Understanding What Drives Younger Workers

Very few things remain static in the business world, and the character and personality of the collective workforce is not one of them. Different generations have different lived experiences, expectations, and values, all of which contribute to what drives them in the workplace.

According to a recent survey from Qualtrics, two key ambitions are central to what motivates Gen Z and millennial workers: career advancement and life outside of work.

“In a study of 3,000 working Americans, Qualtrics found that more than one-third (35%) of workers overall say their career ambitions decreased over the past three years,” according to a Qualtrics press release. “However, younger workers – Generation Z and young millennials (18-34 years old) – are growing more ambitious, with 35% reporting higher career goals than they had pre-pandemic.” The press release goes on to note that younger workers are more likely than their older colleagues to want to start their own business, join the C-suite, or lead other employees, while just 8% want to be individual contributors and not manage others.

“The pandemic pushed people to think differently about the role that work plays in their lives, and we’re seeing the impact of that,” said Qualtrics Chief Workplace Psychologist Dr. Benjamin Granger. “While it’s not surprising that growth and development are important and career ambitions change as we age or enter different stages of life, this data suggests that the levers organizations pull to attract and retain both younger and older workers may need to differ.”

One reason younger workers may be so upwardly focused is they want to have the financial means to support their personal lives, which this group highly values.

“The largest motivating factor for young workers to do their best at work is earning money, whereas older workers are more motivated by personal pride in their work,” according to the Qualtrics press release. “These young workers don’t plan to work until they can receive full benefits from Social Security. In fact, nearly a quarter (24%) of them plan to retire early, and 41% of those would-be early retirees want to do so by the time they turn 50. By comparison, 21% of workers between the ages of 35 and 54 plan to retire before they turn 67.”

Today’s younger workers are the future of work. In fact, they already make up a significant chunk of today’s workforce. Therefore, employers that better understand what makes these workers tick will have a leg up when it comes to recruitment and retention.

Lin Grensing-Pophal is a Contributing Editor at HR Daily Advisor.

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