Gen Z harder to motivate than previous generations, say employers 

New research from business and financial adviser Grant Thornton UK LLP shows that many employers are finding it challenging to motivate their Gen Z workforce and are adapting their training methods to better meet the needs of the younger cohort.

The research, which analyses the responses of 2,000 people aged between 16 – 25 in the UK and 605 UK mid-sized businesses, explores Generation Z’s views of the working world, as well as employers’ approaches to supporting their younger workforce.

It finds that over one third of businesses say it is more difficult to motivate their Gen Z employees compared to previous generations at the same age. Consequently, the majority (88%) of employers surveyed are adapting their training methods to meet the needs of the newest members of the workforce.

Over a third of these (36%) have introduced more personalised training, specifically tailored for individual needs. Nearly one in three (32%) have also moved towards more on demand content and more gamification within their training (30%) to appeal and engage with the new younger cohort.

The pandemic had a significant impact on young people’s education and opportunities for a first part-time job. The research suggests that this may have had a knock-on impact on how prepared they feel for certain aspects of the workplace. 

Gen Z respondents felt they were least prepared for softer skills such as verbal presentations, persuading and influencing. This was reflected in the views of employers who also noted that Gen Z needed support with developing these skills.

Three quarters (72%) of the young people surveyed believe that what they do for their job will be an important part of their identity and the research identified what Gen Z consider the most motivating reward for going above and beyond in their role at work:  

  • Career progression and opportunity to do more interesting and challenging work  
  • Annual salary increase  
  • Direct verbal appreciation from line manager and colleagues 

However, Gen Z workers also have specific expectations around what they believe are unreasonable asks in an early career job. 

Over half (51%) think it’s unreasonable to be expected to take on extra responsibility without compensation, while 40% think regularly working 10-hour days should not be expected. 

One in three (31%) also believe that being expected to study outside of working hours is unreasonable, which is a common requirement for those working towards gaining a professional qualification.   

John O’Mahony (pictured), Gatwick practice leader at Grant Thornton UK LLP, said: “This insight into how the current generation of young people view careers and work will help to inform and shape decision-making about how we best support them as they progress – after all, these are the people that will be running our firm one day. 

“Generalisations are easy to make, but we must be mindful that there are many different factors that determine a person’s mindset and motivation – age is just one of them.  

“Workplaces, and society at large, are rife with age-related (across generations) stereotypes, which are not always accurate. 

“This is why it is important that we better understand how beliefs about age affect our workplace and work to dispel some of the rhetoric that creates barriers and inhibits cohesion. 

“This is an area of inclusion that needs more focus. Harnessing the power of different perspectives is an opportunity, and it’s something we are working on as a firm to leverage – it’s in everyone’s best interest to do so.”

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