Barna
Generations
Leadership

May 15, 2024

A Healthy Work Culture, as Defined by Gen Z

Hero image featuring Gen Z at work for an article on work culture

In the modern workforce, it’s often said that “culture is king.” The idea of a healthy, thriving workplace appeals to employers and employees alike, not only for better work outcomes but also for company loyalty and general work-life satisfaction.

But the term “culture” can have many meanings, and a “healthy” company or organization may look different to everyone. In fact, only 23 percent of all U.S. employees strongly agree that their company’s culture is healthy. Nearly half of U.S. employees (45% somewhat agree) tell Barna that it’s unclear within their workplace what a healthy company culture would look like.

How do today’s employees define a great culture, in practical terms?

This article explores possible answers, focusing specifically on the ideals of Gen Z, the latest generation to enter the workforce.

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In Terms of Work Culture, Gen Z Expects a Focus on Well-Being & Clear Communication
Barna prompted U.S. adults to imagine a “great workplace culture” and then to describe it using selections from a list of possible attributes. Some descriptions related to the organization itself, and others related to the employees.

Some options rose to the top of the list and were selected by a slight majority. Fifty-eight percent of U.S. employees say a great culture is one that compensates employees well. Over half (53%) notes that a healthy organization provides employees opportunities to grow and develop, while 49 percent say it prioritizes the employees’ well-being. Just under half (47%) say a healthy work culture has effective leadership.

Broken down by generation, we observe a more nuanced picture. Some of Gen Z’s responses especially stand out. For instance, while older adult generations are first drawn to compensation and development opportunities as signs of a great working environment, Gen Z is far less likely to select these items. Meanwhile, they are more likely to prioritize other possible attributes of a workplace culture, such as effective communication and environments where both the company and its employees exceed performance goals.

Data chart visualizing how the generations perceive work culture

Understanding older generations’ perspectives on culture may help leaders champion their staff and improve their systems currently. And understanding Gen Z’s perspectives may urge companies to strategize around priorities for the future. For example, compensation may be a key to long-term retention—but leading with pay might not attract the young talent companies are looking for if they haven’t first worked on other aspects such as internal communication or clear goals.

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Generations most align in their belief that a healthy organizational culture prioritizes the well-being of its employees. There are some bright spots in the research suggesting this kind of culture indeed exists: Currently, 39 percent of employed U.S. adults strongly agree “work-life balance is possible in my workplace,” and one in three (34%) strongly agree that “leadership at my organization cares about me as a person.”

Interested in coming alongside Barna and other high-impact, faith-oriented organizations to learn about the trends influencing talent recruitment and retention? Join Barna’s Trends @ Work Co-op

About the Research

This data is based on a survey of 1,500 U.S. adults, conducted from July 28–August 7, 2023. The margin of error for the sample is +/- 2.3 percent at the 95 percent confidence level. For this survey, researchers used an online panel for data collection and observed a quota random sampling methodology. Quotas were set to obtain a minimum readable sample by a variety of demographic factors and samples were weighted by region, ethnicity, education, age and gender to reflect natural presence in the American population.

Photo by Brooke Cagle on Unsplash.

© Barna Group, 2024

About Barna

Since 1984, Barna Group has conducted more than two million interviews over the course of thousands of studies and has become a go-to source for insights about faith, culture, leadership, vocation and generations. Barna is a private, non-partisan, for-profit organization.

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