There used to be an unspoken social contract between employers and employees. If the latter worked hard and stayed committed, the workplace would provide pay, job security, and even pensions. But that model supported a different time—one when the job supported basic goals, such as getting married, starting a family, and owning a home.
That has all gone out the window. Instead of stability, today’s youngest workers crave job opportunities that provide fulfillment and a sense of purpose, connection, adventure, global experience, and growth. These changing values are reflected in the job-hopping culture of Generation Z (Gen Z) employees.
Moving the Goalposts
Gen Z is the new workforce, and the concept of job security is alien to them. Growing up in the throes of a recession, their formative experiences included seeing their parents laid off or losing homes to the housing crisis. Accordingly, their life goals—getting a degree, getting a pet, making a name for themselves—are different from their older counterparts’ aspirations.
In addition, Gen Z is hyperaware of three financial truths: College was enormously expensive, they’re on the hook to provide for their own retirement, and they don’t want to be stuck in traditional 9-to-5 jobs.
The end result is that Gen Z is keen on entrepreneurship and ingenuity—and unlikely to stay in jobs that don’t meet their needs.
What Happens to the Workplace?
Young professionals are changing jobs at a faster rate than ever; they’re three times more likely to job-hop than Baby Boomers. This kind of turnover comes with a cost: Companies lose time, money, and business with each lost employee.
The effects are well known: At a cost to the company of about $4,000 for each new hire, it’s more expensive to recruit, hire, and train new employees than to retain existing talent. Then, too, it’s hard to put a price on the knowledge and experience lost when employees leave. Even the most experienced new hire lacks the long-term company knowledge of a tenured employee.
Consider, too, exactly who is training new employees. With high turnover, do the personnel even have enough experience to train newcomers? Finally, many customers appreciate having bonds with the employees they interact with, so constant changes in staff can mean losing business.
The Future of Work
Because Gen Z is the future of the workforce and the likeliest to change jobs frequently, gear your retention efforts toward this youngest generation. Don’t just add in paid time off (PTO); give them perks with a purpose. Offer paths to financial wellness and opportunities to meet their personal and professional goals. Help employees connect to the company and to one another, and curate exceptional experiences.
But how to begin? These steps will help create a workplace that employees are reluctant to leave:
1. Perform a Culture Audit
Company culture has to be more than just a buzzword. To find out where things stand, collect quantifiable information on retention and employee engagement using surveys and other metrics. Use these data to shape your approach to culture and employee experience.
Whether it’s a Halloween costume contest or companywide participation in Taco Tuesday, celebrations are creative perks that brighten up the workplace. On a day-to-day basis, making your workplace dog-friendly will make everyone feel more at home and excited to come to work. You’ll see employee engagement rise after making room for fun, connection, and humor on the job.
2. Give Back, Together
Providing opportunities to give back connects employees and gives everyone a shared sense of purpose. Promoting community service will strengthen company culture and let employees feel proud of the work everyone accomplishes together. Just as important, it will boost employees’ overall well-being.
It is also beneficial to give employees a chance to do good individually. Allow sabbaticals for extended “voluntourism” trips or for personal growth.
3. Support Financial Wellness
The benefits offered are part of an overarching compensation package that can make or break employee retention rates. Given younger generations’ high student debt loads and savings goals, consider offering services that help attain financial wellness. Providing support for student loan repayment, new baby bonuses, housing stipends, consultation for investments, and financial planning services will all help your employees live better lives—and have peace of mind at work.
4. Foster Employee Growth
Your employees want to learn and grow, so consider adding training and development to your benefits package. Sending them to conferences, workshops, and boot camps not only helps the individual but also builds a strong workforce and provides teambuilding opportunities. You can even take it a step further and offer a formalized mentorship program. Finally, give the new workforce access to exceptional experiences. The opportunity to work abroad, for example, is a huge draw for Gen Z, the first global generation.
5. Shout About It
Do your employees know the full range of benefits available to them? Reach out to young talent by engaging them with short YouTube videos, memes, texts, and social media. For example, the CEO can send personal video messages to all staff—a move that helps humanize the person behind the position. Leadership should also use these platforms to openly express gratitude for employee performance and explain how the benefits available are designed to improve everyone’s life and work experiences.
Gen Z has more incentive and more opportunity to change jobs frequently than their older colleagues. Members of this generation are success-oriented, but that success looks different to them than it does to even the Millennial generation. This generation will stay engaged and think twice about job-hopping if leadership prioritizes career stisfaction and crafts a workplace that supports their personal and professional goals.
Ann D. Clark, PhD, is the founder and CEO of ACI Specialty Benefits, a top-ranked employee assistance program and provider of best-place-to-work benefits for customers worldwide. Named Most Admired CEO by San Diego Business Journal and Woman of the Year finalist by San Diego Magazine, Clark founded the International Chair Yoga Association and is the author of multiple books, including Workplace Warfare, Women & Recovery, and Cultural Crossroads.