Culture vs Benefits: What really matters?


What Gen Z really cares about when it comes to culture and benefits.


When we talk about an assessment process, this really begins with the candidates’ assessment of a company. We’ve taken a sharp veer from the days of “just be grateful to be here”, to a modern hiring as a quid-pro-quo – what can the candidate offer the company, while at the same time offering a benefit to the candidate.

A huge part in this decision-making process for top talent lies in the assessment of a company’s culture. When discussing a potential opportunity with a candidate, we’re frequently asked questions like “how visible is senior leadership?”, “what sort of working environment can I expect?”, “Is progression clearly mapped out?”, and many more. You’ll note that none of these are regarding a free breakfast or having an office ping pong table.

In order to appropriately communicate and demonstrate corporate culture as part of your attraction process (one that should start well before you’re looking to make a hire), we need to understand what culture truly means.  A common misconception is to confuse culture with benefits, and whilst these are linked, they are not one and the same.

In our 2020 Gen Z Hiring and Retention report, we found that 56% of respondents believed culture to largely be down to working environment. This was followed by company values at 26% and leadership at 16%. Culture might also include work initiatives outside the day job, such as social activities and team-bonding (which 22% of respondents referenced this as a key consideration), as well as volunteering and CSR efforts. 67% are looking for an employer that has meaningful societal impact and they are not afraid to challenge you on this in interview.

When taking a deeper dive into visibility of leadership, we found that 84% valued insight into leadership that was driven by transparency alongside a clear company mission and top-down values. Ultimately this comes down to authenticity in living your values and caring for your employees and doing this successfully will generate stronger buy-in and empower culture carriers. It will help get them through the door and could play a key role in keeping your next generation of leaders.

In addition to bundling culture and benefits, there’s also a danger of confusing work/life balance with flexible working.  When looking deeper into company benefits and perks, those linked most closely to work environment (i.e. culture) scored highest. This focus on wellness, prioritising mental health over physical health through flexible working and annual leave, is also very characteristic of Gen Z.

We’re more connected than ever in modern society, and given all the accessible tools, platforms and portable devices, it might seem unfathomable to Gen Z that they’re unable to work remotely. While it is likely that a post-coronavirus world will look on flexible working with a remarkably different view, it is fair to say that not all roles can allow for flexible and / or remote working, offering it where possible (even if it is a privilege that is earned) will ultimately help create a stronger culture of trust, independence, and accountability.

The industry is slowly turning away from ‘face time’ culture but for it to really come into effect, juniors will need to see senior leadership paving the way forward. In order to effectively communicate your employer value externally, this needs first to be led internally and this comes back to authenticity. Brands are increasingly being caught out for showing face on topical issues, such as culture and inclusivity, but forget that in the internet age everyone has a voice. Focus on areas of excellence and don’t be afraid to hold your hands up if you haven’t quite succeeded in others. Honesty will always prevail. 

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