Gen Z finding meaning
Authenticity is the most important value for Gen Z — even beyond future plans and being rich.
The vast majority of Gen Z respondents reported that authenticity is more important than any other personal value tested, including: spending time on things that will help their futures, independence, changing the world, and being rich or famous.
Gen Zs aren’t looking for “picture perfect.”
They embrace quirks and ﬂaws. Just look at the recent beauty trends — instead of cosmetics, they’re focusing more on skincare and perfecting that no makeup look.
indicated that being authentic and true to oneself is extremely or very important. Those reporting it being extremely important increased 16 percentage points from pre-pandemic levels.
Gen Z values extend beyond individuals themselves. They want everyone to be empowered to be their authentic selves.
More than half of Gen Zs are more worried about others being treated badly than nearly every other topic surveyed, including getting a good job, paying for college, discrimination toward themselves, or their own relationships with signiﬁcant others.
Column chart showing what Gen Z is stressed about, pre- and post-pandemic.
After 2020, Gen Z is more concerned with having a fulﬁlling career than making a lot of money.
Notably, since our last report, Gen Zs place less importance on making a lot of money in their careers (32% vs. 38%). They are also more inclined to want to make a difference in the world (39% vs. 33%), and will seek employment where their contributions are valued.
Column chart showing Gen Z shift in work priorities before and after the pandemic.
Entrepreneurism is on the rise!
The pandemic showed an increase in entrepreneurial interest. While it’s too early to predict why this increased, there are several possible reasons.
Starting or owning their own businesses could be viewed as more secure, given Gen Zs' exposure to the record-setting job losses seen during the pandemic. It could also be because of the control it gives Gen Zs to align their work with their values. It’s important to note that, although entrepreneurism is on the rise, it’s not equally distributed across gender. Female respondents were less likely than male respondents to say that they’re interested in entrepreneurism.
How they prepare for work will look different, too.
They’ve been told that the job they’ll have in the future is ever-changing and might not exist yet.
Stressed Strivers are striving because colleges aren’t properly preparing them for the workforce, and they're expected to always be learning. The combination of pragmatism and authenticity means that Gen Zs are going to choose the path that is best for them — not the one that society expects.
Go deeper on this topic:
What businesses and Gen Z have to offer each other
While Gen Zs focus on work, less than half say that getting married or having children is very or extremely important.
Societal norms are continuing to shift when it comes to family planning. Fewer are intending to be married and have children. Those who plan to do so are expecting these events later in life — with the median age for marriage at 27 and having children at 30. Planning for marriage and children is no longer just female issues either — males and females reported the same level of intent.
They are intentional in their consumer habits.
Gen Z is repurposing with purpose. They know they can commit to sustainability by lowering wasteful consumption — and do it without spending more. Just look at the growth of the resale market.
The second-hand market is projected to double in the next ﬁve years to $77b in 2026. This is largely attributed to the pandemic-era shopping changes, an increase in sellers, and overall attitude changes to resold items.
of Gen Z respondents reported buying or having someone buy for them at least one used or pre-owned clothing item since March 2020.
Implications for employers
Gen Zs want to be empowered by employers to make the difference they value.
Money is decreasing in importance for Gen Zs. Between 2020 and 2021, “making money” declined in importance and was eclipsed by their desire to “be the best” and “make a difference.” Salary alone is not enough to convince Gen Zs to join, or even stay at your company. It is vital to pay employees what they are worth, but you must also consider making work enjoyable and demonstrating the impact of their work on the world.
Employers need to demonstrate their values, and position Gen Z staff to be impactful through their career. This includes ongoing training needs — leveling them up to be the best.
Implications for businesses
Businesses will not win if they try to control this generation — but they can help them gain control.
Lean into the individualism. Companies need to think beyond a one-size-ﬁts-all approach to managing people. For example, it’s not just work from home or work in-ofﬁce — dig deeper to understand why some segments within Gen Z thrived remotely while others didn’t.
The pandemic should be a lesson learned that we need to tailor corporate response and plans with an understanding of microsegment needs. Understanding the differences within Gen Z is just as important — if not more so — than looking at generational differences for a company’s future.