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7 Min Read

How to Find, Keep and Elevate Gen Z Talent

Claire Beveridge

Where do you see yourself ten years from now? If you fall into the Baby Boomer demographic, perhaps you’re picturing how you’ll spend your retirement. On the other hand, if you’re a Millennial, chances are your 10-year-plan involves moving into more senior roles and mapping out the final decade or two of your career. 

But what about Gen-Z? 

Research shows that the demographic born between 1997 and 2012 will likely be at the peak of their careers and on track to become the most influential cohort in the workplace. By 2030 alone, Gen Z’s headcount will treble to 87 million, and the demographic will make up 30% of the workforce

So what does this mean for businesses and the future of work? How can companies attract, retain, and engage with the Gen Z talent entering the workforce for maximum returns on their investment and hire? 

Gen Z in the workplace: stereotypes and outlook

Generation Z is a demographic like no other. Too young to remember 9/11 and the world before the Internet, Gen Zers have been raised in a digital-first environment focusing on hyperconnectivity. Often labeled as entitled or self-obsessed, many people question the Gen Z work ethic. More positive stereotypes of Gen Z include:

  • Tech-dependant and digital natives
  • Value experiences and trying new things
  • Tend to prioritize digital communication vs. face-to-face
  • Focus on authenticity in brands and businesses
  • Open minded when it comes to identity
  • More aware of social justice issues
  • Understands the environmental impact of climate change

Gen Z workers are especially unique because significant global changes and challenges have shaped their outlook on the world of work. For example, The Great Recession, expanding wealth inequality, and increases in non-optional expenses, i.e., housing, healthcare, and food.

Additionally, Gen Z is entering the workplace en masse at a critical time for businesses. Companies are still reeling from the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, navigating continued global disruption due to the war in Ukraine, contending with The Great Resignation, trialing hybrid and remote work environments, along with battling rising inflation and economic stress. 

But it’s not all doom and gloom. Smart businesses are navigating the choppy waters of attracting and engaging Gen Z at work by preparing for workplace shifts and rethinking how they approach, hire, and retain the Gen Z workforce. 

How to attract and hire Gen Z in the workplace

What really motivates Gen Z in the workplace? Businesses must look beyond a well-stocked beer fridge and football tables to make future generations tick. 

Offer powerful benefits

Gen Z is a highly anxious and stressed-out demographic. According to McKinsey, Gen Z is more likely to receive a mental health diagnosis but also much less likely to afford access to treatment or services. This signals an opportunity for businesses to meet Gen Z where they’re at, create a positive work culture, and offer significant benefits that focus on supporting mental health and wellness.

Benefits don’t necessarily need to be monetary based — even adopting a four-day working week could appeal to the younger generations who prioritize a better work-life balance that allows them to focus on their well-being. 

Gen Z also carries 13% more student debt than Millennials, and savvy businesses are using this as an opportunity to offer debt relief as a part of their benefits package to attract Gen Z talent. 

Focus on diversity and inclusion

Diversity matters to Gen Z and isn’t limited to race and gender — the cohort is the most likely group to identify as non-binary/fluid gender. As a result, companies need to show a representation of the full rainbow of humans to help successfully market their business to potential Gen Z employees. 

Prioritize flexibility

The COVID-19 pandemic accelerated remote working into becoming ‘the new normal,’ and it looks like the trend is here to stay. According to Deloitte, 75% of Gen Z “prefer working patterns where they either split their time between remote and on-site work or work entirely from home.”

For businesses, offering a flexible working environment, for example, work-from-home, remote, or hybrid models, alongside allowing employees to choose when they work will not only help to attract Gen Z talent who are looking for flexible working patterns but also show personalization in job roles — more on this later!

Three tactics for retaining and elevating Gen Z talent

Let’s be honest. Gen Z doesn’t have the best reputation for long-term commitment to job roles. A huge 40 percent of Gen Z plan to leave their employers within two years, in contrast to 24% of Millennials. This signals that employee retention tactics are crucial to engaging Gen Z long-term. 

Create latticed career paths

Career lattice refers to the career progression pathway whereby employees can move vertically, horizontally, or diagonally. This allows employees to explore and develop their careers without climbing the more traditional ladder. 

This reimagined career structure appeals to Gen Z, who tend to favor non-hierarchy organizational structures and prioritize learning skills to advance their careers. Additionally, upskilling is a significant priority for learning and development leaders, signaling that business and Gen Z are aligned regarding career path management.

Focus on training and leadership development

Businesses need to foster a culture that prioritizes professional development and focuses on the individual vs. the whole team. Gen-Z will proactively seek out learning opportunities to enhance their skills, and businesses that prioritize development position themselves to appeal to Gen-Z demographics. 

By holding regular performance reviews and building high-performing teams that support and learn from each other, businesses may appeal to this demographic more readily. Additionally, focusing on providing Gen-Z with clear OKRs and goal management that supports their thirst for learning and development will cement this interest. 

Anthony Wino, chief people officer at Susie, says that Gen Z “want a sense of control over their work and flexible design,” so by focusing on career personalization, businesses can adhere to the demands of Gen Z and supply them with what they need to thrive. 

Show how your business delivers meaning and value to its customers

Gen Z values authenticity, and businesses need to show that they deliver clear value to both customers, both external and internal. For example, leaders should regularly distribute and share engagement surveys to show Gen Z employees the impact a business has on its most important asset: its employees. This works visa versa as Gen Z employees need to feel like they have a meaningful role within the company and contribute to success. 

Engaging with Gen Z

According to 15Five recruiter Jackie Lancaster, to connect with Gen Z, businesses need to ask themselves: 

  • What kind of personal and professional development are you offering? 
  • How are you helping people become their best selves at work? 
  • How are you caring about them outside of their regular work hours and what they do for you as a job? 
  • How are you taking care of their wellness, physical, and mental benefits? What does that look like? 
  • How are you providing psychological safety at work?

Gen Z is the future of work, and seismic shifts need to happen between businesses and employees for the next generation to thrive and grow their careers. With distinct options and preferences about when, where, and how they work, businesses need to focus on meeting the diverse Gen Z cohort where they’re at. They can do this by providing them with the tools, benefits, and opportunities to develop on their terms in order to create a high performance culture full of happy employees that thrive.

Want to dive deeper into this topic? Watch the webinar on demand.