Characterised as a generation of ultra-tech-savvy, social-media-obsessed, ‘woke’ serial entrepreneurs, the Gen Zers have well and truly infiltrated the workforce. They were born between 1997 -2012, meaning the Gen Z workforce not only includes fresh-faced graduates, but mid-level professionals or managers with over five years’ experience under their belt. By 2025, Generation Z will make up a quarter of the global labour force, according to the World Economic Forum. While they've been in the workforce for a while, many employers are still struggling with the question: how do we adapt to make sure we’re able to attract and retain today's Gen Z Talent and tomorrow's future leaders?
Be flexible, but not too flexible.
According to a recent study by Deloitte, flexibility is the most important factor for Gen Z when considering a job. In fact, 75% of Gen Z respondents said they would prioritise a job with flexibility over one with a higher salary. The previous universal working set up of 9-5, five days a week in the office is unfathomable for Gen Z and companies who are moving back towards this pattern are unfortunately putting themselves at a disadvantage. This all ties in with the value that Gen Zers place on work-life balance, but also the fact that in the midst of an economic crisis, they are the generation of side-hustlers and it’s likely that they’ll have another source of income to tend to outside of their 9-5.
That being said, given the importance Gen Z place on growth and learning, they do want to spend their time in the office among their more learned colleagues and experience office culture. Leaving them to their own devices completely, without the chance to connect with their peers and managers in person could result in disengagement and dissatisfaction (a survey by Gallup found that Gen Z is already the most disengaged at work of any generation). It may seem idealist, but for Gen Zers, it’s all about having the option and agency over where they work so adjusting your working policy is key.
Keep them engaged through purpose.
Gen Zers are seeking purpose and the comfort in knowing that they’re having a positive impact on the world. Deloitte highlights that Gen Z is the first ever generation to value purpose over pay. They are climate conscious, and being part of an inclusive and diverse environment that allows them to bring their authentic selves to work is at the top of their agendas.
While many value bigger picture purpose, it’s important not to underestimate the power of creating a ‘why’ in their day-to-day role. There is a generational shift whereby employees were once content doing as asked, knowing they were contributing as a cog in the machine, younger employees are really looking to understand where the company is going and how they’re adding value.
Managers and leaders can increase outputs and engage Gen Z through shifting the conversation from one of “do this” to taking the time relay relevance, importance, and contribution to a larger goal. Make sure to tie these conversations into career progression, social justice/ESG, and increase in pay. Of course, this all depends on the individual and their core drivers. Everyone is different and it’s important not to make assumptions based on generational data.
They are the generation whose critical early career years were shaped by a global pandemic, forcing them to be stuck indoors in front of screens of all sizes not only for learning, but also for socialising. A 2022 survey by Morning Consult found that 54% of Gen Zers said they spend at least four hours daily on social media (the top two being video-based platforms YouTube and TikTok). As a business, you can capitalise on this by getting in front of and, consequently, attracting Gen Z by building your company’s social media presence to promote your culture and showcase the interesting things you’re doing as a workplace. You can also diversify the ways in which Gen Z candidates can apply to roles to create a more engaging experience e.g., through video job adverts asking for video format job applications in return.
No more ‘jobs for life’.
Set career paths are a thing of the past for Gen Z. According to social researcher, Claire Madden, a Gen Zer will have 17 different jobs across five different careers in their lifetime which, although looks like an alarming statistic to an employer, mainly stems from the fact that we’re going to be working longer. However, it does also hinge on the Gen Z desire to gather variety in their skillsets ensuring that they’re increasing their market value to earn as much money as possible. This may seem contradictory to the idea of valuing purpose over pay, but it’s also true that Gen Z are hustlers and incredibly savvy when it comes to how much they should be paid based on what they can offer. Just because you’re giving them a ‘why’, doesn’t mean they won’t look elsewhere when they feel their worth isn’t being compensated.
Although they may not be looking to have ‘one job for life’, Gen Zers will be more likely to stay in a role that will enable them to learn new things. NSHSS cites that 67% of Gen Zers want to work at companies where they can learn skills to progress and advance their careers. Where possible, a company should promote internal opportunities to upskill and cross skill, and ways in which they encourage internal mobility.
Undoubtedly, Gen Zers bring creative thinking, resilience, and technical aptitude to the workplace. Although it will ultimately depend on the individual, talent attraction strategies that emphasise a company’s inclusive culture, commitment to learning and development, and regard for work life balance are resonating with them the most. Make sure your strategies and policies are set up to capture their hearts of both grads and more experienced Gen-Zers alike, to harness the best out of this hardworking group.