Gen Z wants a meaningful career. So what can employers do?

What does a purpose-driven role even mean? And why does it matter to young workers?

5 minutes

March 3, 2023 Adecco

A young worker stands nervously next to a white board filled with writing.

We’ve all heard of the Great Resignation in which millions of Americans quit their jobs in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. However, another change in workplace behavior caused by the pandemic has been making waves among younger workers, a movement that experts are calling the Great Reflection.

What exactly are younger employees reflecting on when it comes to their work life? In a recent survey by management consulting firm Gartner, more than half of younger workers are questioning the purpose of their careers while 56% say they want to contribute more to society post-pandemic.

It’s clear that both Millennial and Gen Z workers are looking for more meaningful jobs or opportunities to work for purpose-driven companies now and in the future.

Because 58% of the total workforce will be made up of Millennials and Gen Z by 2030, companies need to communicate their organization’s purpose and identify purpose-driven roles or risk possible talent shortages. Here, we break down what purpose-driven jobs are and why they matter:

What does a purpose-driven role mean?

A purpose-driven role doesn’t necessarily involve charitable work or individual contributions to society, but rather being employed at a company that has a clear purpose in the work they are trying to achieve. A corporate purpose is the business’s reason for existing (beyond making money) and its impact on society.

Adecco’s purpose, for example, is to make the future work for everyone, enabling all individuals from all communities to find careers.  

Purpose-driven jobs can be obvious in some cases, such as nurses or workers with green jobs, but if your company has a clear purpose then all roles within the company can be purpose-driven, including behind-the-scenes desk jobs.

Maybe your accounting team needs to be celebrated for finding those extra dollars to fund a spectacular Christmas party or helping teach other teams a better way to manage their P&L statements. It’s employers' responsibility to help those workers see how they fit into the greater whole.

Why do meaningful jobs matter?

Almost two-thirds of younger workers want their employer to offer more opportunities for purpose in their daily work. It’s up to companies to keep their staff engaged via meaningful jobs or risk high turnover. In fact, almost eight in every ten Gen Z workers said it was important for them to work for organizations whose values aligned with theirs, making purpose the number one driver in making career decisions.

How to identify an employee’s purpose

With younger workers increasingly desiring meaningful jobs it’s imperative for managers to communicate an individual’s purpose within their organization. During one-on-one meetings and team-building opportunities, ask your employees what they strive to achieve in their jobs and how you can help them feel that their job has meaning.

When workers have a chance to reflect on their individual purpose and how it relates to their company’s purpose, they are three times more likely to feel fulfilled at work.

If you’re a leader in your organization, lean on other managers who are doing it right. Ask about strategies that have worked for them when it comes to discussing purpose and incorporate them into your own practices.

In a recent survey, people whose managers didn’t give them an opportunity to reflect on their purpose had just a 7% chance of feeling fulfilled in their role.

Communicating your company’s purpose

Because younger generations prefer to work for a company whose values align with their own, your organization’s purpose and mission are critical to attracting young talent. You’ll need to be clear about your company’s purpose and what values you hold – and communicate that regularly.

Communication about your company’s purpose will need to extend beyond your organization in order to attract younger talent. Be public about the goals your business hopes to achieve and openly celebrate meaningful milestones achieved by your business. These can be your HR and DE&I initiatives or community-building efforts, but it's important to define it and celebrate it.

How Adecco can help

Younger generations are set to disrupt the world of work. Let Adecco help you attract and retain skilled young talent who value meaningful jobs above all else. Our workplace experts are always researching what appeals most to Millennial and Gen Z workers, helping you to future-proof your workforce.

Read the newest study from the Adecco Group in collaboration with management consulting firm SHL, Equipping Gen Z to Lead an Unpredictable Future, to learn more insights about the youngest generation set to dominate the workforce. 

Contact us today for individualized advice on how to attract the next generation of workers.