Perhaps no generation is more outspoken than Gen Z when it comes to brand values and social issues. And as Gen Z makes up more and more of the workforce – which is projected to be over a quarter (27%) by 2025 – the new generation is changing the way we do work.
While older generations were won over with cushy perks and benefits like a snack bar or ping pong tables, Gen Z isn’t so easy to nab down. To stand out to Gen Z applicants, companies must have authentic brand values that align with Gen Z.
The importance of brand values for attraction and retention
Once upon a time, the majority of workers believed that social and political issues should stay out of the workplace. But since events like the killing of George Floyd and the Black Lives Matter movement, employers have had to face tough conversations with employees and decide what their brand values and stands for.
“[Values] determine how you treat people, what you are and are not willing to tolerate and what you stand for,” says Jenny Sagström, founder and CEO of Sköna. “Essentially, the values that are wrapped up in your brand are the things that will differentiate you from your competitors beyond price tags.”
Brand values aren’t just a “nice to have” addition to your company. They can have many benefits, such as:
Helping to attract best-fit candidates. Clearly articulating and showcasing your brand values can help attract candidates that align with them, making it more likely that new hires will be a good culture fit.
Keeping the company vision in focus. Even as companies evolve and change, brand values can help ensure that the company’s vision and guiding principles are never lost. “Brand values are going to act as the north star that allows you to make the right decisions for you, your employees, and your customers,” Sagström says.
Improving company culture. Clearly-defined values can impact and ultimately improve company culture. “[Values are] about the purpose you seek outside of bottom lines and profits, [and] it’s doing things in a way that may not always maximize profits, but does create a great environment for great people to do great work,” according to Sagström.
How brand values – or the lack thereof – affect Gen Z
It’s no secret that Gen Z is more open about discussing and advocating for social issues that matter to them, and that doesn’t stop in the workplace. According to Porter Novelli, 64% of Gen Z reported being more likely to work for a company that is addressing social issues.
“Simply put, Gen Z is not interested in fluffy perks, they’re not impressed with authority, and they have high expectations for bespoke experiences – including at work,” says Sagström. “Their young adulthood has been shaped by recession, the pandemic, an ongoing war [and] climate change. […] As such, they’re much more concerned with social and environmental issues than older generations.”
However, brand values that are ingenuine or don’t align with the realities of the culture can turn Gen Z into quick quitters. “They are far more willing to jump ship if they find that a work environment does not, in fact, work for them,” says Sagström. “So [brand values] play a major role in enticing the next generation of changemakers to bring your company into the future.”