The meaning and value of work – what Gen Z and Millenials want from their employers

sens et la valeur du travail

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A new study conducted in Europe shows that there is a growing gap between what Millennials and Gen Z employees expect from their employers in terms of the meaning and value of work and what they actually get. 

Personal purpose and values at work are the key business themes of our time. In the context of work, it encompasses all the values that drive people’s choices, actions and attitudes, such as a good work-life balance. The pandemic and other global events have caused people around the world to question their life and work choices. However, a recent study reveals a growing disconnect between what workers expect from employers in terms of meaning and value, and what they think their employers actually offer.

Gen Z tends to be even more skeptical than millennials in some key areas, such as business ethics and sustainability. Younger workers distinguish between their own purpose at work, which they describe primarily in terms of personal happiness at work, and the values they want their employers to embrace as responsible companies. For example, ethical operating standards, preservation of the environment and promotion of social goals. The study involved 499 millennials and Gen Z workers (ages 20-40) from five European regions. 

Key findings of the study include:

Younger workers are seeking meaning and value at work in a different way than one might think.
The vast majority of millennial and Generation Z workers expect employers to have a strong commitment to making a positive impact on the environment and society at large. The majority, however, are focused on much more personal goals at work. More than half define meaningful work as being passionate and achieving a good work-life balance. 

There is a great deal of skepticism about employers’ actual commitment to social and environmental goals.
 For example, only 24% of respondents believe their employer’s stance on the environment and climate change is “very sincere.” 

Young people struggle to achieve their personal goals at work. 
Only 18% of our respondents say they achieve their personal goals on a daily basis in their work lives. About half of the respondents identified unfair treatment by managers and excessive workload as potential risks for burnout. As a result, companies are struggling to cultivate loyalty among younger workers, and their talent pool may be thin.  

Poor communication undermines the company’s values message.
 Many young workers are unaware of their company’s position on ethical, social and environmental issues. Nearly a third of our respondents, for example, did not know if their employer had a long-term plan to become carbon neutral. Inadequate organizational knowledge not only hinders understanding of the company’s values and purpose, but also leads to a lack of employee engagement.  

Leadership needs a makeover.
For new talent and to accommodate various post-pandemic attitudes in the workplace, the leadership style of leaders must change. Nearly two years of working exclusively or primarily from home while managing video meetings, childcare responsibilities and other tasks at home led 43% of our respondents to believe that flexibility is an essential quality of a strong leader.

The study shows that companies need to work harder to win over this generation of young, educated workers.
They must demonstrate that they are serious about making a positive impact not only on shareholders, but also on employees and the environment. Furthermore, if they do not allow young talent to live out their own career goals, they risk compromising the development of the next generation of leaders and the building of a prosperous future for all concerned.