What employers need to know about Generation Z

The next wave of talent is dipping its collective toe into the professional pool. What worked for those old fogey millennials won’t pass muster for Gen Z. Employers had better heed this advice.

Millennials were the primary focus of marketers and recruiters for most of the last decade.

That’s for good reason: More than one in three American workers today fall into that age group.

However, as 18- to 35-year-olds settle into the workforce, it’s important to realize that the next drove of talent is on its way: Generation Z.

Some estimates put Generation Z (born after 1995) at more than 60 million strong and growing rapidly. As members of Gen Z burst onto the job scene, human resources professionals must learn and adopt the best ways to attract and retain them, because a one-size-fits-all approach simply won’t work. The arrival of Gen Z requires an entirely different dance.

Understanding the next generation

The Gen Z bunch are autonomous, career-focused, debt-adverse self-starters. They’re also the most digital-native generation to date, raised with a smartphone in hand, a tablet propped up and limited (if any) exposure to the largely dormant dial-up Internet.

Warning: Asking a Gen Z about dial-up will be met with an uncomfortable blank stare.

For Gen Z, a company’s culture and how they actively take part in defining it, whom they work with and how they work together for a purpose beyond profits are paramount. This is probably why they are attracted to smaller, unique companies. Theirs is the most on-demand culture to date, seeking immediate resolutions to problems and finding great satisfaction in rapid results.

Variety is a driving force for members of Gen Z, as they’re eager to connect with their peers and exchange ideas in open and collaborative environments. They have an entrepreneurial spirit and a desire to make a meaningful and immediate impact in both their careers and their communities.

Gen Z’s laws of attraction

Organizations hoping to attract top Gen Z talent must strategize to appeal to their need for workplace gratification. To do so:

  • Offer robust benefits related to career goals. When asked what they’d look for in their first job, Gen Z members prioritized career growth (36 percent), fulfilling work (19 percent) and stability (19 percent) over more-traditional benefits. A workplace culture that enables mentoring, on-the-job learning and personal development is essential.
  • Be transparent. They want to define their career paths early and expect workplace hierarchies to be horizontal, rather than the traditional vertical chain of command. Organizations must be transparent on expectations from the get-go.
  • Connect on their level. Recruiters must be ready to communicate on a wide variety of platforms on a continual basis, and keep up to date with their preferred networks, which continually change.
  • Offer a mission-driven environment. They have a strong desire to capitalize on entrepreneurial visions and to benefit their communities. The Bureau of Labor Statistics found that 26 percent of 16- to 19-year-olds already spend time volunteering.
  • Be flexible. Gen Z has never been tethered by wires, so there’s an expectation of freedom technology that eliminates the traditional in-office 9-to-5. These people are more concerned with the work they produce than where they produce it, and organizations must embrace that.
  • Boost the business’s brand. Nearly three in four HR professionals don’t have a formal branding program, and more than half aren’t even considering one. Members of Gen Z are continually browsing your website and social media sites, so the employer brand and how it’s communicated will be vitally important to attracting top talent.

Gen Z and long-term satisfaction

Thought millennials were job hoppers? Gen Z bests them: 83 percent believe three years or less is the appropriate amount of time to spend at their first job, with more than a quarter looking to jump ship in a year or less.

Keeping Gen Z talent will require a radical shift from the traditional retention mechanisms, including:

  • Prioritizing variety. To retain members of Gen Z, organizations must introduce “micro-learning” to deliver bite-size training nuggets quickly and to create opportunities for them to contribute at a meaningful level.
  • Mentoring throughout the employment cycle. Helping them carve out their niche while nurturing development opportunities at every turn will bring multiple benefits, as it enables organizations to groom them for leadership roles while maintaining a high level of engagement.
  • Starting fresh. Organizations must be willing to ditch the “this is how we do it” attitude and collaborate on how to best help them succeed in driving mutual growth.

Laying a foundation for the next wave

It’s estimated to cost from $15,000 to $20,000 to replace millennial talent, and additional turnover of Generation Z will only add to the cost.

By understanding the defining traits of Gen Z, employers can lay a solid foundation for the next wave of talent, prepare for their unique concerns and demands, and build programs for successful Gen Z attraction and retention.

Amber Hyatt is director of product marketing for cloud-based talent management solutions provider SilkRoad. A version of this article originally appeared on TLNT.

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