As the latest generation to enter the workforce, Gen Z-ers bring new expectations and ideas about how they should be rewarded, recognised and motivated. 

The start of 2020 doesn’t just mark the start of a new decade, but an important shift for employers as a new age cohort of younger workers – so-called Gen Z – become a critical mass in the workplace.

According to figures from the recruiter Manpower, this employee group (born from the mid-1990s) will represent 24% of the workforce. This compares to 35% millennials or Gen Y, 35% Gen X and 6% Baby Boomers.

Why does this matter?

Because based on the experience of millennials, the last new age cohort to populate our desks, their arrival heralded a re-evaluation of how their work should be structured, how they wanted their career to develop and, critically, how they were managed every day.

That means it pays for any manager who wants to get the most out of the incoming Gen Z generation to seek out insight about their expectations and what they want from work, particularly when it comes to recognition and reward.

Career minded, motivated by progression

Looking across the Gen Z research which has emerged over recent years, the most interesting theme is how much this generation defy the stereotypes out there about younger workers.

Let’s start with technology. Yes, Gen Z are the first true digital natives – only ever knowing a world with the internet and all screens connected – but that doesn’t mean they want to live their lives wholly online.

Tech is important – 91% say it would influence their choice of employer. However, offline relationships and communication are prized highly: 75% want to learn from peers on the job (both figures from Dell)and according to recruiter Robert Half, just over half (53%) prefer in-person discussions to instant messaging and email. 

When it comes to management, 65% of Gen Z say they need frequent feedback form their line manager to stay in their job – a rate which is higher than their Gen Y colleagues.

Their attitude to careers is self-starting, according to Monster, (with 76% saying they are responsible for driving their own career) and hard-working (with 58% saying they’d work nights and weekends for higher pay). They are also hungry to learn and crave new experiences at work.

As the generation who have grown up in the shadow of the financial crisis in a decade of job insecurity, they place high importance on salary – seven out of ten described salary as their top work motivator. 

Far from being flighty job-hoppers, the incoming Gen Z value stability with 61%  saying they would stay at a company for more than ten years and of that number, 31% percent said they would be willing to stay for more than twenty years.

Rethink your engagement

All of this has important implications for the role recognition and reward should play in engaging this age group.

While they value financial reward, their desire for career progression means that providing new opportunities through challenging work is one of the most powerful forms of recognition they can receive.

Hand-in-hand with this, is one-to-one facetime with managers where they can receive the nurture and development they expect from the role.

To support this, any employee recognition programme should be geared towards helping individuals regularly celebrate smaller landmarks and achievements, as much as the bigger promotions and awards they get.

Employee benefits have a role to play too but instead of table football and beer fridges, US studies show employees want meaningful support for their health and financial wellbeing. 

Of course, you can argue that in many ways what Gen Z wants is what we all want: progression, good pay, security and to be told they are doing a good job. So, if thinking about the arrival of Gen Z spurs employers to do anything, it should be to think how they can use recognition and reward to better engage their people. 

Andy Philpott is sales and marketing director at Edenred UK a provider of platforms and tools which drive employee motivation and engagement.  

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