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What do young workers want?

Tuesday March 03, 2015 Written by  Randstad Canada
Job creation, health care and gender equality top the list of must-haves for Canada's newest entrants in the workforce.

A new study conducted by Randstad Canada in collaboration with Ipsos Reid polled young adults from generations Y (ages 21 to 34) and Z (ages 16 to 20) found that social responsibility, gender equality and benefits are all important to these younger generations of workers.

When it comes to giving back, eight in 10 young adults (82 per cent) say that it is important that their employer do so, but it is the “how” that reveals the most interesting results. Creating new jobs locally (31 per cent) was cited as the most impactful way for their current or future employer to support the community – ranking more than twice as important as charitable giving or environmental responsibility.

Gender equality topped the list of expectations when it comes to fostering diversity, with nine in 10 emphasizing its importance. And it's official – loyal workers are a thing of the past. Both Gen Y and Gen Z identified loyalty as a trait least likely to be associated with their generation.

"While they may share some similar traits – both generations are collaborative, tech-savvy and socially engaged – we can't assume both Gen Y and Gen Z workers have the same motivations, work styles or even goals. They come from different historical and social backgrounds. That impacts their view of the world and of organizations. In today's diversified employment market, it is important for employers to understand what motivates and inspires both Gen Y and Gen Z. By knowing what drives this emerging group of workers, organizations can shape their talent attraction strategies and position themselves as an employer of choice,'' said Faith Tull, senior vice-president of human resources with Randstad Canada.

Young adults expect more

Giving back to the community isn't the only expectation that young adults expect of their employer. There are also a range of benefits that they want from their employer:

  • Health insurance, with one in three (32 per cent) saying this is the most important employee benefit they expect,
  • Work flexibility, such as four-day weeks, compressed schedule, telework, etc. (29 per cent),
  • Training and development (17 per cent),
  • Individual performance bonuses (10 per cent),
  • A stock purchase plan and profit sharing program (four per cent),
  • Tuition reimbursement assistance (four per cent).

Interestingly, health insurance is more important for Gen Y (36 per cent) than Gen Z (27 per cent), and considerably more for women (40 per cent) than men (23 per cent). Gen Z places more importance on training and development (21 per cent) than Gen Y (14 per cent).

Technology a key part of life

Growing up in the internet age and amidst rapid high-tech advancement, technology plays a key part in the life of both Gen Y and Gen Z Canadians, including facilitating their work. Four in 10 (38 per cent) say that technology can best support them in their current or future job by allowing them to get answers to questions faster, while one in four (24 per cent) say it can help develop skills. Others say technology can best assist with helping workers collaborate on projects more effectively (20 per cent), enhancing personal relationships with co-workers (11 per cent) and giving workers a channel to express themselves.

As attached as they are to their smartphones, tablets and other devices, a surprising 45 per cent of young people believe the most effective way to communicate is in-person. Others say the best way is:

  • Through email (26 per cent),
  • Phone (11 per cent),
  • Instant messaging (nine per cent),
  • Social networking (eight per cent)
  • Video conferencing (two per cent).

Gen Y particularly favours email compared to Gen Z (31 per cent versus 20 per cent). While one would assume Gen Z would prefer instant messaging over any other method, they are actually more interested in face-to-face communications (47 per cent) than Gen Y (43 per cent). While not strongly favoured, Gen Z is more apt to use instant messaging (11 per cent versus eight per cent) or social networking (10 per cent vs. six per cent) as a method of communicating at work.

Mentorship and feedback important

Whether it's traditional – like television and radio – or digital – like video streaming or Twitter – young adults in Canada have grown up in an age of communication. It's no surprise that four in 10, or 41 per cent of young people, say the most important quality of a leader is the ability to communicate, well ahead of honesty (19 per cent), confidence (12 per cent), commitment (10 per cent), vision (10 per cent), or patience (eight per cent).

However, young adults in Canada are more mixed about how they want their boss to engage with them in order to produce their best work.

  • Three in ten (30 per cent) say they'd want their manager to listen to their ideas and value their opinions,
  • A similar proportion (29 per cent) would like their manager to mentor them and give feedback regularly. This is more important for Gen Z (34 per cent) than Gen Y (26 per cent),
  • One in five (20 per cent) want their manager to allow them to work independently. This is more important for Gen Y (24 per cent) than Gen Z (14 per cent).
  • Just four per cent would most want their manager to use an online community to facilitate collaboration.

"It can be worrisome for employers to hear young generations described as disloyal, lazy and easily distracted. Employers who effectively meet their desire to be heard and actively involved will have the edge in keeping Gen Y and Gen Z engaged and eager to return to work each day. By making a few adjustments or enhancements to their organizational planning, employers will have these bright, young people bringing their skills, creativity and energy to their organization,'' said Tull.

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