Perception vs. reality - Gen Z values may be different than what you think

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When you’re trying to convert and retain young talent, it’s important to think about what that generation values in the workplace. Do your organization’s values align with those of the next generation of talent?  

In a survey done by the University of Waterloo, 50% of co-op students say they are unlikely to accept a job that matches their skills but not their values. This generation of talent puts a much larger emphasis on organizational values and is much more likely to work somewhere that aligns with their values.  

“The values piece is probably the number one thing that anyone should be thinking about,” says Ryan Goldford, a recent Waterloo alumnus who returned to his previous co-op employer after graduation. “I have my whole life ahead of me to make money. I should just focus on making an impact now and the money will come over time.” 

Both students and employers completed a survey and ranked their values from the following list:

  • Power (social status, control over people and resources) 

  • Achievement (demonstrating competence and being personally successful) 

  • Hedonism (having fun, gratification for yourself) 

  • Stimulation (excitement, novelty and challenge in life) 

  • Self-Direction (independent thought, managing yourself) 

  • Universalism (tolerance for differences in the world) 

  • Benevolence (helping those who are close to you, including friends and family) 

  • Tradition (respect, commitment and acceptance of past practices or established conventions) 

  • Conformity (compliance with socially accepted conventions or standards) 

  • Security (being safe and in harmony with others) 

The employers were also asked to rank what they perceived Gen Z’s values would be. The results from this survey show a disconnect between Gen Z values and organizational values in a few key areas. One area to highlight is how students and employers view benevolence as it relates to the workplace. 

“The value most important to me that I share with Sun Life is about putting the client first and the end-user at the center of everything that we do,” says Goldford. “If a company's culture wasn't conducive to my values … I wouldn't want to work for them.” 

  Gen Z values Organizational values What employers perceive Gen Z values

Benevolence ranking (1-10)

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The number one value that Gen Z holds in the workplace is about helping others and making a positive impact, however, employers perceive benevolence as one of the lower values that Gen Z holds. This disconnect can lead to tension in the workplace, which could reduce the ability of your organization to convert and retain young talent.  

Does this mean you need to change your organization’s values as you hire young talent? Not necessarily, but it is important to recognize that this disconnect exists and find a balance between the values of your organization and the talent you wish to retain. 

To learn more about aligning your organizational values with those of emerging talent, join our next online event The future-ready workforce series: Converting & retaining the next generation of talent.