Gen Z wants meaningful work—on their own terms

by | Jul 22, 2019 | Analysis, Public Relations

Compared to other generations, Gen Z is most likely to say they can make a difference by “doing meaningful work through their career” (32 percent vs. 17 percent all others), according to a recent report onhow brands can win the trust, loyalty and participation of Gen Z by BBMG and GlobeScan. And, when asked what drives brand loyalty, the second highest response among Gen Z, and all others, is brands that help me “feel in control and do things on my terms.”

“Gen Z has a new perspective on wealth, well-being and the workforce and they’re seeking brands and communities to help them challenge the status quo,” says BBMG’s head of strategy Briana Quindazzi. “For Gen Z, it’s not just about finding a job to pay the bills. It’s about designing life’s work in a way that fulfills their individual purpose and gives them freedom to define their destiny.”

For a generation just entering the full-time workforce, offering them a career path that allows them to bring their whole selves—values and all—to work will be key in attracting young talent.

Gen Z wants meaningful work—on their own terms

Brand reputation matters

As the modern workplace has changed, there’s less distinction between work and personal life. Whether that’s due to intentional office culture with social activities and perks that connect people to the office, or from the unintended side effects of nomadic work and mobile technologies that keep us tethered to the workplace 24/7, the fact is that young people today may feel defined by their work whether they like it or not. And they want that work to reflect their identity, not the other way around.

This means more and more young people are seeking jobs through professional networks like the B Corps that certify companies for being good for workers. Universities have seen growth of new MBA programs in subjects like Sustainable Business and Social Enterprise that train people for careers that are designed to have a positive impact on people and planet. And companies that struggle with brand reputation are feeling its impact on their ability to attract and retain talent.

Honesty and accountability, not perfection

There’s good news for companies who struggle with brand reputation but are on the path. BBMG and GlobeScan’s study found Gen Z is most likely to trust that large companies are operating in the best interests of society when they “prove it by action” and demonstrate “clear intentions through business strategy and goals.” And they are more likely than others to trust large companies when their “employees verify positive impact” (37 percent vs. 28 percent all others) and by “speaking out on society’s most pressing issues” (30 percent vs. 23 percent all others).

That means that taking meaningful action that generates good PR, rather than just paying lip service to issues like equality and sustainability, matters. Better yet, involve employees in the positive impact and give them a reason to evangelize on the company’s behalf. Offer opportunities for volunteerism, give employees a say in company policies and programs, and be transparent about goals and even shortcomings—Gen Z values authenticity and will be patient with change that takes time if they have a clear picture of how the company has a plan to get there.

“For Gen Z, there’s a disconnect between the ‘do goodery’ proclaimed in superficial marketing campaigns and the significant economic, social justice and environmental challenges that shape their lives,” says Quindazzi. “Across industries and product categories, we see brands gaining credibility among Gen Z by taking ownership and accountability of the challenges they have helped to create—while offering real plans and strategies to do better.”

Take care of employees first

Above all, employees don’t want to feel like an afterthought. Plenty of large corporations have invested enormous sums into philanthropic initiatives that generate glowing PR for its impact on communities in need. Meanwhile they fail to provide their own employees with living wages, good benefits, or the kind of respect that would earn their loyalty.

“I think the first thing companies should focus on are the individuals that work there. I want to work somewhere where they help me reach my goals and give me room to create impact,” says Kyle, a 23-year-old from Austin, Texas who was interviewed by BBMG for the study.

Truly the best PR a company can earn is the good will of its own workforce. And today’s rising generation of workers is going to hold companies accountable.

For more on winning the trust, respect and evangelism of Gen Z, click here to read the full report: https://genzreckoning.com/

Liz Courtney
Liz Schroeter Courtney leads marketing and business development for the Brooklyn-based branding firm BBMG.


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