Gen Z Employees and the Great Resignation - Myth vs Reality

The Great Resignation is a term being used to describe the current wave of workers choosing to leave their jobs in search of more fulfilling employment. While this is a genuine trend, there are also some subtle differences between employee groups in terms of the impact of the pandemic on their behaviour when making career moves.

At Sort we help thousands of younger workers plan their careers and find new jobs every day, and in this post we're going to share our insights on how they're really feeling about their careers and the impact on their behaviour when considering their next move - with some tips for hiring managers and early talent specialists on how to respond to these changes.

Who's really fueling the great resignation?

A recent study showed that there has been an increase in the number of voluntary resignations, but that this is most prevalent in the 30-45 age group. In fact, the same study showed that whilst turnover is normally highest amongst the 20-25 age range, this group has not seen an increase during the pandemic - with the authors suggesting that this may be because job and financial security may be at their lowest for this group anyway. So, perhaps Gen Z and younger Millennial employees are not leaving because they simply can't afford to.

With 91% of Gen Zers having reported stress-related symptoms affecting their mental health in the last year, it's unsurprising that they may not feel able to make a career switch when things are already so challenging.

Great resignation or great reassessment?

The data above suggests that what we may have seen so far is only the start of what may be a wider and longer-term trend as we move through and beyond the Covid 19 pandemic. While some workers who have a financial buffer and confidence in their skills and the availability of work to switch to are moving now - it's likely that some of those who are staying put for now are still considering their options.

Rather than the great resignation, some are calling it the great reassessment - suggesting that this goes beyond the idea of a rapid and opportunistic switching behaviour, but instead more of a re-evaluation of what work means, and how to create work situations that suit the needs of the individual.

What's the impact on younger workers?

So what are the impacts of the pandemic, the trends that are sparking the great resignation, and the uncertainty around economic stability on younger employees?

Many of Gen Zers' earliest introductions into the job market were affected by the pandemic in one way or another, they have been hit hard financially and mentally during the pandemic and were more vulnerable to job losses than other generations.

Those who were already in jobs at the beginning of the pandemic, may have felt they had to 'sit tight' until the worst impacts were over, but for those looking for work it has been a hugely difficult moment to enter the job market for the first time, with significant losses amongst the entry-level roles that these workers may have been seeking.

There is also a social and psychological impact of remote working to take into consideration. For those entering the workplace for the first time during the pandemic, working remotely may have prevented them from accessing some of the social support that they might normally have when starting a new role. The informal chats, the peer relationships, the opportunities to observe and understand workplace behaviours and culture, have been harder to access for remote workers.

Finally, it's a reality for many younger workers that they do not have home environments that are naturally suited to becoming a workplace - particularly for those who are lower earners or come from lower-income backgrounds. Working in a makeshift environment in a confined space can have a huge impact on a worker's sense of wellbeing and the effects of this should not be underestimated.

What can businesses do to retain their Gen Z and Millennial employees?

Just because younger workers aren't quitting their jobs in the same numbers as those who are mid-career it doesn't mean they don't want to move - it may simply be that they don't feel they are able to. Recent Gallup research suggests that nearly half of all workers may be looking for new roles even if they have not actually made the move, and 38% say they will be looking to move within the next 6-12 months when they believe the economy is likely to have strengthened.

That's why it's hugely important to value and look after the team members who have stayed with you during the pandemic if you want to retain them.

This means recognising the particular nature of the stress they may have been under due to the pressures of remote working and the lack of access to support mechanisms that are normally in place for them.

Empathic and sensitive management is a key factor here, and so ensuring that all managers have the tools and training to respond to the needs of younger workers is vital.

Providing regular 1-2-1 check-in times that are not just focused on work tasks, but that create the time and space for deep listening and exploration of team members' wellbeing needs is crucial. Whilst these moments may not be directly related to productivity, they have the potential to make a huge difference to retention rates as they provide opportunities for problems or concerns to be raised and dealt with before they become a reason to leave the company.

Culture and values are hugely important to Gen Z, with recent research suggesting that only 19% of people in this age group would want to work for a company that doesn't share their values. Consistent, authentic demonstration that the company is living up to its espoused values is even more important when it's harder to bring teams together in a physical space, and this is where actions that Gen Z employees can feel proud of come in.

This research also showed that many Gen Z employees expect organisations to be acting responsibly and ethically in relation to environmental impact, social justice, workplace inclusion, and responsible governance. Communicating real actions with real impact is key and can really help build trust and loyalty with your team.

Our top three tips for hiring and retaining young talent in 2022

1. Show up honestly

Younger workers want to be able to trust their employers. Making sure expectations and reality are aligned is crucial for Gen Z - they expect honesty and fairness from their employers like no other generation.

Employer brands are increasingly important for younger workers. They expect employers to be honest with them and to live up to the picture they present in the job ad.

2. Recruit for values alignment

At Sort, we believe that if employers recruit those whose values are aligned with their company the working relationship has the foundations to make it last. That's why we recommend that employers focus on building relationships with potential employees based on aligned interests, personal attributes and potential, not just the achievements on their CV.

3. Offer the right benefits

While gimmicks like discounts, office table-tennis and breakfast bars may be designed to appeal to younger workers, it has become clear that these no longer work as an incentive when remote working has become the norm - but more than this, these benefits are pretty hollow. We recommend listening to your younger workers to find out what they'd really value - maybe it's greater flexibility around working time, maybe it's access to a co-working space, or maybe they'd just prefer a better base salary. Making assumptions about what your workers value or taking the easy path on rewards and benefits may not always pay off in the long run, and may actually waste valuable resources. We recommend asking workers openly and being prepared to flex your rewards to individual needs.


If you're struggling to attract and retain early-career talent - why not consider a profile on, where more than 600,000 young people are getting career and job recommendations. Find out more here.