By: Delia Loveless (she/her)

At the recent Future of Work conference, the University of Waterloo’s Dr. Dave Drewery presented the top values, when it comes to their outlook on work, for Generation Z.

Generation Z (Gen Z) is the generation after millennials, born after 1996 and beginning to enter the workforce.

Drawing on the extensive research and insights from the Work-Learn Institute (WxL), Drewery explored the unique perspectives of this generation, which is known for its digital savviness, entrepreneurial spirit and social consciousness.

Ingrid Kaffka (BA '22), a former co-op student and Waterloo alum, joined Drewery in his presentation to add the perspective of a Gen Z employee to the discussion.

Together, Kaffka and Drewery shed light on the values of Gen Z and how their values are shaping the future of work.

Dr. Dave Drewery and Ingrid Kaffka
Dr. Dave Drewery and Ingrid Kaffka

Top three values for Gen Z:

  1. Benevolence (helping others) 
  2. Hedonism (enjoying life)
  3. Self-direction (exploring curiosities)

Lowest three values for Gen Z:

  1. Conformity
  2. Tradition
  3. Power

Despite recessions and a global pandemic that changed how we work, these values have stayed consistent over the last four years. Research indicates that these are core values that this generation will carry with them throughout their lives. These core values translate into tangible expectations and preferences for work.

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Gen Z expects balance and security.

Work-life balance, job security and a competitive salary are most important to Gen Z when considering a job. Opportunities for leadership, promotion and challenge are the least prioritized.

Person standing infront of a mirror

Gen Z wants support for growth and individuality.

When considering whether they want to work for an organization, Gen Z prioritizes training and development and a culture that considers equity, diversity, inclusion and anti-racism. Factors like the prestige of an organization are less important.

Illustration of human hands juggling balls that depict different aspects of life: eating with friends, sleeping, working and exercising.

Gen Z needs work-life balances that reflect the new era of work.

The support for work-life balance is a starting point for Gen Z. This emerging group of talent expects clear lines to be drawn to support work-and-life balance. They also want non-traditional and flexible working hours to make appointments, go to the gym or run errands.

Interestingly, 51% of respondents indicated it was unlikely they would mention or ask about work-life balance policies during an interview. This suggests that while Gen Z values work-life balance, organizations should lead these conversations in interviews.

Light bulb

Gen Z will work in an office, but only when needed.

Gen Z talent doesn't just want flexibility with their work arrangements, they expect it. 

As a generation who began their careers in hybrid work environments, traditional work arrangements don't appeal to many in this generation. Organizations that adopt a work from anywhere culture, and prioritize true collaboration on in-office days, will fare well with emerging talent entering the workforce.  

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So, what does this mean for organizations?

If you want to improve how you engage with and retain next-generation talent, consider the following in your next job posting and interview: 

  1. Advertise and manage your work/life balance policies. 
  1. Offer flexible working hours and locations. 

  1. Train supervisors as coaches. 

  1. Clarify career training and development opportunities.  

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