What does Generation Z care about in work?

Face-to-face (F2F) sales, fundraising and field marketing have been popular (side) jobs among young people for years. It’s no wonder, with its varied work, flexible hours, and a higher-than-average salary compared to other side jobs. That’s always worked in favour of employers. But with an increasingly volatile job market, recruiting good new employees has become a major challenge.

How do you attract the current generation of young people to come work for your company? For that, you first need to know what motivates Generation Z (also known as Gen Z or Zoomers, ages 18-25). What do they find important in work? At our F2Future event we asked Rutger van der Berg, a researcher, speaker and writer who specialises in interactions between youth culture and ‘adult’ society.

To get straight to the point – young people and their more experienced counterparts are not that different from each other when it comes to what they find important. So it turns out, we are not from different planets after all, right? Well, it depends on how you look at it. Because even though both groups find salary, purpose, growth, atmosphere and travel time important, they interpret these factors differently.

Take this example. Both young employees starting out and older, more experienced counterparts rate variety as important in work. But 30-somethings think of variety primarily in terms of tasks, whereas Gen Z defines variety in terms of collaboration with people and the environment in which they work. This seems like a subtle distinction, but it can make a big difference to your recruitment process. So when it comes to field marketing, you’ll want to emphasise that employees are constantly working in different teams and at different locations.

What is work?

Now that we know what young people value in work, it might be good to consider what work means to them. For Gen Z, work is:
– financial independence
– building work experience
– a social meeting place
– a place for self-definition

For the first time in their lives, 18- to 25-year-olds are linking work to financial independence. This explains why salary is still important. In addition, Gen Z sees work as a way to build broad work experience. They’re sampling what’s out there, not looking for niche skills. They want to develop high-level skills that they can use throughout their careers — whatever that may look like.

Furthermore, for Gen Z, work is a social meeting place where they can meet like-minded people. A team or group of colleagues with whom they can level with and have fun. If they can find that with your organisation, it immediately makes work a lot more attractive for them too.

Finally, work is a place for self-definition. Simply put: what you ‘do’ says something about who you ‘are’. Gen Z sees work as a place to form and express their identity. This means they’re more critical of the work (and the employer!) So it’s important to make sure that, as a company, you have a clear understanding and definition of your values. If you can clearly signal what you stand for, they will know faster whether or not there’s a fit with you as an employer. Take note: the significance of your company values may vary for students who do this as a ‘side’ job, since young people may choose the work because their heart lies with a specific customer, for example a charity.

Why do young people look at things so differently?

Everyone grows up interacting with the world around them. And today’s world is radically different than it was 30 years ago. Add to that the fact that young people are still developing, it’s only natural that their view of the world – and therefore of work – is different from yours. As an employer within F2F marketing, you deal primarily with 18-to-25 year olds. At this stage, they are making their own choices for the first time. They’re beginning to ask themselves: what do I want, what can I do, and what does that mean for my future?

Gen Z are taking big steps toward adulthood. This is exciting. And at times, they may find themselves completely overwhelmed with being an adult. How can you take that into account as an employer? By treating them like adults, but also cutting them a little slack for immaturity. Young people seek clarity in tasks but also the possibility to ask questions. So they need to feel a sense of safety with the manager. A little structure and extra support at times helps. They grow from it.

Tip: The Field App from Briggs+Walker supports storytelling and e-learning, so you can coach recruiters remotely and boost motivation by giving them insight into their performance and working with leaderboards.

After all, Gen Z is also competitive

Gen Z looks at things differently precisely because they are a generation. A generation is the product of the zeitgeist in which it grows up. What developments in society are affecting how young people view their work?

Let’s zoom in on the most important three:
– Digitization
– Forever young
– Life is what you make it


Digitization has led to new expectations from you as an employer. Gen Z is the first generation that has grown up — say fused — with smartphone, tablet and mobile internet. They are digital natives. Instant gratification and everything-on-demand is the norm for them. Of course, their default mode of “I want this now” can come across as spoiled or impatient, but keep in mind that this norm has been instilled in them from an early age. As an employer, it’s essential to take this into consideration. An application process that requires emailing your resumé plus motivation letter? Fail. Young people who are self-employed in the platform economy are used to supply-and-demand being brought together with a few clicks.

The same goes for advancement opportunities. Having to wait five years to prove yourself before you can move on to the next position? Hell no! Better chop your employee growth path into smaller steps. That way, young people have the idea that they are constantly developing and growing towards that big step. Breaking things up into smaller steps is a good idea anyway, even for onboarding and work instructions, for example. They are able to gather and process information quickly, but sometimes even a Gen Z’s head can get full after a while.

Forever young

Since the 1950s, youth culture has become increasingly centralised. We all want to be older and wiser, but stay fresh and dynamic. That staying-young mentality also influences how we raise children. Parents are more on equal footing with their children. Result: the negotiating household. Children have a voice within the family, and get to decide on everything from vacations to the new television.

Naturally, they take this habit to work as well. What does that mean? Well, hierarchical structures, so to speak, are not their thing. Transparency and being heard are primary work conditions. Gen Z expects to be heard if they have a thought about something. So find a way to provide that space; it makes you more appealing as an employer. Otherwise, swipe right.

Life is what you make it

Just some numbers coming from Gen Z: 87% expect to make their dreams come true in life. And 94% agree with the statement “where there is a will, there is a way.” The idea of social engineering lives strongly amongst this group. It’s the viewpoint that your success is determined by your personal efforts. That your life is ‘makeable’. They get this message all the time as it is very much part of popular culture. “Go for it and you can achieve anything.”

This message is motivating but also has a downside. If you are successful, it is to your credit. But if you don’t succeed, you only have yourself to blame. The bar is often set high because they mostly see success stories. That creates performance pressure. As an employer, you can stimulate ambition but also show understanding in cases of uncertainty or self-doubt. With these approaches, you can attract and help this group of young adults find their way in the world of work.