“Gen Z and the Gig Economy: It’s Time to Gig in or Get Out” is the second in a series of reports from The Workforce Institute and Future Workplace surveying 3,400 members of the newest generation across Australia, Belgium, Canada, China, France, Germany, India, Mexico, the Netherlands, New Zealand, the U.K., and the U.S. Part two expands on surprising contradictions uncovered in part one, “Meet Gen Z: Hopeful, Anxious, Hardworking, and Searching for Inspiration,” by examining this generation’s perceptions of the gig economy – the good and the bad – to reveal how traditional employers can best compete for Gen Z talent.
- Fact or fiction? Gen Z will endanger the gig economy’s future
- At first, this seems to be fiction: When asked if they would pass up a traditional job for full-time gig work, 53% said yes, identifying flexible work schedules (55%) and greater independence (i.e. being their own boss; 53%) as the most appealing aspects of the gig economy.
- However, it ultimately appears to be fact: Less than half (46%) of Gen Z respondents are active contributors to the gig economy today. Only 10% are exclusively gig workers and 18% do part-time gig work, while the remaining supplement their traditional full-time job with gig work (18%).
- Gig in or get out: When asked what they want in a career, Gen Z desires align with the benefits that only traditional work guarantees. Gen Zers would hesitate to go all-in with the gig economy because of unwillingness to give up the stability (47%), predictable pay (46%), workplace structure (26%), health benefits (26%), predictable schedules (22%), mentorship opportunities (17%), and manager support (16%) that a traditional job may offer.
- Gen Z’s desire for stability and how they measure success may threaten gig’s future
- Job stability is “very important” for nearly half of Gen Zers (46%), with nearly all (91%) saying it’s at least moderately important. That said, 27% expect to move on from their first full-time job within two years.
- Gen Zers primarily measure career success by how much money they make (44%) and how quickly they advance (35%), with 1 in 3 (35%) expecting a promotion in six months or less.
- Nearly 2 in 5 (39%) want managers to give them opportunities to work independently – but 1 in 5 (20%) crave guidance and they expect employers to provide a clear and defined path to promotion beginning on day-one.
- The grass is always greener: Nearly half (47%) of those who do gig work today want a traditional job, posing an opportunity for employers – especially those challenged to fill the skills gap – to poach or share gig talent. Success will be determined by managers and their ability to meet this generation’s expectations for full-time work with demands for gig-like independence (39%) and schedule flexibility (28%).
- Adopt flexibility to motivate: 1 in 3 (33%) Gen Zers would never tolerate an employer that gave them zero say over their work schedule.
- Gen Z respondents in Canada (33%), the U.K., and the U.S. (both 31%) say flexibility to work when, where, and how they want is motivation to deliver their “best work.” Similarly, 1 in 4 (26%) Gen Zers worldwide would work harder and stay longer at a company that supports flexible schedules.
- Gen Zers feel deeply that their time is valuable: 1 in 3 would never tolerate being forced to work when they do not want to (35%), being told they could not use vacation days when they want to (34%), or being made to work back-to-back shifts (30%). Gen Zers in China are most adamant, with 50% saying they would never tolerate being forced to work when they don’t want to.
- Gen Zers count on employers to help them achieve work-life balance: Flexible hours (37%), paid vacation time (34%), paid sick time (32%), and paid mental-health days (31%) are top benefits they say would do the trick.
Joyce Maroney, executive director, The Workforce Institute at Kronos
“Gig work is a natural fit for Gen Zers who want to find success quickly and on their own terms – especially early in their careers and while at school. This generation craves the inherent independence and fast pace of the gig economy, although gig work may not offer much in the way of job stability or guarantee the consistent paycheck they desire. Like Millennials before them, Gen Zers are not looking to stick with their first full-time employer long term – yet pay, flexible and creative scheduling, and strong managers who help define their career path might retain younger workers from jumping ship to gig work for freedom and disposable income.”
Dan Schawbel, best-selling author and research director, Future Workplace
“Although our research shows Gen Z is excited for the independence of gig work, many feel unprepared to build their newfound careers for the long haul. When it comes to preparing themselves for the self-motivated nature of gig work, around 1 in 4 lack confidence that they could successfully network, negotiate, or even work long hours. These potential shortcomings can be curbed, of course, by a manager who’s invested in developing their team, or an employer who’s invested in creating an engaging workplace environment. But if the question is ‘Gig in or get out?,’ for Gen Z, it might be best to get out.”