What Do Millennials and Gen Z Need to Succeed in the New World of Work?

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New research by Bright Horizons Workforce Consulting shows there is no one-size-fits-all approach to supporting Millennials and Gen Zs at home and work.

Millennials are the workforce’s largest demographic, with Gen Zs right behind them. We’re talking about the most educated and diverse generation in U.S. history. After the turmoil of the past two-plus years, what do these workers need to help them thrive on the job and at home — and, for many, in the blurring boundaries between the two?

To answer that question, Bright Horizons Workforce Consulting surveyed a nationally representative sample of 1,003 Millennials and Gen Zs about their relationship to work, their career and life aspirations, and their desired workplace benefits.

Flexibility Is Key

For employers looking to attract and retain young talent, flexible views on when and where work is done, clear upward mobility, professional on-the-job training, and child care will lure those who left the workforce during the COVID-19 pandemic back to traditional work.

For those who have stayed in the workforce, the reshuffling and resignations are not over yet:

  • More than half of Millennials and Gen Zs are looking to change jobs, including those who already made moves since 2020.
  • Burnout is still rampant, with 75% of frontline workers feeling burnt out in the past year and 64% of Millennials and Gen Zs overall experiencing burnout.

But Flexibility Isn’t Just Where One Works 

Employers have a big opportunity to provide workplace benefits in flexible ways that adapt as employees grow their families (however they define family) and their careers while striving to attain a work/life balance that mitigates stress and burnout.

The good news is, current employee needs are not new concepts. Decades of research has shown that autonomy (control over one’s work), competence (ability to demonstrate and grow one’s knowledge), and relatedness (positive relationships with others) are strong determinants of workplace satisfaction, intrinsic motivation, and engagement. Listening to the unique and evolving needs of employees and supporting their desire for flexibility, growth, and interpersonal relationships is not just being responsive to the hot topics of the day, it is proven to be critical for highly effective organizations.

The Benefits that Matter Most 

Many Millennials and Gen Zs want flexibility in selecting benefits (62%), stating they know themselves and their needs the best. While not everyone is the same, there are some prominent pain points that workplace benefits can help alleviate, including:

  • Most Gen Zs and Millennials are stressed about their financial (86%) and physical (76%) well-being
  • 1 in 4 Gen Zs and 1 in 10 Millennials missed work in the past year due to their mental well-being
  • Both generations are stressed about their parents’ physical (68%), mental (62%), and financial (53%) well-being, even those not yet “sandwich” generation with direct elder care obligations
  • Gen Zs (65%) and Millennials (43%) feel stressed about their level of educational attainment. Many who have a bachelor’s are looking to take on additional education costs in the pursuit of advanced degrees (40%) and those without a first degree are looking to attain one (42%).

Over half (55%) of Millennial and Gen Z parents of children under six and 1 in 3 parents of children over six have missed work in the past year due to lack of child care. Parent-specific stressors also include:

  • child’s educational development (71%).
  • child's social emotional development (76%).
  • paying for child care (65% parents of under 6).
  • college admissions (63% parents of children 13+).

Flexible care and education benefits address needs across generations, cultures, socio-economic classes, education levels, industry, gender, age, and more. They show employees that their employer understands, values, and respects their diverse needs. Treating employees as unique individuals and trusting them to use their benefits to do what is best for them, their families, and their career development can help boost employee health, engagement, and loyalty — a win for employees and their organizations. 

To learn more about what Gen Zs and Millennials need to succeed, download the full study, Meeting the Needs of Millennials and Gen Zs in the New World of Work.

About the Survey

In partnership with Qualtrics, Bright Horizons Workforce Consulting surveyed a nationally representative sample of 1,003 Millennial and Gen Z workers about their relationship to work, career and life aspirations, and opinions on workplace benefits. To be included in the survey, participants had to be U.S. residents between the ages of 18 and 42 (through April 1980 birthdays) and employed full- or part-time. Full-time students were not included. The survey was conducted online in April and May 2022.  

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