Would you quit your job for the sake of your happiness? A global survey has found younger generations are at the forefront of a movement to seek job satisfaction and stand up for their personal beliefs at work.


The COVID-19 pandemic has changed a lot about how, when and where we work – but it has also changed why.

Global recruiting firm Randstad’s Workmonitor is one of the longest-running and largest studies of its kind, surveying 35,000 workers across 34 markets globally. The biannual survey recently found that for younger generations such as Gen Z (18- to 24-year-olds) and Millennials (25- to 34-year-olds), attitudes have shifted to place happiness and personal values at the forefront of working life.

Fifty-six per cent of the younger generations said they’d quit their job if it was preventing them from enjoying life, while 40 per cent said they would rather be unemployed than unhappy in a job. Attitudes like these have led to the ‘Great Resignation’ around the world, and with 70 per cent of Australians now either actively or passively job seeking, there is a revolution in the employee-employer dynamic.


HR and Recruitment

Randstad ANZ CEO, Nick Pesch, image courtesy Randstad.


As Nick Pesch, CEO of Randstad ANZ, says, “There’s a clear power shift underway in offices around the globe, including Australia, driven by a workforce still recovering from the pandemic. Many workers are rethinking priorities and choosing to prioritise personal fulfillment, no longer afraid to move on from roles that don’t align with their values.”


56% of Gen Z and Millennials said they’d quit their job if it was preventing them from enjoying life.


Purpose over paycheck when it comes to job satisfaction

The isolation and restrictions imposed over the past two years have hit young people particularly hard. In March 2022, the World Health Organization reported that anxiety and depression increased 25 per cent worldwide during the first year of the pandemic; teens in particular are among those experiencing a mental health crisis. With greater awareness of the importance of mental health, younger generations are placing more focus on the search for happiness, purpose and work-life balance in their choice of work.

These younger generations are also tapped into social justice and environmental issues, and they expect their employer to be as well. Nearly half of Millennials (48 per cent) and Gen Z (49 per cent) said they wouldn’t accept a job that didn’t align with their values on social justice and environmental issues, compared to just over a third (35 per cent) of 55- to 67-year-olds. The figures were similar regarding the efforts of an employer to promote a diverse and inclusive workplace.

Two in five of the younger generations surveyed wouldn’t even mind earning less money if they felt their job was contributing something to the world or society, revealing a pervasive attitude of ‘purpose over paycheck’.

Nick adds, “Young people want to bring their whole selves to work, which is reflected in their determination not to compromise their personal values when choosing an employer. Our research and experience working with candidates in Australia points to an increasing expectation that organisations will take a stand on social and environmental issues. Companies that are shown to be taking positive action will find themselves more attractive and better able to retain loyal talent.”


job satisfaction

Job satisfaction is more important to the younger generation than the size of their paycheck.


What does this mean for businesses?

With talent scarcity a long-term challenge and competition for skills intensifying, how can companies stand out from competitors and become attractive for younger generations, and employees in general?

Sander van ’t Noordende, CEO and Chair of the Executive Board of Randstad NV, says, “We believe focusing on these five areas is essential: fitting work around people’s lives, aligning values, strengthening attraction strategies, offering job flexibility, and accelerating professional development.”

Nearly three-quarters of people believe flexibility of work location is important, and an even higher per cent want work hours that complement their lifestyle. Globally, 58 per cent of people say they wouldn’t accept a job if they thought it would negatively affect their work-life balance. So job flexibility is here to stay: whether this is around remote or hybrid schedules, work hours or work arrangements.

Corporate social responsibility is also important, with businesses taking a stance on social justice and environmental issues and encouraging diversity and inclusion in the workplace. Opportunities for professional development and upskilling are also critical, as well as offering incentives such as more time off, healthcare benefits or retirement plans.

The pandemic caused millions of workers around the world to work in new and different ways, and people are emerging from the global crisis with a clear mission: prioritising happiness and purpose. They are ready to let their employers know it. Now that markets are reopening, restrictions are being lifted and employees are returning to the workplace, companies need to actively listen and respond to what people are asking for – and in some cases change the way they operate for good.

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