Gen Z and Gen Alpha Work Priorities: Why Flexibility and Happiness Beats Salary

Gen Z and Gen Alpha have different attitudes toward work than their predecessors. With more of a focus on happiness and work-life balance than on salary, employers will have to adapt to their ways of working to attract and retain young talent.

Future of Work
Talent & Hiring
Company Culture

May 23, 2024 ⋅ 4 min read

By 2025, Gen Z is expected to make up 27% of the working population. And with Gen Alpha close behind, this new cohort of employees are coming with fresh perspectives and unique expectations.

Gen Z's approach to work is characterised by a desire for meaningful experiences and a strong preference for employers who prioritise employee well-being. They seek roles that offer flexibility, opportunities for personal and professional growth, and a supportive work environment. 

Attracting these new generations of talent means employers will need to understand how they tick and adapt to their generational work preferences.

Gen Z and Gen A are less concerned with salary

For these generations, salary isn’t the be-all and end-all. Where previous generations prioritised a high salary and job security, these generations value personal fulfilment, healthy work-life balance, and a good benefits package far more. On a similar note, a recent study by the BBC of Gen Alpha found that most teens prioritise happiness (27%) and feeling good about what they do (25%) when thinking forward toward their careers. 

Gen Z seems to echo this sentiment. They are highly aware of the impacts of work on well-being. They've seen the toll of burnout and stress on their parents and older siblings, leading them to prioritise happiness and mental health over salary. In fact, a new study reveals that 81% of Gen Z workers value flexibility over salary. This clearly highlights the importance of creating work environments that resonate with the values and expectations of this new wave of workers.

So what kind of compensation really speaks to these generations?

Better benefits over better pay

Statistics reveal a striking trend: 62% of younger employees say that they would leave their current job if they were offered better benefits elsewhere.

It’s clear that young employees see benefits as crucial for their overall job satisfaction and well-being. But while traditional benefits like health insurance and retirement plans remain important, they also seek more progressive benefits that support their lifestyle and values. Think:

  • Mental health: Access to online therapy, mental health days, and stress management resources
  • Financial education: Financial advice and budgeting apps can help these generations through economic uncertainty
  • Flexible allowances: Flexible spending allowances let employees allocate funds for their unique financial situations

A strong benefits package is key to keeping young employees engaged and loyal – it shows that employers care about their overall well-being, contributing significantly to their sense of work-life balance, which is a high priority for this generation of workers. 

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Gen Z, Gen Alpha, and work-life balance

For these generations, “work-life balance” isn't just a buzzword; for many, it’s a non-negotiable aspect of their career choices. Unlike previous generations, they are not willing to sacrifice their personal lives for professional success. In short, they believe that work should fit into their life, not the other way around.

What does work-life balance look like for them? Flexible schedules, remote work options, and time for personal interests and self-care. These generations are also highly aware of the importance of mental health, seeking employers who they feel respect their time and boundaries, and offer some form of mental health support.

How employers can adapt to Gen Z and Gen Alpha expectations

Meeting the expectations of Gen Z and Gen Alpha might require a bit of a shift in traditional workplace practices. Employers will have to think proactively, creating environments that resonate with Gen Z and Gen Alpha’s values and priorities. Here are a few ways you can create a work environment that attracts – and retains – this generation of workers:

Offer flexibility: They value flexibility in their work schedules. Implementing remote work options and flexible hours can help employees achieve a work-life integration that works better for them, so they can work better for you.

Promote L&D: Provide opportunities for personal and professional growth through access to online courses, workshops, and career development programs. These employees are eager to learn and advance their skills.

Flexible benefits: One-size doesn’t fit all. Flexible benefits help employees choose benefits that suit their unique needs.

Provide mental healthcare: Make mental health a priority by offering resources for employees and training for managers on mental health awareness. 

By implementing these strategies, employers can create a workplace that not only attracts young talent but also retains and engages them. Understanding and adapting to their expectations will pave the way for a more dynamic, productive, and satisfied workforce.

Final thoughts

As Gen Z make up more and more of today’s workforce, with Gen Alpha close behind, their values and expectations are reshaping traditional workplace norms. These generations prioritises work-life balance, mental healthcare, and meaningful benefits over just a high salary.

Embracing the future of work means recognising the unique needs and values of Gen Z and adapting accordingly. By doing so, employers can build a dynamic and inclusive workplace that not only meets the expectations of the newest generation of workers but also sets the stage for long-term success.

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