Hiring trends have been changing in the past few years. The pandemic and great resignation, admin liberation, and career reevaluation are some of the factors, said Engy Mahmoud, HR operations and digital transformation senior lead of Vodafone Egypt. However, these trends may shift because managers have begun hiring the next generation of employees.
Generation Z, born between 1997 and 2012, have been trickling into the job market when economic conditions have been less than favorable, and they have specific expectations for what they want from employers. Gen Z members base their demands on the effects of the pandemic and lessons learned from Millenials (born from 1981-1996) and Generation X (1965-1980), as several writers and researchers note. “Having observed older workers experience burnout, time poverty and economic insecurity at the grindstone, they’re demanding more from workplaces,” wrote the BBC’s Ali Francis. Gen Zers ask for better pay, more paid time off and the ability to work remotely and they expect to see employers demonstrate social responsibility.
While they’ve been called “lazy, entitled or self-obsessed,” according to Katie Bishop of the BBC, Francis said they “are willing to work hard for the right employer.” For example, 58% of Gen Zers said they are willing to work nights and weekends for higher pay, according to research out of Concordia University in Minnesota. Gen Z members “want it all,” wrote Francis, and they don’t feel the need to compromise.
Meet Gen Z
One of the main priorities for Gen Z is more money, according to a 2022 survey by U.S. job site CareerBuilder that found that about 62% of Gen Zers seek a high salary. That also rings true for Egyptian Gen Zers. Samer Basta, an Egyptian-American currently working as a software developer for Gensler, a space planning software company, says he moved to the United States for a better salary. He describes compensation in Egypt as “incomparable” to the U.S. Basta thinks he can save three times more than he could living with his family in Egypt.
Work-life balance is important to Gen Zers, though they don’t feel like they can give up one priority for another. “I can’t choose between salary and work-life balance,” says Amina Magdy, a social media manager. “Having a good salary is important to be able to have that work-life balance.” Basta agrees, adding that compromises are only possible to a slight degree. For example, if he had to pick between job A with a decent work-life balance and a fantastic salary and job B with a better work-life balance but a significantly worse salary, he’d choose job A.
Gen Zers looking for work-life balance received a boost from the rise of remote work due to the pandemic. Mayar Rahmy, a marketing specialist for Saudi-based company Arabian Expo, works remotely from Cairo. She says that work-life balance and remote work are essential to her at this point in her career to develop her skills and “have the freedom to explore and understand [her] strengths and weaknesses.” Rahmy disputes that remote work involves slacking or laziness, saying “it helps [her] work more efficiently.” As a marketeer, she says, choosing her surroundings is an advantage: “If I feel a task requires creativity, I might go work outdoors. If it’s a task where I need to focus, I might choose to stay at home.”
Rahmy also considers compensation and work-life balance. If she were living in Saudi Arabia, her income would be considered low; by Egyptian standards, it’s good. The salaries Rahmy saw when interviewing for jobs in Egypt were never enough. There were no guarantees of bonuses, adding it was inevitable she would have to work additional hours for no pay. “I’ve never been offered a salary that made me feel, ‘You know what? All this is worth it,'” Rahmy says.
The demand for higher salaries is based, at least partly, on inflation and rising prices as much as potential job loss due to global economic instability. Magdy says it is essential “to even be able to live properly.” That is true internationally; 46% of Gen Z respondents to a 2021 Deloitte survey felt stressed about their financial circumstances. While older generations also faced financial stressors early in their careers, they are even worse for today’s generation, argued Kim Hollingdale, a visiting assistant professor of psychology at California’s Pepperdine University. “The cost of living keeps going up faster than our salaries,” she said.
For a good cause
Generation Z also seems to be driven by personal values and social movements. “Say what you will about the way many ‘Zoomers’ choose to express their politics online, they are willing to back it up in their choices when it comes to the job market,” wrote Ashley Stahl of Forbes magazine.
For Basta, that is what sold him on the offer from his current company instead of JPMorgan’s higher-paying job. He says the company had projects in the pipeline that would “have a [positive] impact on the community” and that if the projects were scrapped, it would “for sure” affect his long-term decision to stay with the company. “I think then I would do the thing people typically do, where I would stay to get a year or two of experience then look for a better opportunity,” he says.
His stance is part of a larger trend shaping the tech field, according to Emma Goldberg of the New York Times. The world has “soured” on big tech companies and the perception they “are crumbling.” “For job seekers who can afford to be choosy, there is a growing sentiment that the most lucrative positions aren’t worth the ethical quandaries,” she wrote.
The workplace environment also is a driver, as Gen Zers prioritize diversity and inclusion policies. For example, Magdy feels that for her, “it’s very important that girls in the office get empowered and get promoted.” For Gen Zers, Stahl says, it is essential “their workplaces reflect not only their values, but also the diversity amongst their peers.”
While environmental policies seem to be important to Gen Zers, according to data out of the United States and the UK, according to Christine Ro of the BBC, in Egypt, they don’t seem much of a priority. Magdy knows she should care about such policies but says that “while it would be nice, it’s not the end of the world” if her company doesn’t have environmental policies. Likewise, Rahmy says she barely sees any effort toward environmentalism from companies in Egypt. Even with companies that claim to be sustainable, she says, “it feels like it’s just a logo.”
Burnout vs. wellbeing
For the right employer, though, Gen Zers are willing to work hard. So much so that they’re already burned out, according to Andrea Yu of the BBC. A 2021 survey by jobs website Indeed found that 58% of Gen Z workers reported feeling job burnout. Hollingdale cites the “worst collection of stressors” compared to other generations, “from a lack of power at work to financial instability, the normalization of the hustle culture and an inability to unwind.” She added that while all generations struggle, Gen Z has the least amount of “workplace capital,” the ability to turn down tasks and set boundaries.
When Magdy wakes up in the morning, the first task is to reply to emails. She doesn’t have 9-5 office hours per se, so the work day ends when the job is finished. Some days Magdy cannot turn off her laptop until about 11 p.m. On weekends, she goes out with her iPad, “just in case [she] needs to write something longer than [what a cell phone could].” She describes being in a state of constant burnout. “When the environment is consistently [demanding], you’re working 24/7, and it’s very dynamic hard work, you burn out, and then you just stay burned out,” she says.
However, burnout can also present as “pockets,” says Basta, saying his burnout comes and goes with the ebb and flow of the workload. However, having to adapt his schedule to his insomnia, a sleep disorder, was a particular stressor for him. His solution was to bring it up with his employer. “When I brought up my sleep problems, everyone was super okay with experimenting by shifting the morning meeting to an end-of-day meeting to accommodate,” he says. That went a long way in alleviating the burnout and displayed the “mutual respect and empathy” that Basta values in the workplace.
An adaptation to work also meant that Rahmy, who suffers from attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), could work better. People with ADHD “have to be stimulated all the time; I cannot work in the same spot for hours,” she says, “For me, the hybrid workstyle is perfect.”
Respect for mental health and wellbeing could mean a lot to the newest generation to enter the workforce. “If business leaders want to actively help Millennials and Gen Zs thrive at work, they need to prioritize mental health and embed a workplace culture where stigma does not exist,” said Emma Codd, the Deloitte global inclusion leader.
Employers could then see just how much Gen Z can bring to the table. For example, they are highly proficient in technology. In a survey by Business Time magazine, 66% of respondents said technology makes them feel like anything is possible, and 76% believe their online experiences will help them reach their goals. They also show very high collaborative skills and are always eager to learn new things, according to the survey.
Gen Z is not afraid of asking “tough questions” about status-quo workstyles, said Beth Kennedy, who runs a marketing agency in New York. Accordingly, “workplaces are being forced to have broader discussions and make shifts when they don’t have good answers.” Mark C. Perna of Forbes argued that changes implemented to satisfy younger workers could help every other generation. “If we meet the needs of the youngest working generation,” he wrote, “we’ll most likely satisfy the rest of the workforce, too.”