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Companies Need To Keep an Eye on Zillennials’ Workforce Preferences

Companies Need To Keep an Eye on Zillennials’ Workforce Preferences

March 28, 2022
A new MetLife study found that more than half of workers aged 23-28 say an unfulfilling job is causing them stress.

As workforce needs continue to be front and center for companies, research has devised yet another category of people calling them Zillennials. They are a micro-generation born between 1993-1998 that has increased in size by more than 5 million workers over the last 5 years. 

MetLife's annual survey,  U.S. Employee Benefit Trends Study, released March 21, found that this group is very insistent on a work culture and environment that better aligns with their personal values. The report finds they are the least satisfied in their jobs – amid a 20-year low across all generations – and more than half of Zillennials (53%) say having an unfulfilling job is currently a top source of stress.

Over the past twenty years that MetLife has been issuing this report looking at workers’ shifting perceptions of their employers as work-life balance, some new trends have emerged. Purposeful work and supportive cultures have emerged as key retention-driving aspects of the employee experience.

And it's the younger employees that desire these changes. It's due to both fallout from the pandemic but is also an overall trend of younger employees being less likely to conform to traditional workplace conventions due to evolving values and priorities.

More Discerning Employees

As they continue to struggle with burnout and social isolation two years into the pandemic – with 53% having sought mental health help in the last year (vs. 31% of all employees) – Zillennials feel more strongly than other employees that their employer is doing only the “minimum possible” to help them adapt to their new working environments (41% vs. 36%, respectively).

As a result, the report finds Zillennials are now more discerning than other generations in evaluating their employers, considering all aspects of the employee experience beyond traditional benefits.

“It’s clear we’ve reached a critical inflection point in the workplace, and employers across industries should not only be taking note but should also see this as an important opportunity for reflection and growth,” said Todd Katz, executive vice president, Group Benefits at MetLife, in a statement. “As employees rethink not only how, but also why they work, Zillennials are quickly setting a new standard for evaluating the employee experience. By using this generation’s expectations as a barometer for success, employers can evolve to meet their needs in stride – which is important, particularly as Zillennials gain a stronger foothold in the workforce.”

Supporting the Whole Employee Experience

As Zillennials seek fulfillment at work, many are looking for purpose-driven environments that meet their shifting priorities. More interested in companies that provide a clear sense of purpose – with less than half (46%) willing to stay with a company that doesn’t have a clear and positive company purpose (vs. 57% of all employees) – Zillennials’ new needs go beyond traditional benefits to include enhanced interest in an employer’s stance on environmental and ethical issues (45%), as well as diversity, equity & inclusion (DEI) resource groups (40%), both of which have emerged as “must-have” employer expectations for this age group.

According to the study, while more pronounced among Zillennials, this shift is consistent with that of other generations – in particular, younger employees – who are expressing similar priorities in 2022.

A work culture that taps into and improves employee social and mental health has also become a top consideration for Zillennials. According to the report, recognizing the importance of employees' lives outside of work, and policies that place boundaries on employees' working hours both rose in importance by double-digit percentages in the last two years (by 13% and 11%, respectively). This too is reflective of Gen Z and millennial employees, the study found.

Reinforcing Foundational Benefits to Improve Well-being & Job Satisfaction

As employers consider how to improve the employee experience, the report found thinking holistically about benefits can help – particularly as one in four Zillennials (27%) say they have considered leaving their employer for an improved benefits package over the past year (vs. 19% of all employees). Traditional benefits remain of high importance to Zillennials; this is particularly true of legal plans, life insurance, and hospital indemnity insurance, which jumped 25 percentage points, 23 percentage points, and 19 percentage points since 2017 among this age range, respectively.

In the same turn, this group is also increasingly expressing interest in new benefits, such as student debt assistance, with 50% calling it a “must-have.” When asked which would most improve their well-being, Zillennials cited paid and unpaid leave benefits (74%); work-life management programs (67%); mental wellness benefits, including employee assistance programs (EAP) and reimbursement for therapy sessions (62%); and programs to support their financial needs (55%) as top priorities.

“When it comes to improving job satisfaction, loyalty, and retention, employers need to think of benefits as the foundation of the whole employee experience,” said Katz. “Benefits are critical, but they don’t exist in a silo. Employers should be offering comprehensive packages that both complement and reinforce the other critical elements of the employee experience. If they don’t, they risk losing this vital sector of the workforce to an employer who will.”

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