The Fifth Generation – Gen Z’s Expectations of Work

Image: The Fifth Generation – Gen Z’s Expectations of Work

After researching generational identities, motivators and expectations for 15 years, it is exciting to have completed Canada’s first national survey on Gen Z.  They are the newest generation (our fifth generation in the workplace) and they are an interesting and intriguing cohort. Over the past couple of weeks I have been sharing the results from our research and whitepaper with our clients. If you’re interested in learning more, please reach out. In the next few blog posts, I will be sharing some key insights and data, which highlight Gen Z’s unique perspectives on life, work, and learning.

What Generation Z Expects from the Workplace

Much has been written about Millennials, and with good reason, since this cohort is currently the largest generation in the workforce and is changing the very nature of work. However, there is a new generation that is going to require our attention – members of Gen Z (those born between 1996 and 2012) are graduating post secondary school and are now entering the working world. The oldest members of this cohort are reaching their early twenties. While 94% of our survey respondents were students, it obviously won’t be that way for long. Members of this generation are planning for and launching their careers and, like every generation before them, they are bringing their own viewpoints, experiences, and expectations along with them into our organizations.

We collected data from 600 Gen Zs across Canada. An equal number of men and women completed the survey and 1 percent identified as all other genders. Based on our survey responses, we were able to get a clear understanding of Gen Z and how to tap into their values, expectations, and motivations.

Gen Z: Loyalty is Back

In our first book, Loyalty Unplugged: How to Get, Keep & Grow All Four Generations, we explored how generational identities and differences impact employee behaviours, including loyalty. The good news for organizations, HR, and leaders is that Gen Z cares about loyalty.

This is a big shift which will have a profound impact on recruitment and retention efforts. The data suggests that Gen Zs want to work for an employer for the long term. They want work that is secure, and they don’t believe they need to work for several different companies to be successful.

This generation is pragmatic and realistic about what they need to do to get ahead. They grew up during the last recession and witnessed the impact of the housing crisis, the demise of long-standing institutions, and the collapse of economies. For this reason, many members of this cohort crave stability and are willing to do what it takes to receive it.

  • In fact, 67 percent of Gen Zs believe that when getting a new job, they would feel lucky to have that job, versus believing the company would be lucky to have them as an employee.
  • In addition, 84 percent of Gen Z believes it is very important or somewhat important to be able to follow company rules and expectations.
  • Gen Zs understand the need to follow direction, respect authority and pay their dues with 74 percent of survey respondents indicating that it is important to ‘do what your boss tells you to do’ in order to advance.
  • Other research supports this notion of a realistic view of employees’ roles and what is expected of them. A national US study discovered that 76 percent of Gen Z are willing to start at the at the bottom and work their way up by paying their dues, provided those dues are reasonable and specific.

Our research found that 89 percent of this generation believe it is important to have a job that is secure while 85 percent state that they are looking for a job they can stay at for a long time.

What This Means for Organizations

To attract Gen Z talent, organizations will want to understand this generation’s need for stability. Leaders should look to create environments where team members feel appreciated for their work and where they can trust the organization. This generation grew up in a post-911 world with a constant threat of instability, so they want to work at an organization that feels safe and stable.

When recruiting members of this generation, it’s important to stress how your organization will support Gen Z in being loyal to your organization as well as how your organizational values are aligned to what they value. Promote how your organization is a trailblazer in your industry or sector. What is your unique value proposition to clients, stakeholders and employees? Almost two-thirds (62%) of our respondents said it was important to them to work for an organization that is a leader in its field and get a job that is seen by others as important (63%).  Gen Z’s friends, family and parents will play a significant role in evaluating the quality of an organization’s reputation and whether or not it is a desirable place to work.

The first step in being able to engage the next wave of employees is understanding what they value and what will motivate them to choose your industry, sector or organization.  The next step is adjusting your HR practices to ensure you can connect in a meaningful way that attracts the top talent you desire.

For more information on our Gen Z research, please contact us at

Giselle Kovary

As president and co-founder of n-gen People Performance Inc., Giselle is dedicated to building strategies and programs that target, motivate and engage a multigenerational workforce. She is a sought after resource to industry leaders, having worked with 18 of the top Fortune 500 companies. Over 60,000 people globally have experienced an n-gen workshop or presentation. She has devoted more than fifteen years to researching the impact that generational differences have on organizational performance. Giselle has co-authored two books: Loyalty Unplugged: How to Get, Keep & Grow All Four Generations and Upgrade Now: 9 Advanced Leadership Skills. She has a Master’s degree in communication studies from the University of Windsor.

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