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Will everything stay different? GenZ’s expectations of the job market.

December 13, 2023

Current career starters and employees aged 18 to 39 differ less dramatically from previous generations than one might assume based on current discussions. A study by FHWien der WKW in cooperation with Siemens Energy Austria questions the “differences” of Generation Z in the job market.

Drei junge Personen, die mit Laptop am Schreibtisch sitzen
© Brooke Cagle on Unsplash

In fact, it appears that other age groups are also being affected by the current paradigm shift (remote work, work-life balance, work ethics) in light of rapidly changing conditions (e.g. due to digitalization). The results of the study of 500 respondents aged between 18 and 39 show that companies should focus less on the supposed needs of one age group and instead adopt a holistic strategy to address the current changes.

What employees expect and what inspires them

In the study, Christof Sauke and Ilona Pezenka from the Department of Communication at FHWien der WKW differentiate between the characteristics of employers in terms of basic features and features that inspire job seekers. The basic features include supposed benefits such as further training opportunities or team events. Nowadays, these are taken for granted. On the other hand, employers can still impress with inspirational features such as flexible working time models or a responsible approach to the environment. But these features are constantly changing.

While working from home was still a privilege before the coronavirus pandemic, it is now increasingly taken for granted – regardless of age. This is also confirmed by a study conducted by the renowned personnel service provider Randstad in 2022, according to which job seekers from Generations Y, X and Baby Boomers attach comparable or greater importance to the “home office/remote work” criterion than Generation Z respondents. This was also observed in the study conducted by FHWien der WKW, which found only insignificant differences between the age groups surveyed. Contrary to expectations, there was also no suspected difference between the genders.

Personal contentment in a complex working environment

However, a significant difference was found in the individual and collective fields of interest. Factors such as career opportunities and personal benefits (individual) were more important to respondents than, for example, teamwork and corporate culture (collective). This corresponds to the general assessment that society is becoming more selfish and is tending to make social thinking less important. This seems to contradict the high rating of employers who are committed to the environment and society. However, it shows that the expectations of jobseekers are more multi-layered and complex than some generational classifications would suggest.

More importantly, the world of work and its framework conditions have changed so rapidly that employers have to adapt to them – regardless of which generation they are dealing with. Christof Sauke and Ilona Pezenka’s thesis is that increasing digitalization and an overall more complex working environment are generally leading to an intensification of perceived work intensity. In this case, shorter working hours would be a counterbalance that enhances personal contentment and strengthens resilience.