More money the 'most important thing' employees want

Multigenerational workers' benefit demands have changed but are employers keeping up?

More money the 'most important thing' employees want

Social and economic disruption over the past few years has transformed professionals' priorities and perspectives on work, and understanding what motivates employees of different generations can help employers more effectively recruit, lead, and retain strong teams.

Money, flexibility, artificial intelligence (AI), and contract work are the areas that are important and of concern to employees, with different generations’ priorities shifting from what employers might assume, says a report from Robert Half, a specialized talent solutions firm.

“This research is so important because post pandemic, the multigenerational workforce and the environment of the office has really changed,” says Sandra Lavoy, regional director at Robert Half. “People have been affected by what the pandemic has done to our economy. Employees, or candidates, come to us every day and say, ‘I need to make more money. The cost of living has gone up significantly.’ Money is the most important thing they want. They are looking for competitive salaries, and salaries have really gone up in the last three years. And, now, money is the biggest impact for job satisfaction.”

Money matters most, but not for Baby Boomers

Robert Half's ‘Examining the Multigenerational Workforce Report’ shows money matters most for most workers. A competitive salary with regular merit increases has the biggest impact on job satisfaction and retention for Millennials, Gen X, and Gen Z. Further, by a small margin, Gen X workers (35%) are most likely to feel underpaid. Baby Boomers are the only generation for whom a positive team dynamic ranked as the most important factor of job satisfaction, with 49% citing it as their biggest influence.

Flexibility is also important to workers, especially the Gen Z generation. Forty-four percent of Gen Z professionals prefer complete freedom to choose where and when to work. At the same time, 23% want more people to be in the office in the next few years. Gen Z craves greater guidance, networking, and mentorship than employees of other generations and, for them, missing out on those experiences is the greatest drawback of remote work.

Employers should consider implementing a flexible work policy that allows for remote and in-office time to maximize training and team-building opportunities.

Gen Z wants contract work

Contract work is also attractive to younger professionals. Of those looking for new jobs in 2023, Gen Z is most likely to transition from full-time employment to full-time contract work (43%), and Baby Boomers are least likely (8%). Contracting appeals to younger workers, in part, due to the opportunity to take on a variety of assignments and work at different companies to build skills and connections more quickly.

The report recommends employers offer staff stretch assignments and a chance to work with other business units and leaders to expand their skillsets and exposure.

The report shows that AI is weighing on workers' minds as well. Despite being digitally savvy, 73% of Gen Z professionals are concerned about AI impacting their jobs versus 68% of Millennials, 44% of Gen Xers, and only 33% of Baby Boomers. That said, half or more Gen Z, Gen X and Baby Boomers are willing to reskill in order to pursue a new role with their current employer if their job was at risk. Millennials, on the other hand, would prefer to look for a new role elsewhere.

“AI is important, but we're going to need people doing different jobs,” says Lavoy. “Employees need to understand that AI will bring different types of positions. AI is important to move companies forward. Employers will have to communicate to employees about what will happen to their positions.” They can also provide opportunities for employees at all levels to learn new skills, stay up to date with technology, and pursue different career paths within the organization.

Authentic communication is key

To understand the priorities of multigenerational teams, employers must use authentic communication and demonstrate interest in the success of both the employee and the company, says Lavoy. “Make sure salaries are in line with what the market is holding, provide great perks and benefits, and create a mentoring program so young professionals can learn, because that’s the future. For hybrid workforces, employer could hold collaborative meetings and team building events or projects to make sure the employee engagement level is high. They should also invest in professional development for staff.

“Priorities have changed, and employers need to understand differences among a diverse staff to ensure they offer appropriate development plans for people at various stages of their careers.”