Global HR

Why Gen Z Workers Are Leading the UK’s ‘Great Reshuffle’ 

February 28, 2022
November 7, 2023
Andy Przystanski
Lattice Team

What’s behind the Great Reshuffle? For sure, flexibility and burnout might be contributing to today’s global spike in employee turnover — but that’s not the whole story. The leading cause of the trend may be less about what and more about who.

In Rethinking Work: Attracting and Retaining Talent in an Employee-Led Market, Lattice surveyed over 200 HR leaders and 2,000 employees to better understand turnover in the UK. Our survey found a clear generational divide in employee attitudes toward the Great Reshuffle. We’ll break down some of the biggest surprises from our research and how HR teams can retain their top performers.

Turnover’s Generational Divide

The workforce isn’t a monolith. Employee morale and career motivations can vary by job tenure, family status, or any number of demographics. That’s what makes engagement surveying and reporting so important at any organisation.

In our survey, Gen Z and millennial respondents were by far the most likely to have considered leaving their jobs during the pandemic. As visualised below, nearly half of all respondents in these age groups gave quitting serious consideration over the last 12 months. Our youngest respondents (between ages 18-24) were even more likely to do so. For this study, “Gen Z” consists of those born between 1997 and 2021, whereas millennials were born between 1981 and 1996.

It’s one thing to consider leaving — it’s another to turn that consideration into action. Again, it was here that young workers led all categories: 37% of Gen Z survey respondents said they had quit their jobs during the pandemic. Millennials were similarly inspired, with 29% changing jobs. Conversely, just 15% of workers between the ages of 45 and 54 ended up doing so. When we shared these results with a sampling of HR leaders, they immediately resonated.

“These survey findings definitely align with what we are seeing in the market and hearing from our team”, said Stefani Ribaudo, Chief People Officer at The Lifetime Value Company. Over the last two years, Ribaudo’s team instituted several new perks and benefits, including a student loan repayment program. While offerings like these are impactful, she’ll readily admit that it’s not just about benefits.

“Gen Z just thinks differently about company loyalty than previous generations. They are also seeking personal fulfilment in their work, including a company culture that aligns with their values,” she said. 

“Gen Z workers are central to a cultural shift that we’re seeing play out.”

Understanding the Causes

Personal fulfilment and meaning certainly matter, but there are additional factors behind the Great Reshuffle as well. “Feeling underappreciated” topped most respondents’ list of reasons for potentially leaving, particularly among younger workers. Nearly 70% of Gen Z employees said they wouldn’t stay at a company where they felt overworked and underpaid. And almost a quarter (23%) of young workers said they’d leave their job without a backup in place.

Factors like compensation and recognition certainly have sway, as we found elsewhere in our research. But many of the HR leaders we spoke to believe there’s something bigger at play — and Gen Z workers, earlier in their careers and with fewer commitments, might be especially apt to take advantage.

“Gen Z workers are central to a cultural shift that we’re seeing play out”, said Tina Hawk, SVP of Human Resources at GoodHire. “They, and to a lesser extent millennials, have been able to recognise the vast opportunities presented by the virtual office, and solidification of remote work in many sectors”, Hawk said. With geography becoming less relevant than it ever has and most industries hiring, long-term unemployment isn't as much of a risk. This dynamic, coupled with the reality that younger workers usually have less to lose so early in their careers, has made changing jobs even easier.

Crafting HR’s Response

No matter the age group, there is no catch-all solution to employee turnover. Career growth opportunities, engagement, work-life balance, compensation, and other factors all contribute to today’s workplace “rethink” — but in different ways at different organisations. The secret to keeping your talent happy isn’t about investing time and resources in all of these areas equally. It takes a thoughtful, tailored approach to understand what your employees need.

“Offering perks for the sake of having perks is no longer advantageous for companies to do. We look at our benefits and perks through the lens of our employees — what would fundamentally make them happier, healthier, and better off?” Ribaudo said. Her company’s HR team relies heavily on engagement and eNPS surveys to better understand employee sentiment and whether their needs are being met.

“We recognise that our greatest asset is our people, and supporting them throughout this unprecedented time is one of our most important jobs,” she said. To her, the Great Reshuffle isn’t as much a warning for employers as it is a validating reminder: The first step to building an engaged (and age-diverse) workplace starts with listening.

Get your engagement survey programme off the ground by reading Lattice’s Complete Guide to UK Employee Engagement