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What Motivates Gen Z Employees at Work

General Management | February 25, 2023

Generation Z, born between 1995 and 2012, is entering the workforce with different values, preferences, and attitudes than their predecessors. The findings of a recent study on Gen Z work values by Johnson & Wales University have important implications for management, leadership, and human resource practitioners. The study found that compensation, work-life balance, and a stable and supportive work environment, are the most important to Gen Z. Cognitive work values, including opportunities for advancement and performing stimulating work, are also significant.

Contrary to some previous studies, this research found that Gen Z rated instrumental work values the highest, with salary being the top-rated item. This supports the notion that financial stability and job security are of the utmost importance to this generation. This is not surprising, given that many Gen Z members are entering the workforce during a period of high inflation and economic uncertainty.  


The study also found that cognitive work values were rated as the second most important. This includes the nature of the work itself, intellectual satisfaction, and opportunities for advancement. While not the highest-rated category, this shows that Gen Z still values learning and growth within their chosen career path.

Social/altruistic work values, such as having fun, helping others, and establishing relationships at work, were rated as the third most important category. While still important to Gen Z, this indicates that they place less emphasis on the social aspects of their job compared to previous generations.

The least important category to Gen Z was prestige, which includes factors such as status, recognition, and power. This further supports the idea that financial stability and job security are the most important factors for this generation, rather than external validation or power.

Understanding these values can help organizations tailor their approach to recruiting and retaining Gen Z employees. Providing competitive salaries, benefits packages, and job security can help attract and retain top talent in this generation. Additionally, providing opportunities for continuous learning and growth can help keep Gen Z engaged and motivated within their career.

Flexible scheduling and work-life balance are also important factors to consider, as Gen Z values the ability to have time for personal pursuits and relationships outside of work. Providing a positive work environment that values teamwork and collaboration can also help engage and retain Gen Z employees.

Overall, understanding the values and priorities of Gen Z in the workforce is critical to creating a positive and productive work environment. This generation values financial stability and job security above all else, but also values opportunities for learning and growth within their career. Organizations that can provide these factors, along with flexible scheduling, work-life balance, and a positive work environment, will be well-positioned to attract and retain top talent in this generation.


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