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Gen Z update: What's important to China’s 18–25-year-olds in the workplace

Gen Z update: What's important to China’s 18–25-year-olds in the workplace


Similar to other generations, Gen Z employees are most likely to learn more skills or improve relationships with colleagues and superiors to stay on a job that they do not like.

When 16,914 respondents were asked: "What do people born in 1995 look like to you?", among the 12,050 valid answers, overall text analysis shows that Gen Z respondents were positive in their self-assessment, describing themselves as confident, dynamic, diligent, courageous, and hard-working. Meanwhile, other generations had more negative views on Gen Z, perceiving them as lazy, aggressive and selfish.

These were some of the interesting findings from the new report by Cheung Kong Graduate School of Business (CKGSB), titled Understanding China's Gen Z in the Workplace: Strategies for Effective Cross-Generational Management, based on a survey conducted by CKGSB Professor Zhang Xiaomeng on Gen Z's career priorities, goals, and job satisfaction.

With Gen Z set to become the largest demographic group in China's workforce in the coming years, it is increasingly crucial to understand their preferences, motivators, and goals in the workplace. As such, here are four important takeaways for HR leaders to know about China's Gen Z talent:

#1: What are the most important things to Gen Z in life?

For Gen Z, as with other generations, maintaining physical and psychological health is their top priority. Gen Z (aged 18–25 years old) selected health, wealth, enriching experiences, self-improvement,  and happiness as the five most important things in life. A closer examination reveals that Gen Z’s priorities were more varied than those in their late 20s. 

It is worth noting that among Gen Z respondents, intimate interpersonal relationships are much more valued than older generations. Making contributions to society becomes more important for older respondents. More than a quarter (27.7%) of Gen Z and 42.42% of people aged 41 and above would commit to making society better. This shows that they are still exploring life and are still deciding on what matters in life, compared with people in other age groups.

Overall, different age groups have distinct priorities and values. Those aged 31-40 prioritise self-improvement and achieving more in their career, at 63.71%. For those aged 41 and above, 60.81% chose doing what they love and being good at it as important. This age group also saw the lowest percentages of people prioritising wealth accumulation (60.85%) and happiness from material and spiritual life (49.13%), compared to other generations.

#2: Gen Z’s short-term goals and mid-term goals are very different

Gen Z’s top short-term priorities in the next three years are physical and psychological health as well as self-improvement through learning and further education, with nearly 50% of respondents selecting both as important goals. Over the mid-term (in 5-10 years), Gen Z’s priorities shift towards increasing income, with almost half of the respondents stating it as their goal. Health remains a high priority in the mid-term.

Individuals aged 26–30 prioritise physical and psychological health and wealth accumulation in the short-to-mid-term, but family responsibilities become more important in the mid-term. Those aged 31–40 prioritise physical and psychological health, wealth accumulation, and self-improvement in the short-to-mid-term, with family becoming increasingly important in the mid-to-long-term. 

#3: Gen Z is more willing to work for private companies than older generations

Gen Z is more willing to work for private companies than older generations and is less interested in working for state-owned enterprises. This preference for private enterprises can be attributed to their dynamic environment, career opportunities, as well as their potential for higher income. State-owned enterprises, while often known for their stability, tend to offer lower starting salaries, a slower career path, and limited career possibilities.

In the survey, 69.2% of the respondents are from private enterprises, 17.16% from state-owned enterprises, 6.86% from foreign companies, 2.24% from non-profit organisations and 4.45% from other types of enterprises. Most Gen Z respondents in the sample work in IT/communications/electronics/internet sectors, the services sector/ trade/wholesale/ retail / leasing sectors, culture/media, entertainment, sports sectors, and the finance sector.

#4: How long are Gen Z's planning to stick with their employers?

The findings indicate that Gen Z tends to prioritise jobs with a high salary, good career prospects, and a positive working environment. As respondents reach their thirties, their focus shifts from salary and prospects towards job stability.

The good news is that resigning is not the go-to option for Gen Z when things are not going well in the workplace. Gen Z would spend on average one-three years in each job, while older generations would work for an average of three-five years on their jobs before looking for other opportunities.

However, resigning is not the first option for Gen Z when faced with job dissatisfaction. Gen Z prefer to “change their mentality and continue to work hard” (32.14%). This is followed by “actively look for something better” (28.34%), “apply for an internal transfer” (15.65%) and “resign and gradually look for a more satisfying job” (9.02%).

Lead image / CKGSB 

ALSO READ: Over half of Gen Z in Asia are struggling mentally

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