking introductions that business was built on. The same would be true for opening a business on my own.
Flexibility would be ideal, especially for the start-up portion, however, boots on the ground, grassroots efforts are just as vital in a sustainable business.”
2. How much would a recession discourage you from leaving a job you dislike?
Gen Z: “I began to consistently remember things in 2008 at the age of six years old. I think watching my parents' budget around that time and hearing that we could not afford certain things wired me into living frugally and being very careful about spending to where I rarely shop. I don’t fear a loss of luxury, only a loss of necessity.
That being said, given how young I am and how fortunate I am to have a parent willing to support me, if I felt like my job was poorly affecting my mental health I would absolutely leave as long as we could afford our basic necessities otherwise.
I do not have a family to support, and most of my generation don’t want families to support later in life. Also, my generation already has a pretty poor economic outlook with issues like massive student loans and the difficulty of affording decent housing. A recession would make those things worse but would not do much to change our position.”
Millennial: “A recession would absolutely discourage me from leaving a role I didn’t like. I began my career in staffing right out of college and within one year, we hit a huge recession. Having never had other experience in the workforce during a recession, and having been in the industry finding people employment, I saw firsthand how lucky I was to have a job I loved and greatly enjoyed and furthermore, just to have a job in general in such a tough market.
I saw tenured professionals taking entry-level roles as jobs were so hard to come by. It was a very real and fast wake-up call for everyone. Now, with a family of 4 at home, I understand the tough spot many families were in during that time and would absolutely stay in a role I didn’t like should I need to for them.”
3. Is it ideal for you to work somewhere with a meaningful mission? Would you rather have a meaningful job that pays less or a less meaningful job that pays more?
Gen Z: “I would not call it a deal breaker, but working somewhere with a meaningful mission would be a huge attraction for me. In my case, I do take pride in working for a company that works to create better working environments for employees and employers. On the other side of the coin, I would absolutely refuse to work for a company that I believe is having a clear negative impact on the world.
Despite that, I would ultimately choose the less meaningful job with higher pay. My goals outside of my career are my reason for this. I want to be in a position where my finances can be put toward them and if I can scale up my income I can scale up the amount of money that I give to meaningful causes.”
Millennial: “It is definitely ideal for me to work in an organization with a meaningful mission and I am so lucky that I have that as well as financial stability and success.
I know that others are not as lucky so if I had to choose, in my current stage of life, with a young family of 4, I would rather have a less meaningful job that pays more. My kids are my driving force and I would want to be able to provide them with opportunities that I didn’t, and financial stability is a huge priority in my life.”
4. How important is it for you to have a good relationship with your coworkers? Would great work relationships keep you at a job that doesn’t meet all of your needs?
Gen Z: “It is very important! Even in college classes, it takes the wind out of my sails when I end up in a class of peers who show no interest in speaking to one another. My best work experiences are times when I have truly felt like part of a team, working towards a common goal.
That being said, if I didn’t see any reason to stay at a job other than great working relationships, I would definitely leave. I don’t want to be stuck and if my departure from a job ends a friendship with a coworker, it’s not a friendship worth keeping!”
Millennial: “Having a good relationship with my co-workers is absolutely important. You have to have a great support system around you to be successful and that includes your co-workers and leaders.
I wouldn't, however, stay at a job that wasn’t as personally fulfilling to me. I have made lifelong friends at work who have changed my life in so many ways and those friends would support my personal goals whether at the same company/role or not.”
5. How important is it for you to work somewhere that provides a lot of opportunities for upskilling and career development?
Gen Z: “Upskilling is my number one reason for pursuing a traditional career path. I want to learn valuable lessons that will help me when I start a business of my own or reach a high-paying position later in life. If I felt like I wasn’t learning anything at a job or progressing I would absolutely feel like I’m wasting my time and eventually leave.”
Millennial: “Career development is very important to me. I began my career 17 years ago as a Receptionist and Coordinator. I knew when I graduated that the real role I wanted was as a Recruiter, however, I understood the importance of learning the industry and the ins and outs of staffing to be a successful Recruiter.
Within a month, I moved into my dream role. From there, I have held a variety of roles including building out several new segments and eventually landing as VP of Sales. When I started my career, my goal was to be a Recruiter, as I progressed, my goal was to be in sales. I’m still at the same organization, however, not only has the business changed and adapted to new markets, but I have as well. It is so important to be flexible to change, be ahead of the change, and adapt to those changes to be successful.
It’s vital though that your organization and leaders support your personal growth along with that. I am so lucky I have had this continued support, training, and career development.”
From looking at what these two employees had to say, it is interesting to see how they came to the same conclusions for widely different reasons. Our Gen Z’er has more of a “nothing to lose” outlook on the issues we touched on while our established Millennial speaks from a more mature and nuanced standpoint.
This was most apparent when speaking on how they would react to a recession, where their disagreement came down to the Millennial’s responsibilities as a parent. However, they agreed on every other issue like flexible work, upskilling, and relationships.
As for flexible work, both generations value the real-world socializing offered by in-person arrangements but ultimately lean toward remote/hybrid work. Our Gen Z’er prefers remote/hybrid work in the interest of their personal goals and productivity while our Millennial finds it suitable for productivity and work-family balance.
Our Millennials also would work a less meaningful job for higher pay for their family while our Gen Z’er would do the same, again, in the interest of their personal goals.
Both generations would not let good working relationships tie them down, remarking that good relationships should transcend work. Both generations also greatly value upskilling, the Millennial from experiencing it firsthand, and the Gen Z’er who wants to build a successful career by developing their skills.
Going back to our question; is the perceived alliance between Gen Z and Millennials a coincidence? Based on what we have here, we say that it is not. But there is an important caveat to that answer.
While Gen Z and Millennials want the same things, they want them for different reasons. An interesting way of looking at this is to recognize that the established Millennial has the life that our Gen Z’er is working towards. This ideal life consists of a flexible working arrangement with comfortable finances that enable the employee to pursue interests and responsibilities outside of work.
With the new generation of workers becoming the dominant portion of the workforce, employers should focus on creating this ideal life for their younger talent by offering flexible work, robust upskilling opportunities, and being attentive when it comes to compensation.
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