Gen Z Is Making ‘conscious Quitting’ The Norm–but Employees Of All Generations Are Seeking Jobs That Align With Their Values | Old North State Wealth News
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Gen Z is making ‘conscious quitting’ the norm–but employees of all generations are seeking jobs that align with their values

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Talent scarcity is a long-term challenge for the global economy. While markets are turbulent, demand for skilled talent will remain elevated well into the future. Every day, clients tell me that attracting and retaining the right people is one of their biggest concerns and is key to their growth.

At the same time, what motivates talent has fundamentally changed and continues to shift. Today, workers want more than a paycheck. They want work-life balance, learning opportunities, and a sense of belonging. They expect to work for a business that understands them. They expect to feel that what’s personally important to them also matters to their employer. It’s non-negotiable–and many businesses are falling short.

This sentiment is so strong that many feel that it’s worth leaving a job over it–and it’s one of the most important factors when considering a new role. However, these factors stretch beyond traditional financial or development motivations and now include more subjective, personal value-based motivations. The result? The rise of what we call the “conscious quitters”–workers who are so driven by personal values that they will take decisive action if they are dissatisfied because their employer doesn’t understand, reflect, and make efforts on these.

It’s personal for Gen Zers–but they’ll take it public

For these workers, it’s about more than simply taking a stance on a particular issue. They demand bold action to advance the causes they care about in general. In some cases, they are even willing to earn less to join a business that matches their values. In the context of sharp inflation, this is telling.

While the conscious quitting movement is not limited to one group of workers, it is being spearheaded by Gen Z professionals, who are unhappy with their employers’ lack of action. Our research shows that close to a third (30%) have already quit an employer who didn’t take action on issues important to them, more than any other age group.

With Gen Zers expected to overtake baby boomers in the workforce this year, their motivations should not, and cannot, be ignored and dismissed as simply being demanding too much. Gen Zers grew up online. They are not afraid to be vocal and share their experiences of an employer–both positive and negative–with their networks.

Businesses should recognize that the issues that matter to people vary by individual. No two workers will be the same. This makes it imperative that leaders seek to understand their unique workforce and what drives them.

For some, concerns around environmental matters are key. For others, personal values around societal, equity-related, and political issues are significant motivators to evaluate their current employment. For example, an employer’s attitudes and actions when it comes to the inclusion of the LGBTQI+ community in the workplace or advancing the gender parity agenda.

While many companies have clear internal policies and guidelines against discrimination in the workplace, not all have nurtured a culture and workplace that empowers employees to be able to bring their full selves to work. There is often a belief that only big companies with large resources can be effective supporters of minority groups–but I believe you just have to be willing and committed to advancing change through the achievement of tangible goals.

Another topical example is an employer’s values and action on equal access to opportunities for marginalized communities, such as refugees or displaced people. While some businesses may feel that taking action on this can be seen as too political, this issue is likely high on the agenda for many of their employees.

Just how important is it for companies to align values with employees?

Our data suggests that a wave of “conscious quitting” is already taking place, with many workers expecting more from their employers. Randstad’s 2024 Workmonitor found that 21% of workers surveyed have quit a company that didn’t take action on an issue that’s important to them. Among the youngest group we surveyed, this percentage was even higher at 32%. Organizations clearly don’t want to lose a third of their future workforce for failing to be sensitive to the values of their future workforce.

Our data indicates that it’s a mistake for businesses to disregard the values of their people. Often, the views and values of a company’s workforce mirror broader public sentiments, and what workers think may also represent the ideals of its customers.

Business leaders must of course strike a careful balance. Commenting on or taking concrete action based solely on employee sentiments can be risky and bring about unintended consequences. Creating policies and taking positions on issues require careful deliberation, transparency with the workforce, authenticity, and decisive actions aimed at acknowledging the needs of all stakeholders.

With skilled labor continuing to be difficult to acquire, businesses cannot afford to ignore one of the key motivators of their employees. By seeking to better understand and support talent on the issues that matter to them, organizations can improve satisfaction, build a loyal, happy, and engaged workforce, and ultimately stand out as an employer of choice.

Sander van ‘t Noordende is the CEO of Randstad.

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