Reports about the so-called Great Resignation may suggest Millennials and Gen Z workers are ready to walk on a moment’s notice, but new reports suggest far deeper issues are in play – and that many suffer ‘shift shock’ when new jobs aren’t giving them what they want.

Job impermanence is reportedly soaring among Gen Z workers, who scored higher than older workers on every measure of job dissatisfaction in HR giant ADP’s global People at Work 2022 report.

Although 90 per cent of workers said they feel satisfied in their current jobs, 71 per cent have contemplated a major career move this year, with Gen Z workers particularly clear on what issues would cause them to pull the trigger.

Fully 82 per cent of 18 to 24-year-olds – well above the 76 per cent average – said they would consider looking for another job if their company had an unfair gender pay gap, while 83 per cent would do the same if their company lacked a diversity and inclusion policy.

Some 71 per cent of Gen Z workers would consider looking for a new job if they were ordered back to the office full-time, well above the 64 per cent average across all workers.

And with 60 per cent of Gen Z workers reporting that their work is suffering because of poor mental health – and a similar proportion saying they were dissatisfied by being given more responsibility for the same pay – well-being must be a critical focus for employers.

With 76 per cent of workers prepared to ask for a raise – and only 17 per cent of Gen Z workers saying that career progression is important to them – even outwardly content young workers seem emotionally ready to look elsewhere if jobs don’t meet their expectations.

“There’s a sense that they’re questioning what job security means post COVID-19,” the report notes, warning that with just 25 per cent of respondents believing their jobs are secure “meeting pay demands may not be enough to stop an exodus of talent… into industries believed to be more resilient to economic shocks and downturns.”

Empty threats?

Yet with so many reports suggesting that Gen Z workers will walk for ideological or moral reasons, such departures may not be as common as the numbers suggest.

One recent study of more than 2,000 workers, for example, found that the real reasons workers leave are less idealistic than practical – including toxic company culture, low salary, poor management, lack of healthy work-life boundaries, or policies banning remote work.

Careful screening during recruitment may also be helping minimise turnover: “It’s such a short market right now for candidates, and wages are moving,” Andrew Brushfield, director of recruitment giant Robert Half, told Information Age.

“Candidates are getting multiple job opportunities, and employers are more willing to be a bit more generous, because it’s such a competitive landscape and they have to get people on board.”

Reports of ‘shift shock’, Brushfield said, may be more common amongst candidates who take “an almost ‘impulse buy’ type of attitude towards your job search.”

“There are certainly occasions where roles end up being marginally different to what they were told in the interview process,” he said, “but we don’t have many instances where they don’t pass their probation or they fall out” by failing to show up at work or to honour their contracts.

So, what does Gen Z really want?

Kyla Guru, a 19-year-old Stanford University computer science student and public speaker on cyber security staffing issues, believes young people are so quick to rage against the proverbial machine because public conversations often dismiss them out of hand.

“This generation is all about young people impacting and affecting other young people, and inspiring them to make a change in their lives,” Guru explained during a recent webinar in which she called out the “echo effect” that is feeding concerns across areas like climate change, women’s rights, reproductive rights, and cyber security.

Young people are aware of changing global dynamics and want to be included in conversations about these issues, Guru said, adding that “it’s a huge issue that the whole industry is talking about the future of cyber security, but the future isn’t in the room to represent themselves, or to learn about the issue.”

In this context, Gen Z respondents’ higher-than-average survey results could mostly reflect their frustration with being left out of conversations that affect them.

“Employers need to take stock of this heightened sense of anxiety and understand that while certain stressors might not originate in the workplace, they can certainly impact the attitudes and actions when people are on the job,” said Danny Lessem, CEO and co-founder of HR firm Elmo Software – which recently conducted a survey that found 71 per cent of Gen Z respondents and 52 per cent of Millennials would not work for a business that did not take action to address climate change.

“Gen Z and Millennials will soon make up the vast majority of the workforce so it’s important to listen to their message.”

Gen Z workers, Guru said, “have everything in them – the courage, the bravery, the determination, and the willingness to make a sacrifice, that they need to make an inspiring difference in the future.”

“Gen Z is all about talking about that, flipping the table, representing and organising around that. It’s about stopping asking young people what they want to be when they grow up, and about empowering them and inspiring them to think about what they want to be doing right now.”