Giving Zillennials What They Want. Incentivising The Generation Of The Future.

The arguments regarding motivation and incentives are as broad as they are deep, and have long been sacrosanct and rarely challenged. However, as new generations enter into the workplace and older ones look to leave it, new thinking is emerging.

When it comes to millennials (those born between 1980 and 1994) and zillennials (those born between 1995 and 2015), we must be careful not to bracket them into the same space. There exist persistent myths that both groups are less interested in monetary compensation and more interested in other forms of incentives. Yet this is only partly true, and remains wholly dependent on the economic demographic of the individual. 

Zillennials Are Not An Extension Of Millennials

Expert on this topic is The Center for Generational Kinetics. In their research study on Generation Z in the USA entitled State of Gen Z 2017, they detail how this new generation thinks about money, savings, debt, spending, and retirement. What appears to be true for Generation Z around the world is that they are ‘shaping up to be a true throwback generation – which thinks and acts more like boomers than millennials,  despite being closer in age to them than boomers. 

How so? The State of Gen Z 2017 points out that zillennials are ‘already working, saving money, and determined not to end up like Millennials. 77% of millennials currently earn their own spending money through freelance work, a part time job, or earned allowance’, it revealed. This contrasts with what the American Psychological Association thought back in 2009 showing that millennials are very money-focused, with a “63% increase in the number of young people who rated money as ‘extremely important’”. Only 16% of baby boomers agreed, versus 26% of zillennials.

So, what does this mean to the future of work, in real estate and construction and further afield? As the zillennials are poised to become a defining generation in the workplace, how are they motivated in the workplaces, and in which ways will our incentive programmes need to adapt?

What organisations in real estate must do – along with all other industries – is focus on their branding as an employer. Zillennials may not be working en masse in 2019, but they are paying attention now. “Before Gen Z enters the workforce in mass, employers need to define and communicate who they are, their purpose and what makes them unique” especially across social media channels, noted Monster in 2016. 

Zillennials show a greater propensity to move jobs if their workplace and career development expectations are not met, thus thinking beyond just the salary. In fact, in a study by Monster, the number one thing that zillennials mention as central to making them stay long term with an employer was “an empowering work culture”, mentioned by 29% of respondents. 

In other words, for attracting and keeping zillennials, money alone isn’t enough. Employers wanting to recruit the very best of these talents for the future need to think beyond the pay cheque. There are three issues here that warrant special attention: Wellness, flexibility, and family.

Wellness. Flexibility. Family. 

With regard to the first, it is important to note how big a role fitness and wellness play in the lives and values of both zillennials and millennials. A Yahoo Health Study from 2015 highlighted that wellness is the second-strongest value these generations hold, and that a staggering 90% of millennials think staying healthy will help them succeed. To attract this group, companies need to consider how wellness can be incorporated into incentive regimes. Examples might be free exercise classes or gym passes, time out to exercise during the workday, or wellness rooms to practice mindfulness and yoga in the workplace. Consider what this means to the design and development of contemporary offices, and how work health initiatives can be deployed as employment perks.

Whilst zillennials might value money highly, they also value flexibility. In a meta-analysis carried out by the online newspaper Quartz, zillennials are shown to value career advancement, but not necessarily of the classical type. They value empowering work cultures and work-life balance, and also value experiences more highly than consuming material goods. Forward-looking companies looking to attract the best and the brightest may thus need to plan their incentives to live up to this – the chance to take time off for new experiences and the possibility to test out new kinds of roles will clearly figure among expected incentive structures of the future. 

Finally, it is clear that the possibility to have and spend time with a family is rated very highly indeed by the new generations. Millennials value family over even wellness, and work-life balance rates incredibly highly for zillennials as well. As the latter ages and starts having children, the trends clearly show that this will be a very central concern for them. Companies will thus need to create incentive structures that mirror this, with family-friendly policies going from a nice-to-have to a must-have. Parental leave and support when it comes to child care are both valued very highly, as is the possibility for remote work and flexible working hours.

All in all, money still matters and will continue to do so. Still, as we look into the demographic shift that is already occurring with the zillennials, other aspects will become increasingly important for attracting high potentials and top performers alike.