Why you should quit b*tching and actually listen to Gen Z.

“Who do they think they are?” 

“When we were younger, we had to work all hours for barely any pay – they should have to do the same.”

“Typical entitled Gen Z – always expecting too much.”

We’ve been listening to this sh*t for years, ever since Gen Z first entered the workforce. And, while the oldest of them are now 27 years old, the youngest are only 12 – which means we could be hearing it for a while yet… 

But you know what? We think y’all should quit b*tching and actually listen to Gen Z. Firstly, because – as they grow up and more Baby Boomers retire – Gen Z is set to make up a third of the workforce within the next few years, which means employers will have to start taking their wants and needs into consideration sooner or later. 

But also because in our experience – and this is speaking as a team of majority millennials – Gen Z are a pretty wiley bunch with some extremely sensible thoughts about work we could all afford to learn from. So, why not open your mind to some new ideas that could improve employee wellbeing, strengthen company culture, and increase productivity?

Gen Z idea: Acting your wage.

Less passive-aggressive than ‘quiet quitting, ‘acting your wage’ simply means doing what you’re paid to do. According to YouGov data, 67% of Gen Z agree “employees should only do the work they are paid for – no more, no less”, compared to 51% of millennials and Generation X. Revolutionary, right? 

But for workaholic millennials who entered the job market in the aftermath of the Great Recession and now live in “obsequious gratitude that we’ve been hired, and perpetual fear that we’ll be fired, even 15 years later”, as Helen Coffey writes for The Independent, this genuinely seems like a rebellious act. So when those same millennials (and the odd Great Recession-hardened Gen Xer) find themselves managing Gen Zers, they label them ‘unwieldy’ or even ‘entitled’ for simply knowing their worth.

Why you should listen.

Just imagine, for a moment, that you don’t have to ‘pay forward’ the sh*tty initiation into the world of work you may well have experienced. That, just because you were treated unfairly and worked to the bone in exchange for peanuts, you needn’t subject other people to the same abysmal treatment. And that any desire on your part to do so is probably the mean little devil on your shoulder wanting some sort of twisted payback for your younger self (spoiler alert: it won’t make you a happier person, now or then).

Now, imagine how great it would be if all employers clearly defined job roles, offered competitive compensation, encouraged work-life balance, recognised and rewarded efforts, and provided legitimate growth opportunities – a.k.a. all the IRL asks of ‘acting your wage’. Because, contrary to what your work-trauma-induced gut reaction makes you feel, this Gen Z-approved work ethos isn’t about being lazy or entitled. It’s about acknowledging the importance of self-care, setting boundaries, and preserving energy for long-term productivity and wellbeing. And you can’t argue with that, can you?

Gen Z idea: Money isn’t everything.

Don’t get us wrong: salary is still the most important factor for Gen Z when deciding on a job (we are in a cozzie livs crisis, ya know). They just value it less than other generations – Deloitte found they’d be evenly split between choosing a better-paying but boring job, versus work that’s more interesting but doesn’t pay as well.

This is partly down to Gen Z’s pull towards social activism – 77% say it’s important to work for organisations whose values align with their own. As well as the quality of your products and services, you’d better believe Gen Z are judging your biz hard on your ethics, practices and social impact. As the most likely generation to identify as non-binary or third-gender, inclusion and diversity in particular are front of mind when they’re choosing where they want to work.

Why you should listen.

“Oh, those bastards. Thinking businesses should act responsibly and treat all people like humans,” said no one you’d want to be associated with, ever. But seriously: how can you argue with people who think work shouldn’t break your very soul and want to make the world a better place? We believe you should be the change you want to see, and we think we’d all be better off taking a leaf out of Gen Z’s book on this one.

There are loads of ways you can be better as a business – and stand a better chance of attracting incredible Gen Z talent in the process. From supporting trans and non-binary talent, to making your business disability inclusive, to adopting female-inspired policies, to supporting LGBTQ+ employees at work, to thinking about your language when recruiting. We’re constantly banging on about how a strong ED&I strategy can make recruiting easier – from strengthening your employer brand to increasing employee retention – and it seems Gen Z are right there with us. Just don’t be taking them for fools – they’ll spot lip service a mile off. So remember: actions speak louder than words.

Gen Z idea: Careers should be personalised.

No doubt about it: work is changing. With the rise of AI and digital technology, the growth of freelancing and the gig economy, along with the seismic shift in remote and hybrid working, our workscape is unrecognisable from only a few years ago. Not only that: as Deloitte reports, the future of work draws on skill sets merging various fields – including digital tools and technology skills, comfort with analytics and data, business and management skills, and design and creative skills.

Upwork found Gen Z are far more open to this new way of working – “in the types of professionals they want to work with, their approach to flexibility, and even their thinking about skills.” As true digital natives they know – maybe better than anyone – that, as Dell predicts, 85% of jobs in 2030 haven't been invented yet. And with many planning for 50- to 60-year careers, it’s no surprise they’re normalising opportunities outside of the traditional 9-to-5 and designing unique, personalised careers that work for them.

Why you should listen.

Unless you’re planning never to hire Gen Z employees (in which case, you may as well say ta-ta to any future for your business right now), you’re going to have to accommodate the way they want to work to attract and retain top talent. Above all, that means being more flexible – something 50% of Gen Z look for in an employer, according to Ernst & Young.

We’re talking about more than just flexibility in the hours and where your team works (although check out our tips for balancing business and employee needs on that front). It also means tailoring opportunities around the multi-hyphenate skillsets of Gen Z workers, rather than trying to force them into traditional, cookie-cutter roles. Here at Lightning, we’re all about hiring for top-notch attitude over skills (which can be taught) and experience (which can be gained). Decide on your true non-negotiables and hire talented people you can build personalised roles for – then be prepared to offer bespoke, on-the-job training and development to keep them engaged and loyal.


Here at Lightning, we’re more than a recruiter – we consult with ideas and insights that grow your talent pool, build your employer brand, and push your business forwards. Want to find out how we can help you hire (and retain) top talent? Get in touch.

Meanwhile, you can enjoy our CEO, Thea Bardot (they/she), talking at the Independent Hotel Show and sharing their top Hospitality Hiring Tips in the video below:

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Thea Bardot

5th February

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