By 2025, Generation Z will make up 27% of the American workforce. This generation of digital natives is the most diverse generation to date, with nearly half (48%) non-Caucasian.
How are employers and HR departments working to attract, retain and engage this increasingly significant segment of the labor force? What challenges are they facing? What opportunities do they see?
Looking in the Wrong Places
A big issue for companies looking to attract young talent is looking for that talent in the same places they’ve always been looking for workers from previous generations. But job postings on LinkedIn and other sites popular with Generations X and Y aren’t guaranteed to reach this younger group.
“Challenges that companies are facing when hiring Gen Z candidates are not knowing where to find them,” says Andrew Fiebert, founder & CEO of Lasso. “Gen Z doesn’t tend to use traditional job search boards, instead they turn to social media, Fiebert says. Recognizing this, companies should advertise job openings on platforms like Instagram and TikTok, he says. Fiebert notes that “TikTok has even released a feature—currently in beta with limited availability—called TikTok Resumes, which allows candidates to create short video resumes, and will have the feature for employers to post job listings as well.”
Prioritizing More than Just Money
Salary has long been the primary focus of many recruiters looking to attract top talent. While some have come to realize the importance of non-salary benefits like health insurance to workers, many employers are still missing out on non-monetary benefits of particular interest to the youngest generation of workers.
“To engage Gen Z at work, it’s important to prioritize certain workplace elements like flexibility, health and wellness initiatives, and mental health,” says Logan Mallory, VP at Motivosity, a company focused on keeping employees engaged, both in the office and remotely. “These are all incredibly important to Gen Z employees, and workplaces that don’t place a serious emphasis on them will likely have trouble both attracting and retaining this younger demographic of employees,” Mallory says.
Company Culture is Often More Important than Employers Realize
In many workplaces, there’s a fairly clear break along age-group lines between those who prefer to come into the office to work and those who would prefer to work remotely. While there is certainly variation within these groups, Generation X and Baby Boomers tend to prefer in-office work more than Millennials, according to a recent study reported in Fast Company.
It might sound reasonable to assume that this trend of preferring remote work would also be reflected among members of Generation Z. However, the youngest workers—many of whom entered the workforce during the COVID-19 pandemic—often feel like the shift to remote work has caused them to be left out of much of what it means to be a part of a company. Furthermore, younger workers often feel starting their careers remotely could put them at a career disadvantage over the long run.
“Gen Z workers have been envisioning going to work to be part of the company culture, socialize with coworkers, and find a mentor they really connect with,” says Sammy Courtright, chief brand officer at Ten Spot. “The pandemic has thrown a wrench in these dreams, so it’s important for today’s managers to double down on how to best virtually connect with Gen Z employees.”
Courtright says a survey conducted by Ten Spot found that 62% of Gen Z – more than any other generation—feel virtual social workplace events improved company culture during the pandemic. “We believe that this was because the events were hosted on technology that Gen Z is very familiar with, making it really easy and convenient to join,” she says. “And, because this is likely the first professional job for Gen Z employees, these virtual events are an opportunity to make friends and social connections at work.”
Diversity and Inclusion
Generation Z is also a generation that almost naturally embraces diversity and inclusion.
“Generation Z workers are starting their careers in a volatile economy and in a society that is more attuned to the need for diversity and inclusion,” says Jamie Kohn, research director in the Gartner HR practice.
Kohn says this environment specifically shapes the expectations of Gen Z workers in key areas:
- “Generation Z candidates report placing a high importance on the growth opportunities an organization provides. These candidates know their most valuable asset is their knowledge, and they are the most likely to see a risk of their skills eroding. This makes exposure to a variety of learning experiences critical for this talent segment early in their career.”
- “Additionally, Gen Z candidates place high importance on an organization’s commitment to diversity and inclusion. After all, this generation has grown up with companies engaging in social issues. With the increased attention to racial justice and diversity, Gen Z wants to see that reflected in their organization.”
Given these expectations, Gartner advises organizations to implement some key tactics to effectively attract and retain Gen Z talent.
How to Attract and Retain Gen Z
In an aging workforce, where many employees are almost at, at, or past traditional retirement age and dealing with the added stressors of a hybrid work environment, many are opting to leave their companies. In addition, organizations like SHRM have pointed to a “turnover tsunami” that is impacting other cohorts—like women who are feeling the added pressure of childcare as children continue to participate in some classes remotely.
Gartner offers some recommendations for companies as they seek to fill their pipeline of talent from the youngest talent cohort—Gen Z.
- Lighten up on qualification requirements. Instead hire candidates who show potential and are a good fit for the organization. Gartner recommends looking for candidates “who show potential to learn and adapt, problem solve and collaborate with others.”
- Offer growth opportunities—create them if they don’t exist. Gen Z staffers don’t want to be stuck in the same job for years. They value employers who support their development in visible ways. Savvy employers are taking note. Gartner points to organizations that have “created high-visibility cross-functional projects to give early career employees exposure to skills and roles across the business.” In other cases, employers are using job rotation to expose employees to broader opportunities.
- Ensure that branding for your organization is authentic and reflects what candidates will find once they accept a job; especially when it comes to diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI). Gartner says:
“Candidates need to see that organizations are working to improve diversity across all levels of the organization, or they won’t stay. In addition, companies should be open about where they are in their diversity journey—what they’ve achieved and what they’re still working on. Honesty goes a long way.”
Generation Z is already poised to become an enormously important part of the global workforce and economy; however, companies that don’t understand how to attract and retain this key demographic risk falling far behind their competitors. The insights and advice provided by the experts who contributed to this feature will hopefully help companies stay ahead of the curve with this new cohort.