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Salary, flexibility, growth, and development - here's what employers can do to meet the expectations of young talent, in this analysis by HRO's Tracy Chan.

The younger generation, especially Gen Z, is undoubtedly the cornerstone of the future workforce. The question, however, is how to engage this segment of the population, who now puts more emphasis on something more than just money – they want it all.

“The younger graduates tend to look for a job which pays well, with prospects for growth and advancement, learning and flexibility in work,” Stephen Koss, EY Asia-Pacific Workforce Advisory Leader, shared with HRO.

“Our Work Reimagined Survey 2022 finds some interesting differences between those who value office working and remote working. Those who have chosen to work remotely value flexibility higher than their counterparts, having chosen to work at office and ranking career advancement as more important.”

These sentiments seem to resonate in different parts of the world.

For young talent from Central European countries, they are mostly driven by work-life balance (18%), rewards (15%), flexible working and purpose of work (11%), and opportunities for career and personal growth (9%), according to a survey conducted by Gradus Research in collaboration with LEAD Network.

Opportunities to build a career (43% of the UK NextGens declare in favour of it), a flexible and positive environment (37% of young Dutch people say so), and opportunities for personal growth (40% of Italian NextGens choose it as a key factor) are the main reasons that make them stick to their companies.

“Our survey shows that in order to be more ‘young talent-fit’ companies should implement flexible hours,” said Evgeniya Bliznyuk, sociologist, CEO & Founder of Gradus Research.

“The COVID crisis has dramatically changed people’s attitude toward mobility. We see that respondents from mostly all countries surveyed choose the possibility to work from everywhere and a positive environment to be the most important factors.”

Looking into Hong Kong, according to the latest 2022 Randstad Workmonitor study, 45% of employees would rather be jobless than feel unhappy at work, and 62% of Gen Zers (aged 18 to 24) agreed.

Around one-third of respondents in Hong Kong said that they are happy that their employers provided an increase in flexibility in working location (39%) and working hours (31%).

On the other hand, 61% of Hong Kong respondents said that training and development are important to them, therefore Randstad’s survey suggested that employers who are willing to invest in their workforce development are also more likely to retain their workforce as well as attract job seekers who seek development opportunities and purpose in their careers to value-add to the company.

Flexibility is not the panacea

However, flexible and remote work risks hurting employees' mental wellbeing and professional development, according to Cigna International's latest global wellbeing survey titled Exhausted by Work – The Employer Opportunity.

The survey showed that while hybrid and flexible work is seen as very important amongst younger workers, they are also experiencing worrying levels of burnout and concern for the future. Over 97% of 18-34-year-olds say they are burned out, and 40% are worried by the rising costs of living.

More than half (51%) of 18-34-year-olds don’t feel fully present or engaged in their work, and 48% are looking for a new job in the next 12 months. A fifth (20%) also said a lack of learning and development opportunities is also causing stress.

Michelle Leung, HR Officer, Cigna International Markets, said the findings should ring alarm bells for employers everywhere. “If we are not careful, this could quickly escalate into a generational divide – those who built lasting professional careers during the years of traditional onsite work, and those who were disenfranchised during the remote transition – the, so-called, Great Resignation and the Quiet Quitting phenomena,” said Leung.

How to meet the expectations of young talent

EY‘s Koss, therefore, suggested companies should make considerations when shaping their employee value proposition (EVP), “thinking about it more as a menu than a set meal”.

“We're seeing younger talent valuing 'trust' specifically with regards to their work choices. Younger talents want the freedom to choose how and when they want to work and they want their employers to support their choices," he said.

Koss believed to close the gap between the expectations of young talent, and the expectations of companies, companies should focus on the overall employee experience, incorporating more choices for their people, with leaders who can lead and engage this cohort. All these can be enabled by a strong technology workplace experience.

“HR and business leaders need to become better listeners to their younger talents, engaging and co-designing the work experience together," concluded Koss. “Younger talents today bring huge potential and often much-needed digital skills. If ignited they can become a catalyst for transformation."


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