The last two years of pandemic era living have, of course, impacted all employees in some capacity. Between pandemic-related burnout, social isolation, remote work preferences and “the Great Reshuffle,” it’s evident that employees across generations are evaluating their current employment situations through a more critical lens. 

Indeed, according to MetLife’s 20th annual Employee Benefit Trends Study (EBTS), as employee expectations have evolved, job satisfaction has hit a 20-year low in the U.S. workforce among all generations – and it’s some of the workforce’s youngest, “Zillennials,” who are reportedly the least satisfied in their jobs. Consequently, Zillennials – born between 1993-1998 – have assumed a new level of influence in the workplace as they increasingly rethink their employee experience and demand a work environment that better aligns with their personal values.  

As Zillennials gain a stronger foothold in the workforce – growing in size by more than 5 million workers over the last 5 years according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics – employers have reached a critical inflection point, wherein they must ensure they are not only heeding the needs of this micro-generation but also addressing the elements of the whole employee experience. 

According to MetLife’s study, below are three factors that have become newly critical to the employee – and particularly the Zillennial experience:

1. The rise of social health

Two years into the pandemic, Zillennials are continuing to struggle with burnout and social isolation – with 53% having sought mental health help in the last year (vs. 31% all employees). This may well be why Zillennials feel more strongly than other employees that their employer is doing only the “minimum possible” to help them adapt to their new working environments (41% vs. 36%, respectively), and may also be a contributing factor to the 53% of Zillennials who say having an unfulfilling job is currently a top source of stress. 

Zillennials are also recognizing the importance of having a life outside of work and the impact that social health – or the ability to interact and form meaningful relationships – can have on mental and physical health. Especially as the lines between their personal and professional lives have blurred, Zillennials are increasingly seeking job opportunities that offer both flexibility and a work-life balance, which can often include a choice in where they work, when they work, and how PTO can be used.

2. Searching for purpose and value 

As Zillennials seek fulfilment at work, many are looking for purpose-driven environments that meet their shifting priorities. This is particularly true as less than half (46%) say they are willing to stay with a company that doesn’t have a clear and positive company purpose (vs. 57% of all employees), and 28% say a lack of purposeful work was a contributing factor in considering leaving their role. 

In the same turn, Zillennials are also looking to align with companies that match their personal values. As an example, Zillennials have demonstrated an enhanced interest in an employer’s position on environmental and ethical issues (45%), and diversity, equity and inclusion (40%). Although these issues are more pronounced among Zillennials, this shift is consistent with that of other generations – in particular, younger employees – who are expressing similar priorities in 2022.

3. Access to traditional benefits – and more

As the workforce continues to evolve, so too have employees’ needs. While Zillennials are still interested in more traditional benefits, such as legal plans, life insurance and hospital indemnity insurance, they are also actively seeking employers who offer new and emerging benefits that improve their overall wellbeing. When asked which would most improve their well-being, Zillennials cited paid and unpaid leave benefits (74%); work-life management programs (67%); mental wellness benefits, including employee assistance programs (EAP), reimbursement for therapy sessions (62%); and programs to support their financial needs (55%) as top priorities. 

As Zillennials set a new standard for evaluating the employee experience, this micro-generation is seeking employers who support social health, uphold purpose-driven work and go beyond traditional benefits. By improving upon these aspects of the employee experience, employers can ensure they are catering to this influential age group’s needs. If they don’t, they risk losing them to an employer who will.  


  • Bradd Chignoli

    Senior Vice President, Head of National Accounts, Group Benefits