Employee appreciation: are workers getting what they want?

Key Takeaways:

  • Gen Z are more concerned about having friendly and fun colleagues than a knowledgeable and supportive manager.
  • Gen Z want flexible hours and the opportunity to WFH (work from home) even more than career progression opportunities.
  • Most employers are providing flexibility options, but not enough to keep workers fully satisfied.
  • While extra benefits are always welcome, Generation Z still prioritizes health insurance over non-financial perks.
  • Employers can drop the corporate fun days, as Gen Z doesn’t want them.

Employee appreciation: are workers getting what they want?

As a rule in life, what you want and what you get are too often very different things. And the workplace is far from an exception on this front.

Most of us have a good idea of what we deserve from a job and how we would like to be treated at work. But how often do we feel genuine job satisfaction?

Sometimes it isn’t even a case of employers being stingy, but more an example of divergent expectations. Employers may believe they have the best benefits package and plenty of development opportunities. But do their workers feel the same?

To find out, EduBirdie surveyed 2,000 members of Generation Z in the US about what they want from their jobs – and what they actually get. Here’s what their answers reveal about how to boost employee satisfaction in 2024….

Workplace satisfaction: what employees want

When it comes to job satisfaction, employees aren’t shy about saying what they want. Our survey asked respondents to assign numeric values to a range of job perks, so we could work out what factors they value most of all.

Overall the top 4 factors that American workers say they want from their employer are as follows:

  1. A healthy work/life balance
  2. A friendly team
  3. Flexible hours and/or remote working options
  4. Health and life insurance

Those might not be too surprising, but the data provides some interesting insights. For example, employees care more about having friendly colleagues than they do about having a good manager.

Likewise, our results show that the average employee places more value on flexible working hours – and the opportunity to WFH – than they do on having career progression options.

Meanwhile, employers who think they can win over their staff with special ‘treats’ should beware. Our study showed that non-core perks like wellness programs, free food and employee recognition programs aren’t as important as you might think.

Workplace satisfaction: what employers offer

Our employees certainly knew what they wanted from their employers. But did it match what they actually received? According to our respondents, the perks and benefits that Generation Z were most likely to receive at work:

  1. A friendly team
  2. A manager who happily shares their knowledge and provides mentorship 
  3. Learning and development opportunities
  4. A healthy work/life balance

On the face of it, then, there is some crossover between what employees want from their job and what they get: with worker priorities like a friendly team and a good work/life balance scoring highly.

But once again our study reveals some less-expected conclusions. For example, employers are more likely to offer the option to WFH than they are to provide health insurance.

Similarly, the average employee says they are receiving plenty of learning and development opportunities in their job. But when it comes to unleashing their creative potential, their options are more limited.

How can employers improve workplace satisfaction?

From an employer’s perspective, workplace satisfaction can be absolutely core to business. Employees who feel valued and appreciated are more likely to go the extra mile in their jobs.

Indeed a 2019 study by researchers at the Saïd Business School (part of Oxford University) found that having happy workers can raise a company’s productivity by 13%.

By comparing the value placed on each benefit with how often they are provided, our study identified four main areas where employers can improve worker satisfaction. 

Things that employers can improve:

  1. Flexible hours / remote work
  2. Health and life insurance
  3. Retirement benefits
  4. A healthy work/life balance

As the data shows, there isn’t a major mismatch between employees’ expectations and reality when it comes to Generation Z’s priorities – but employers can still do better at meeting expectations.

That workers want more flexibility should be no surprise to employers. Indeed research from consultants McKinsey has revealed that Americans see flexible working as one of the three most important issues when choosing a job (the other two being pay and career opportunities).

Our study also suggests that employers can do more when it comes to providing non-salary benefits like health insurance and retirement savings schemes.

While workers have consistently cited health insurance as important to job satisfaction for decades, there are indications that it has become even more important since the pandemic.

And just as there are perks that employees want more of, there are some benefits that workers aren’t so bothered about, but which employers often provide anyway.  For example: inclusivity programs, free food, and fun events.

Things that employees are less likely to appreciate

  1. An inclusive workplace
  2. Free food/snacks in the office
  3. Fun corporate events
  4. Learning and development opportunities

Could these provide an opportunity for companies to increase job satisfaction, by deprioritizing these perks in favor of things that workers actually value? The answer may be more nuanced.

For a start, these perks may be particularly valued by certain employees, even if not all workers feel the same. Employees from diverse backgrounds, for example, may be more likely to care about inclusivity initiatives.

Others present fewer complications. To highlight one clear example, our data shows a significant gap between the number of companies providing corporate fun days and the much smaller proportion of employees who actually appreciate them.

For those companies looking to target their extracurricular activities better to what employees want, eliminating away days could be a good place to start.


To create the report, researchers from EduBirdie surveyed 2,000 Gen Z in the US. We provided them with a list of perks, benefits and other workplace features and asked them to provide a rating, on a scale of 1 to 10, as to how important these were to them and how well their employer fulfilled that need.

The resulting score was calculated as a weighted mean of input scores of 1 to 10. The data was then plotted onto a non-negative field, where the horizontal axis shows how much employees value certain things, and the vertical axis shows how well employers meet that need.

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