New Study Uncovers 5 Things Gen Z Workers Really Want From Their Employers

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Gen Z members who feel cared for at work are 3.3 times more likely to look forward to coming to work.

Gen Z is one of the main drivers of change in today’s workplace, making up nearly a quarter of the U.S. workforce. Many began their careers in a work landscape dramatically altered by the pandemic and have different needs and expectations than previous generations.

Deloitte Digital surveyed 2,000 Gen Zers (individuals born between 1997 and 2012) and 600 bosses distributed across the other generations in the workforce – Millennials, Gen Xers, and Baby Boomers (those born before 1997) to examine the working relationship between Gen Z workers and their bosses.

In this comprehensive study on Gen Z at work, the team identified five key areas with the greatest discrepancies between the two groups.


Gen Z and their bosses agree that patience and availability are the more important characteristics that bosses can demonstrate. Gen Z lists empathy as the second most important characteristic, while bosses rank empathy as a distant fifth. Further, only 35% of Gen Zers feel that their boss is empathetic.

Gen Zers who feel cared for at work are 3.3x more likely to look forward to coming to work and are less likely to have plans to leave their job, so empathy is good for retention.

“Empathy plays a vital role in engaging Gen Z workers who prioritize feeling valued and heard by their bosses,” said Amelia Dunlop, chief experience officer at Deloitte Digital, who authored the study. “By prioritizing compassion, patience, and availability, employers can improve retention rates and cultivate a more supportive and positive work environment for all employees.”

Psychological Safety

The No. 1 way Gen Zers believe their boss could improve their mental health is by establishing psychological safety around expecting mistakes and encouraging risks. Gen Zers have made great strides in normalizing mental health discourse and expect their leaders to visibly improve and adjust their working conditions to address employee concerns.

Gen Zers are action-biased; many prefer being encouraged to give something a shot first and come with questions only as needed. In fact, 60% of Gen Zers like their autonomy level and wish they had more.


Only 1 in 10 bosses recognize that agency is a top priority for Gen Zers. However, the No.1 way bosses say they are trying to improve the performance of Gen Z employees is by finding ways to get them to take on more responsibility at work.

“Having grown up in a time where there are so many ways to make money, Gen Z is an exceptionally entrepreneurial generation. Bosses that give their Gen Z employees open-ended tasks that satisfy their drive for autonomy and ownership will be rewarded with dedication and creativity from their young employees,” said Michael Pankowski, Gen Z analyst at Deloitte Digital and co-author of the study.


As Gen Zers enter the workforce in a world impacted by a pandemic, they expect commitment to well-being, often manifested by flexibility. They also look for work cultures and leaders that visibly respond and adapt to workforce needs based on employee feedback; however, the level of well-being bosses think they’re creating doesn’t match what Gen Zers are experiencing.

More than 60% of bosses report trying to improve their employees’ well-being by helping them maintain a healthy schedule, yet less than 50% of Gen Z think their boss is doing so.

To perform well, Gen Zers expect organizations to approach various aspects of their work experience with flexibility in mind–like managing time off, hybrid and remote modalities–as the future remains uncertain.


When ranking 12 important action items for their employees, bosses were least likely to choose individual recognition as a top priority, yet 78% of Gen Zers said it’s vital that their boss show they appreciate them.

Feeling recognized is crucial to Gen Zers, not just for results, but for the effort involved – a particular challenge in virtual settings where the act of work is often invisible. The study also found that public recognition holds relatively little value for Gen Z; they rank material rewards as the most important, whether in the form of time or money.

In conclusion, taking action is key to bridging the gap between bosses and Gen Z team members. Bosses should ask their team members what would improve their experiences and build trust while also creating opportunities for connection between Gen Z and other generations. Gen Z wants to have their voices heard and to create a future that they find meaningful. In turn, bosses should enlist their energy and problem-solving skills to co-create a mutually beneficial future of work for all.