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Gen Z is unhappy: 5 ways HR can create the EX young workers are craving

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Jason Averbook
Jason Averbook is a Senior Partner and Global Leader-Digital HR Strategy with Mercer. For the last six years, he was Co-founder and CEO of Leapgen, a digital transformation company helping organizations shape their future workplace by broadening executive mindset to rethink how to better design and deliver employee services that meet the expectations of the workforce and the needs of the business. Prior to founding Leapgen, Jason served as the CEO of The Marcus Buckingham Company (TMBC). In 2005, he co-founded Knowledge Infusion LLC and served as its CEO until 2012, when the company was sold to Appirio. He has also held senior leadership roles at PeopleSoft and Ceridian Corporation.

Generation Z is the newest generation entering the workforce. As this group of humans, born between 1997-2012, becomes an increasingly significant segment of the global workforce, understanding their concerns and expectations is critical for HR leaders. And as recent reports suggest that Gen Z is generally unhappy at work, it’s up to HR now to create a better employee experience to address this dissatisfaction.

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Gen Z at work

A Deloitte survey found that 49% of Gen Z respondents were unsatisfied with their work, citing factors such as lack of career progression, inadequate compensation and poor work/life balance. Another study by Gallup revealed that only 29% of Gen Z employees are engaged at work, indicating a significant disconnect between their expectations and their actual work experiences.

Unlike previous generations, Gen Z is keen on designing work that fits into their lives rather than creating a life separate from work. This shift results in a demand for the same satisfaction, convenience and support from their work environment as they have in their personal lives. For instance, the ubiquity of smartphones and instant communication has raised expectations for immediate feedback and constant connectivity, both inside and outside the workplace. Additionally, with the rise of social media and online communities, people are more connected than ever before, fostering a desire among Gen Z for collaboration and a sense of belonging in all aspects of life, including work.

See also: The ever-changing problem of EX and why trust can help solve it

Creating a better employee experience for Gen Z

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To address Gen Z’s dissatisfaction, organizations must focus on creating a better employee experience that aligns with their expectations. Here are some strategies to achieve this:

  1. Enhancing work/life balance: A survey by EY found that 74% of Gen Z respondents consider work/life balance their top priority when they evaluate job opportunities. Recognizing this, organizations can implement flexible work arrangements, such as remote work options, flexible hours and generous leave policies to cater to this demand.
  2. Fostering inclusivity: Gen Z values collaboration, diversity and inclusivity. Creating a work environment that encourages open communication and teamwork and supports diversity can lead to higher job satisfaction and engagement among Gen Z employees. A study by Deloitte showed that inclusive teams are twice as likely to meet or exceed financial targets and six times more likely to be innovative.
  3. Providing opportunities for growth and development: Gen Z workers are eager to learn and advance in their careers, and quickly. They seek opportunities for career growth and progression on an accelerated timeline. By setting expectations for achieving career progression and offering continuous learning opportunities, mentorship programs and clear career progression paths, organizations can help Gen Z employees feel more engaged and satisfied at work. And that ties directly into retention: A LinkedIn survey revealed that 94% of employees would stay at a company longer if it invested in their career development.
  4. Emphasizing purpose and impact: Gen Z workers are passionate about making a difference and contributing to a larger purpose. A study by Cone Communications found that 76% of young employees consider a company’s social and environmental commitments when deciding where to work. Aligning company values with social and environmental causes and effectively communicating the organization’s mission can help Gen Z employees feel more connected to their work.
  5. Leveraging technology: Gen Z grew up in a digital world and is accustomed to using technology daily. Incorporating modern technology and tools in the workplace can help create a seamless and convenient employee experience that meets Gen Z’s expectations. This technology includes collaboration tools, generative AI and real-time learning platforms.

Related: Will Gen Z Want to Work for You?

The impact of a better employee experience on Gen Z happiness

Organizations can significantly impact younger workers’ happiness and job satisfaction by creating a better employee experience that aligns with Gen Z’s expectations—and the organization will also reap the rewards. Research by Gallup found that organizations with high employee engagement have 21% higher productivity, 22% higher profitability and 37% lower absenteeism compared to those with low employee engagement.

Furthermore, a better employee experience can help attract and retain top talent from Gen Z. A Glassdoor study revealed that 84% of employees would consider leaving their current job if offered a position with a company with an excellent corporate culture. Given the current labor market, it’s imperative to create an EX that keeps workers from heading to the exit door.


As Gen Z continues to enter the workforce and shape the future of work more each day, organizations need to address their unhappiness by aligning EX with their expectations. By focusing on work/life balance, collaboration, growth opportunities and purpose, and leveraging technology, organizations can enhance Gen Z’s happiness at work, leading to higher productivity, engagement and retention.

The boundaries between work and personal life continue to blur, and companies must recognize the importance of meeting the evolving expectations of their employees both inside and outside the workplace. By doing so, they can create a work environment that not only attracts and retains the best talent but also fosters a culture of innovation, collaboration and success.

Learn how benefits strategies are being used to attract Gen Z during the Health & Benefits Leadership Conference, May 3-5 in Las Vegas. Click here to register.