Don’t Believe the Lies About Gen Z and Money

A recent study by The Workforce Institute at Kronos uncovered an interesting twist when it comes to the importance of money in attracting and retaining the newest generation of employees. Contrary to popular belief, which suggests that next-generation workers are prioritizing work/life balance, good managers, flexibility, and interesting and engaging work the most, more than half (54%) of Gen Zers worldwide — including 59% in the United States — say that pay is the most important consideration when applying for their first full-time job.

Does this mean that most of us have fallen prey to one big fat lie about the changing expectations that the newest generation brings into the workforce? 

Money Still Talks 

Money is clearly crucial for Gen Z. For many survey respondents, the fear of being broke and a desire to have money for personal activities drives them to value pay so highly. These numbers make sense, considering that for so many people, the first paying job represents a transition from depending on parents or loans to becoming more financially independent.

Plus, individuals going into their first job might not have experienced the wrath of a bad manager or the soul-crushing impact of long hours and no work/life balance for an extended period of time. With a lack of negative experiences, non-monetary factors might not yet be significant enough to influence their job selection process directly.

This is similar to dating: After the first failed romantic relationship, you often see individuals seek out the very opposite characteristics in their new partner to compensate for what bugged them so much the first time. (I may be speaking from firsthand experience here — enough said!)

Well past the point of accepting a new job, money continues to be the priority for Gen Z throughout the employee lifecycle. When asked how they prefer to be rewarded for a job well-done, nearly half (43%) of Gen Zers would rather receive cash than public recognition, vacation days, experiential rewards (sports tickets, travel vouchers, etc.), or other rewards.

This much is clear: As long as employees perceive employment at an organization as a commodity, every dollar will play a vital role, and earning 25 cents more per hour might be the deciding factor for a candidate to join the competitor down the road.

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But It’s Not All That Talks

Still, pay is not the only gate that companies must navigate through to attract top talent in today’s job market. Particularly in the early stages of recruitment, there are non-monetary currencies that, if lacking, become red flags or even knock-out criteria, preventing prospects from even considering an employer in the first place. 

Before organizations can set themselves apart with a standout salary offer, a delayed response from a recruiter, negative employee reviews online, application portals that are not mobile-friendly, workplaces that have a “dated” feel, and poor past experiences with a company as a customer can all be potential turn-offs.

Organizations also can’t neglect the 1 in 5 Gen Zers who want a consistent and predictable schedule yet also expect employers to offer flexibility. Translation: Not leveraging technology to provide flexible schedules instantly shrinks the available talent pool. It also begs the question: Although the majority of leaders believe they encourage work/life balance, do they ultimately provide a supporting framework that employees can leverage to achieve a meaningful level of such balance? 

Ultimately, money may be top of mind for Gen Z, but it’s clear that companies also need to offer non-monetary currencies to strengthen their talent pipeline and engage their existing workforce for the long haul. Creating a desirable culture and exceptional employee experience while at the same time offering fair pay is the most effective and economical way to attract and retain top talent — regardless of location, vocation, or generation.

As a senior human capital management (HCM) strategy consultant with Kronos, Michael Puck advocates the importance of people-centric processes by partnering with senior executives and guiding large functional teams in shaping business cultures; implementing customized HR, benefits, well-being, HCM, and software-as-a-service solutions; and unlocking new levels of employee and business performance.

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