Ben Eason
23 July '20

10 minute read

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Millennials? They’re old news. At 32% of the world’s population, Gen-Z (ages 8-25) is now the largest consumer group in the world. By 2030, their spending power will be £4.4 trillion. And if your business wants to win the battle for their loyalty and talent, you need to fight smart.

That’s why, for our latest interview we welcomed Jay Richards and Cat Agostinho from Imagen for a live, interactive Q&A.

They connect agencies and brands like the NFL and Stella McCartney with their Gen-Z consultant community, shaping their marketing, products and branding through the timeless power of ‘brutally honest insights’.

You can watch the whole thing back here, and we can’t recommend doing so enough. But if you’ve only got 6 minutes to spare, we’ve used Jay and Cat’s awesome insights, and the results from a survey we sent out to Gen-Zers at Cooper Parry (including the 27 graduates joining us in September), to answer this question: what does Gen-Z really care about at work?


Hardly a newsflash, right? They’re digital natives. They can’t remember a time when they didn’t have breakneck tech at their disposal. But as a result, you’ve got high standards to live up to if you want to attract and retain them.

Your online presence is hugely important, because as Jay said, “Gen-Z is very selective about the organisations they work for, and as you’re recruiting this generation or advertising to them, they’re going to do a deep dive on your organisation itself. They’ve got the internet; they don’t need to take what you say at face value anymore. They can research it and find out if you’re talking out your backside.”

So, check yourself. How do you look to the outside world online? Is your website fast to load, bug-free and easy to navigate? Have you spent time working on a social media strategy; testing different platforms, taking risks with new content and using analytics to measure engagement and effectiveness? Have you proactively told your people to leave reviews of what it’s like to work at your business on sites like Glassdoor?

If not, Gen-Z talent will be clicking away from you and finding a business they click with, before you even know their name.


“Gen-Z is all about co-creation”, Jay said, “they love making cool things with cool people.”

How effectively your people can collaborate rests on two things. Firstly, you need to look at the tech, tools and apps you’re using and figure out if they’re the best fit for what you’re trying to achieve. 91% of Gen-Z say the technology offered by an employer would influence their job choice, making clunky, outdated platforms a big turnoff.

Secondly, and more importantly, you need to look at the mindset in your team and the digital culture. Because although tech makes collaboration possible, your people make it happen.

Throughout school, college and university, Gen-Z has got used to working with people who are as technologically adept and eager to do things digitally as they are. They’ve grown up as part of a global community with no barriers – brought together by videogames and other online platforms. So, if you want to win their loyalty, make sure they’re not taking a step backwards.


“Gen-Z don’t think 9-5, they love flexible working”, Cat said, “Millennials strive for work-life balance, but actually, Gen-Z expect that. They absolutely demand they have it. It’s not something they think they should fight for.”

Jay added, “The concept of set work hours for every single person in the organisation is archaic. Statistically, it’s proven that if you allow people the flexibility and the freedom to work in a way that’s suitable for them, they will work so much harder for you”.

Our survey responses backed the pair’s points up. Work-life balance was one of the top priorities for Gen-Zers, and since lockdown, their opinion on where they prefer to do that work has shifted too. Before, many were happy with an office environment. It was the norm, after all. But now, they expect the flexibility to work anywhere. The freedom to fit their work around their life – and not the other way round.

Gen-Z thrive when you set them goals and outcomes – not roadmaps on how, when or where to get there. Give them autonomy. Give them freedom. Give them trust. Because you’ll get a helluva lot in return.


The #1 priority for Gen-Zers in our survey? Career progression and learning and development opportunities.

Gen-Z is ambitious, and Cat emphasised how “independent” and “self-confident” they are. A job isn’t about pocket money – it’s the next step in their education. The next chance to build, use and test their skills. They’re hungry to shape their future, and right now, we have to be flexible and innovative as we prepare them for a future that none of us truly understand.


And it all comes back to their position as digital natives. They’re used to consuming, interacting and building relationships through screens, and they expect you to have the tools and tech to make that not just possible, but seamless.

So, what have you done to make sure your people still have the opportunities and support to develop themselves – especially when physical interactions are off the cards? Are you proactively talking to your team about their career path, their ambitions and what you can do to help achieve them? And if you’re working remotely, how can you keep the interaction going to replace all the learning from those tap-on-the-shoulder, “got a sec?” chats we took for granted pre-lockdown?



“They were the last into companies, so obviously, they’re going to be the first ones out”, Jay told us. “They’re not just facing a pandemic. They’re facing a financial crisis. They’re facing their parents losing their jobs. And all these different things are happening at one time.”

With money worries closely linked to declining mental health and job satisfaction – and with salary and wellbeing programmes scoring highly in our Gen-Zers’ priorities – there’s never been a more important time for businesses to promote, think and talk about financial wellbeing.

It’s about going beyond a pay cheque to help people of all ages understand, manage and be confident with their finances. Because regardless of their title, concerns about money are on everyone’s minds. Especially now.


They want to know what you’re doing to leave a mark on the world for all the right reasons.

Cat said, “Gen-Z really believe in ethical consumption and sustainability. Those causes are so important to them. What they’re looking for in an employer is someone who can show them they’re making strides in those fields – whether that’s your office environment or donating to specific causes”.

“As Gen-Z start their own businesses”, Jay added, “they’ll begin to set pace. They’ll begin to show others, as an ethical business, this is how you do it. And what will happen is other businesses will realise they’re losing market share to these little start-ups because they’re doing a better job of reaching their community and their audience.”


They’re quick to cut ties if a business doesn’t share their ethos. And on that note, one of our audience members asked Jay and Cat how they’d go about managing Boohoo’s campaign following the recent modern slavery scandal that has seen Next, Asos, Amazon and scores of influencers vote with their feet and turn their back on the brand.

Jay said, “It’s time for Boohoo to be completely transparent. It’s not a time for them to blame their suppliers or blame someone else further down the chain. It’s time for them to say we messed up, we should have done this, this is what we’re doing internally to make sure it doesn’t happen again. TikTok would be a phenomenal place to do that, to show what it’s like behind the scenes at Boohoo to try and win back that brand love and show they’re not just a bunch of people trying to make fast money from fast fashion”.

“Honesty, transparency, authenticity, truth”, Cat added, “All of that will help to build trust. That’s what Gen-Z want, that trust and that loyalty. But you have to prove it first”.


Cat told us, “Diversity and inclusion is something Gen-Z is incredibly passionate about. It’s not an afterthought. They’ve grown up thinking about diversity and they’ve grown up in a diverse community. So, for them, that’s just something that should come from the world of work. And they expect that from their employers as well”.

Again, this was echoed in our survey results, with diversity and inclusion initiatives ranking highly in our Gen-Zers’ priorities. And right at the heart of Imagen’s success, you’ll find the power and importance of diversity, too.

Jay said, “65% of our Gen-Z consultant community are female, 35% are black, 25% are Asian, 10% are from the LGBTQ+ community. We know diversity is strength. We know if you have a diverse group of people within your community, you’ll have diversity of thought. That’s how we make sure we get a broad understanding of the world from a Gen-Z perspective”.

The world around us is diverse. The future is diverse – especially with geography counting for less and less. And if your business isn’t yet, you need to tackle that openly and honestly with plans and actions to improve. Because it’s never been more important for jobseekers.


There’s no better way to strike a chord than hearing exactly what that group wants, first-hand, and acting on it.

Cat said, “The benefits and what people want from an employer have changed, so it’s about doing your research, consulting with that generation, finding out what makes them happy and what will make people want to join your company”.

Start the conversation with Gen-Z and get their brutally honest insights as soon as you can, because attracting and retaining the most ambitious, well-educated generation we’ve seen depends on it.