Traumatized by millennials, employers are already desperate to make Generation Z happy

Image: Reuters/Tim Wimborne
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Employers haven’t had it easy with millennials—a broad term for a global grouping of people who are fairly young at this particular moment in time (definitions vary, but it usually refers to people currently aged 18 to 35).

These young people have been asking more of their workplace than ever before, and it looks like employers could have an even harder job on the horizon. ”Generation Z” is just turning 18, and they might want more, especially in one key area: work that is meaningful.

The research institute of ADP—a business administration group which produces data on work trends and economic health—surveyed 2,400 full-time and part-time employees in different age groups, including millennials, working at companies with over 250 people, to find out how the global workplace had changed.  Their resulting study says that millennials have pushed companies to change in key areas, including giving employees more freedom (to work from wherever they want, for example) and autonomy (including to “self-manage,” rather than be managed).

But the one big thing the ADP picked out was the search for a sense of fulfilment:

“[T]he need for meaning has certainly evolved over the years,” the ADP researchers wrote. “Today, the younger generation of Millennials places more of an emphasis on a search for meaning within their jobs than previous generations, who tended to look for meaning outside of work.”

The slim bits of research that exist on what kids today want from future careers indicate that “getting ahead” might be less important to the very young. Adecco, a human resources firm, surveyed 1,000 students last year and found that 41% of millennials wanted jobs that provided scope for growth. Only 30% of Generation Z respondents asked for the same. (“Growth” is admittedly an amorphous concept).

ADP didn’t survey Generation Z, the oldest of whom are barely out of school and most of whom have yet to start anything like a career. But it warned its community of human resources directors that they’d better be thinking about it:

“Questions to consider before implementing initiatives to provide a more meaningful workplace include: how can employers keep the up and coming Generation Z (post-millennials not yet in the workforce) engaged as today’s currently employed generations move up in their careers? Will individuals in Generation Z and Millennials require a different business model? If so, what will that look like?”

They don’t provide answers.

This piece has been updated to clarify the survey was conducted by ADP’s research institute.