What do Gen Z and millennials expect in the workplace?

September 20, 2022

Louise Sheen

HR Manager

Gen z and millenials: expect in the workplace

What do Gen Z and millennials expect in the workplace?

Owning and running a business with a multi-generational workforce can be complicated. It’s possible that in your business, you could have four or five different generations working. From the traditionalists to baby boomers, through Gen X and millennials, to Gen Z.

It is important in order to recruit and retain the best talent that you understand millennials and Gen Z workers and what they expect from their workplace. Whether it’s work-life balance, reward and recognition, socioeconomic impact, mental well-being requirements or learning and development opportunities.

Many business leaders are familiar with leading older generations (and many owners come from those generations themselves), but are you aware of your millennial and Gen Z workers’ requirements? Read on to find out more.

What is a millennial?

Millennials are a diverse group of people that were born between 1981 and 1996. Millennials represented a massive change in the traditional way previous generations worked and viewed work in the past.

Who are Gen Z?

Generation Z, or “Gen Z”, refers to individuals born between 1997-2012, the generation following millennials. This generation has been raised on the internet and social media, with some of the oldest finishing college or university by 2020 and entering the workforce.

What do Gen Z and millennial workers want at work?

Almost 50% of the workforce today are millennials or Gen Z. Whilst there are similarities in these generations around what they expect in a workplace, younger workers are still defining ‘new norms’ around expectations of their employers.

Many have the reputation for job hopping and not having loyalty to companies. However, if you understand your Gen Z employees and millennial workers better and provide the right environment for them to thrive and grow, this reputation isn’t always true.

So, let’s look at how you can recruit, retain and motivate these generations.

An emphasis on well-being

Millennials and Gen Z want to work for companies who take care of them and their health as individuals. But this isn’t just about physical well-being, it’s about mental health as well.

It is estimated that at least 1 in 6 workers experience mental health problems like anxiety and depression. Research by Mind shows that work is the biggest cause of stress.

If you have unhealthy employees, you may well have an unhealthy business.

Many companies offer wellness programs, but physical wellness alone is not sufficient. Offering well-being programmes to your employees that provide mental health benefits as well as physical health benefits is key to employee engagement with these generations.

Flexibility and work-life balance

Gen Z and millennial employees value flexible work places and working practices.

They are interested in flexible jobs with a career that will be adaptable to their lifestyle. Whether it’s working at home, job-sharing, part-time work, flexible working hours or annualised hours, it’s crucial to Gen Z employees and millennials that you offer and show your commitment to flexibility and work-life balance.

Read this Acas guide to find out more about flexible working and work-life balance.

Learning and development opportunities

Gallup found that 87% of millennials rate development opportunities as important to them in a job, and LinkedIn found that 76% of Gen Z says that learning is key to their success.

There is no doubt that learning and development is also tied to promotion and increased salary in Gen Z employees. LinkedIn found the top three reasons Gen Z cited for wanting to learn are to improve at their job, make more money and get promoted.

Adapting your training and development programmes to these generations is key. Whether that is utilising technology, breaking learning down into bite-size chunks or more self-directed learning. Running traditional training courses created for previous generations will no longer cut it, you will now need a multi-pronged approach to learning and development.

More diverse and inclusive workplaces

With these generations being the most diverse workforce in history, it should come as no surprise that diversity and inclusivity are incredibly important.

Diversity, equality and inclusion in the workplace is not a ‘nice thing’ to have, but it is fundamental to these generations and their identity.

A transparent company with ethical values

One thing that is important to Gen Z is corporate ethics. Amongst the most important ethical issues in the minds of the group are sustainability, environmental protection and socio-economic impact.

Both demographics look for organisations that reflect their values and aim to contribute towards society. Younger workers want to understand they’re appreciated and contribute to the good of something bigger than just corporate success.

It is important to these generations that they work in companies where the company values align with the values they personally hold. Therefore, it’s important that your company has a clear set of values that are promoted and embedded. It’s crucial that these values link to behaviours and activities that align with these external influences such as environmental and socio-economic impact.

Open and transparent leaders

The need to work for a transparent company also filters through to leadership qualities. Older millennials are interested in open and transparent leadership qualities.


Generally, millennials prefer encouraging feedback whereas Gen Z prefer straightforward feedback. So, business leaders need to be mindful of feedback styles and processes.

Clear, open communication and consistent frequent feedback are necessary for these generations. Ensuring regular communication around plans and expectations is also important.

Create an easy structure for employee communication such as weekly one-to-one meetings.

Gen Z and millennials would prefer instant gratification and feedback. So, if your employees have done an excellent job then they will want to be recognised for this quickly. Using reward and recognition systems, ways to say thank you and incentive programs will help them stay motivated and improve company performance.


Millennial workers expect technology as a key focus in a workplace. These generations are digital natives and have incredible ability to learn and employ new technology.

They will expect business processes to be digitised if possible and for the company to invest and have a roadmap for technological advancement.

Differences in Gen Z employees and millennial employees

Whilst there are many similarities in the wants and needs of these generations, there can be differences to, for example:

  • Millennials prefer job flexibility while Gen Zers prefer job stability.
  • Gen Z is more entrepreneurial.
  • Millennials value work-life balance whereas Gen Zers value salary and career advancement.
  • Members of Gen Z are more independent and prefer to figure things out themselves while millennials tend to value teamwork and input from others more highly.
  • Gen Z tend to break more boundaries when it comes to what is considered professional. They believe that their skills and character are more important than how they present themselves, gravitating to more casual and open work cultures.

Recognition and reward programmes for millennials and Gen Z workers

Research has found a link between generational work values and the rewards offered. Putting in place formal reward and recognition programmes can help with retaining these generations.

The reward and recognition programme should:

  1. Connect to the company values and purpose.
  2. Offer social reward.
  3. Communicates feedback and progress.
  4. Allow for instant recognition.
  5. Encourage learning and development.

By offering a spectrum of recognition and rewards initiatives that target the needs and demands of these generations, will allow individuals a choice and should help to retain both Gen Z and millennials.

How do you manage millennials and Gen Z in the workplace?

In today’s multigenerational workforce, business leaders can no longer rely on a one-size-fits-all approach to recruiting, retaining and motivating their employees.

The best leaders and successful businesses know employees’ expectations in the workplace and create programmes, systems and communication channels that they meet their different employee’s needs, whatever generation they are from.