In February, Diane received an email from her employer with an update: all employees must return to the office in two weeks.
The call center representative had become accustomed to working remotely since the COVID-19 pandemic caused mass shutdowns in March 2020. She had developed a solid daily routine and did not want it to be disrupted.
“I contacted them and asked if I could at least work remotely a few days a week,” said Diane, who preferred to omit her last name for privacy reasons. “They said no. And that was really upsetting.”
Diane, 31, lives about 40 km from her employer in Charlotte, North Carolina. Returning to on-site work requires waking up earlier, dealing with bumper-to-bumper traffic, spending more money on gas, and potentially missing her evening FaceTime chats with her niece. .
She agreed to her employer’s demands but remains unhappy. For weeks, Diane has been looking for a new job.
“I’m fed up,” she said. “I don’t like this whole process, looking for a new job, but I have to do what’s best for me.”
According to a recent Microsoft report, Diane is among many young workers considering a job change soon for a myriad of reasons, including a perceived lack of flexibility in hours.
Microsoft’s 2022 Labor Trends Index presented the results of a study of 31,000 workers in 31 countries. It also included an analysis of trillions of productivity signals in Microsoft 365, a subscription service, and workforce trends on LinkedIn.
According to the report, around 52% of millennials and Gen Z workers would likely consider changing companies this year. Conversely, 35% of Gen Xers and Baby Boomers said they were considering changing jobs.
“Whenever a new generation enters the workforce, they are often seen as a disruptor,” said Renate Norman, general manager of global college recruiting at Microsoft. “We’ve seen this happen with Millennials and even Gen X.”
What do young workers want?
Microsoft’s survey indicates that young employees value flexibility, mobility and entrepreneurial freedom.
For example, Gen Z’s likelihood of engaging with a company that posts on LinkedIn if it mentions “flexibility” is significantly higher (77%) than both Gen Y’s (30%) and others’ likelihood. on the platform, the report says.
Young workers see remote working as a key pillar of flexibility. More than half of Gen Z hybrid employees said they moved to a new geographic location because they could work remotely, compared to 38% of all employees who do.
“Gen Z’s approach to work isn’t just down to their age — many of them started their careers without the traditional 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., everyday experience in the office,” Norman said. “Flexibility is the norm for them, and data from our annual Labor Trends Index 2022 study shows they believe it: they are the generation most likely to consider changing jobs, leaving remote/hybrid or moving to a new location.”
Additionally, 70% of Gen Z and 67% of Gen Y plan to earn additional income through a side project or business in the next year. The report notes that these ancillary jobs are causing employers to struggle to attract and retain top talent as well as engage with employees who “increasingly define and design their careers around creative pursuits.”
But Norman views these side projects positively, as such interests allow young workers to hone their craft.
“We think a lot of these younger employees see side projects or ventures as a way to tap into their creativity and personal interests,” he said. “For example, a marketer at Microsoft might create a travel Instagram account as an additional outlet for their passion for storytelling.”
Invest in young employees
Yuvay Meyers Ferguson, assistant dean of impact and engagement and associate professor at Howard University School of Business, believes companies should focus on two areas to retain young talent: compensation and culture. .
“The compensation is simple: more income, more benefits, more benefits,” she explained. “The culture is more nuanced. An inclusive, positive and flexible environment tends to be more aligned with this generation’s set of values.”
Inclusivity is a key issue for young workers. Microsoft’s report showed that ‘pandemic hires’, 70% of whom were Gen Z or Millennials, are less likely to feel included, are more likely to have weaker relationships with their direct teams and are more at risk of attrition.
Additional research by the Society for Human Resource Management from October 2021 indicated that millennials and Gen Z workers are more likely than baby boomers to feel lonely or isolated in the workplace .
“All of this shows how important intentional support is,” Norman said.
Having effective onboarding programs in place to acclimate new employees to a company and its culture is critical to employee experience and retention, Norman explained. And the manager’s role is crucial in helping new hires feel included, seen and heard. A good manager can create the conditions and experiences that bring out the best in employees.
“At Microsoft, we have implemented a management framework called ‘Model, Coach, Care’ – a framework that has been incredibly valuable before and throughout the pandemic, to help our managers build stronger team relationships and increase employee well-being,” said Norman. . “Investing in our employees is a trend that is here to stay.”