Five Ways to Attract and Retain Gen Z Talent

With a near-record high 9.8 million unfilled jobs reported in the United States alone, many employers across sectors are struggling in their hiring and recruiting pursuits amid a widespread talent shortage. What is the key to overcoming this hiring hurdle? Unlocking the generational potential of Gen Z, a group that is poised to soon represent one-third of the workforce.  But, according to a recent article from Human Resource Executive, “Gen Z” possesses an array of unique traits and priorities that employers must understand and accommodate if they wish to attract and retain them as employees.

Who is Gen Z?

The single most pivotal event in the development of the generational identity of Gen Z, whose members were born between 1997 and 2012, was the COVID-19 pandemic, which disrupted and profoundly impacted both the completion of their educations and the beginning of their professional lives. 

According to a focus group with Gen Z workers conducted by the Conference Board, this has contributed to the consensus among the cohort that hybrid work should be the norm.  Gen Z workers tend to have a high degree of confidence in their abilities to collaborate digitally and be productive while remote, as many completed their educations and began their careers on digital platforms while under lockdown. 

This facility with rapidly developing technology can also be a boon to employers willing to nurture its potential. Gen Z employees are often less resistant to change than their older colleagues and can help to automate and optimize work processes accordingly.  But such tolerance for change can also lead Gen Z to job hop if they perceive better opportunities elsewhere.

Another impactful factor on the collective identity of Gen Z has been their exposure to high levels of economic and geopolitical instability.  A combination of factors such as high student loan debt, stagnating entry-level wages, and rising inflation have contributed to skyrocketing financial concerns among Generation Z.  Over half of its adult members currently live with their parents to save money, a stark indicator of the group’s depleted ability to afford even basic utilities and necessities.

Another result of consistent instability among Gen Z has been widespread struggles with mental health. Gen Z reports lower levels of emotional and social well-being and a more negative outlook on life than any other generation.  Almost half of this generational cohort report experiencing high levels of anxiety and stress all or most of the time. Gen Z is also largely skeptical of values messaging by institutions and organizations when such messaging isn’t accompanied by concrete evidence of action consistent with the expressed values.

How to Attract and Retain Gen Z Workers

Given this unique set of collective traits and priorities, how can employers best reach Gen Z job seekers and activate their potential in the workforce?  Here are five key considerations to undertake, ranked in order of importance according to the Conference Board’s focus group with members of Gen Z:

  1. Offer Adequate Compensation

Gen Z workers are seeking to alleviate overwhelming financial concerns, so a livable wage is of the utmost priority.  What’s more, this generation perceives reasonable compensation in terms of both equity and respect, so it is imperative to demonstrate that your company aligns with those values. Evaluate starting salaries and pay raise criteria, and consider integrating pay transparency into your hiring processes.

  1. Allow Some Personal Control Over Work Environment

Since Gen Z demonstrates a distinct preference for flexibility in their work, you should do your best to provide it where appropriate. For knowledge workers, this might mean offering a hybrid work model or at least some capacity for remote work.  For hourly workers, allowing for input regarding shift assignments and preparing schedules in advance to accommodate the planning of personal commitments can help meet Gen Z’s need for flexibility.

  1. Prioritize A Culture of Worker Safety & Mental/Physical Wellness

Many members of Gen Z are seeking a workplace where they feel genuinely supported and where their boundaries and lives outside work are respected.  Establishing procedures and dialogues that allow for employee feedback on offered benefits and workplace policies can help you ensure that you’re adequately meeting these needs.

  1. Provide Opportunities to Spotlight Skills and Grow Professionally

Gen Z has demonstrated both an eagerness to share their unique knowledge and skills in areas such as technology as well as a willingness to leave positions where they perceive a lack of opportunity for growth and development.  Highlight your Gen Z employee’s strengths while preventing job-hopping by working to create career paths within your organization that incorporate both internal and external opportunities for professional development.

  1. Commit to Living Your Organization’s Values

Gen Z workers won’t just leave a job over a lack of growth opportunity; they are also much more likely to quit if they perceive a mismatch between their personal values and those of their employer.  And words aren’t enough – Gen Z expects action and evidence to support the beliefs and values expressed by their employer.  Be sure to set clear expectations with Gen Z workers that emphasize the positive impact and importance of their work, and confirm that leadership and management are communicating with and treating employees in a manner that aligns with your organization’s values.

By incorporating these five elements into your company culture and processes, you’ll not only be better equipped to unlock the full potential of the Gen Z employee, your organization will be better positioned to weather the talent shortage by tapping into a pool of generational talent on the rise.