'Rather be unemployed than unhappy.' The 7 things Gen Z want from their jobs.

You don't hear a lot of people genuinely gushing about their employers these days, do you?

Particularly when it comes to millennial and Gen Z employees, who, broadly speaking and quite rightly, want employers to offer more than just a paycheck.

We've seen the viral TikTok videos poking fun at Gen Zer's email sign-offs, or suggesting they're overly emotional or demand too much from their workplaces. But they are certainly a demographic we shouldn't shrug off. 

@oilshore Anything is better than ‘regards’ #genz #genzemployee #workhumour #officehumout #genzoffice ♬ Borderline - Tame Impala

The other day I was speaking with a Gen Zer who said she loves the company she works for. Intrigued, I asked her to tell me more. They have a reputation for investing in their people and continuous upskilling, she said. And so far, she's loving it.

As the world of work changes, the war for talent strengthens, and retention becomes increasingly difficult, the Gen Z workforce wants more. In fact, the 2022 Randstad Workmonitor report found more than half of employees aged 18 to 24 would "rather be unemployed than unhappy working in a job they didn't like".

Watch: Job interviews translated. Post continues below.

Video via Mamamia.

They're emerging from the global pandemic which disrupted their working world, dealing with the rising cost of living, coupled by the uncertainty of climate change and the future they inherit, and they are no longer content with the status quo. Simply put... It's a lot.


So it makes sense why they want more from their jobs or careers. 

They want to be mentally healthy. They are more driven by purpose, equality, and ongoing skills development - plus investment in their values and goals - than ever before. And now, they have the power to do something about it.

By 2030, Gen Zers are expected to account for nearly one third of all workers. 

To better understand what Gen Zs want from their employers, social enterprise Generation Thrive spoke to 50 Gen Zers participating in their programs across a variety of industries and roles. 

Here's what they said:

1. Mental wellbeing should be prioritised - not stigmatised.

A recent study from Deloitte reflects that stress and anxiety is at an all-time high in this demographic, with 46 per cent of Gen Zs in 2022 expressing stress around financial security, inability to be their true selves, poor work-life balance, mental health, and difficulty managing conflicting priorities.  

@jesss.michelle #genz #millenial #careertiktok #corporate #selfcare ♬ original sound - Jess Michelle⚡️

Equally, a Harvard Business Review Mental Health at Work Report, found that 50 per cent of millennials and 75 per cent of Gen Zs have left a job due to mental health reasons. 

It's not surprising, then, that a considered approach to workplace conditions and skills development is needed to sustain them both mentally and physically.

2. Being valued is a top priority.

They want to use their skills and strengths to add value - instead of meaningless tasks or misinformed perceptions that they are "too young" to know better or have credible knowledge to be respected or capable. 


It's about wanting to make a difference in the world on their own terms, regardless of age or experience.

3. Flexibility is crucial - but not for the reason you might think.

Gen Zs are worried about money and have taken on either a part-time or full-time paying job in addition to their primary job.

They are seeking and require flexibility, and time for themselves to achieve a work/life balance and to thrive across all areas of their life including their career, finances, health, and relationships. It's not just about having kids or raising a family - it's flexibility for personal time too.

@whitneysee #stitch with @garyvee Employers better be prepared for Gen Z’s demand for flexibilty from entry-level… otherwise good luck getting them to apply 😆 #genz #careertok #wfhjobs ♬ original sound - Whitney See

4. Learning opportunities need to be available - both for career progression and personal goals.

Professional development that only focuses on functional skills is missing the point. People want to feel that they are growing and learning in a way that has relevance to their actual lives as well. And fair enough, we reckon.

They want to be invested in and expect opportunities for ongoing learning and development in both their career progression and personal goals. They want to grow in confidence and within their capabilities.

With this in mind, it will be increasingly important for organisations to add to their employee value propositions and invest in training and development opportunities - if they want to retain talent and remain competitive.

5. Inclusion is expected.

They expect inclusion, diversity, and equal opportunities within the workplace. They want to see companies making a conscious effort to create a safe working environment that allows all employees to thrive.

@schwertly There are three simple things you can do today to start earning the respect of your Gen Z co-workers and team members: 1. Autonomy 2. Inclusion and Belonging 3. Loud Leadership I explain all three in more detail in the video. #autonomy #inclusion #inclusionandbelonging #inclusiveleadership #loudleadership #inclusionmatters #genz #generationz ♬ original sound - Scott Schwertly

6. 'Digital-first learning'.

A McKinsey study of Gen Z reflects how technology "has produced a hyper-cognitive generation very comfortable with collecting and cross-referencing many sources of information".

So what does this mean exactly?

Essentially, Gen Zers want online learning, coupled with face-to-face interactions, coaching and mentoring opportunities. They are geared toward the digital-first approach, and we know that to upskill this generation, we need to align with their appetite for digital learning.

7. Ultimately, the work needs to be purpose-driven.

Finally, they look for purpose-driven work, and organisations that are values aligned, ethical and demonstrate positive impacts within society and for climate change. After all, this is the future that they want to shape and live in.

Gen Zs are an essential part of the workforce. Skilled and adaptable learners, they told us they are hungry for the opportunity to create, innovate and learn.

Managers of Gen Z will need to focus on creating an environment where their skills can be nurtured and developed in order to get the most from them - and not lose them.

Courtney Grigg is the General Manager of Generation Thrive, a social enterprise of Youth Opportunities Australia, which works in partnership with organisations to attract, develop and retain their staff and future leaders through their evidence-based and outcomes-driven personal leadership training and coaching program. 

Feature Image: TikTok @whitneysee@fishbowlapp.

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