October 20, 2016

Hello, Gen. Z: Attracting and Keeping the Incoming Workforce


As the largest generation in the workforce, millennials get a lot of attention. Many companies only concern themselves with recruiting and retaining this coveted demographic – but this will soon be a mistake. “Millennial” is no longer synonymous with “young” and “cool”; they’re getting older – buying houses, starting families, and moving on with their lives and careers. There’s a whole new generation on the scene, searching for employment, and it’s definitely something to be excited about.

Drumroll please … it’s time to welcome Gen. Z!

Gen. Z has incredible strengths. They grew up with technology, accessible information, and platforms to express their opinions. They’re masters of aesthetic branding (think Instagram, not MySpace). They are dynamite, passionate team members. Perhaps most importantly, they are highly motivated and pursue lofty life goals. This is a population that knows that there is, in fact, a path to great success. Gen. Z understands that no goal is unattainable with the right strategy.

But there’s an issue: All that passion and vigor means that Gen. Z doesn’t want to stay in one position with one company for too long. They hope to reach their dream jobs within 10 years, so they’re moving on – and moving on fast.

Even more telling, many Gen. Z-ers would prefer to work for themselves, with 31 percent of young women in the U.S. saying they would rather be entrepreneurs, according to a recent State of the Girl survey my nonprofit, the 1,000 Dreams Fund, conducted in partnership with Recruiter.com and Toluna Quicksurveys.

So how can employers create workplace cultures that retain Gen. Z employees? It all comes down to one word: Loyalty.

Gen. Z employees, just like workers of all other ages, are more likely to stay with a company they can trust. Ensure loyalty by creating a company culture that’s committed to the employee. Here’s how you can do it:

Commit to Personal Development

If you want to keep Gen. Z, you need to show you support their lives as people and professionals. People naturally desire to learn about the world beyond the confines of their jobs or educations. 1,000 Dreams Fund is committed to helping students pursue their personal goals while focusing on their studies. We embrace their “follow your dreams” mentality by supporting their extracurricular pursuits outside the classroom with microgrants.

lakeFor Gen. Z, long-term dreams aren’t questions of “what if?” but of “how soon?” They want to check items off of their personal bucket lists, and they aren’t totally content when they aren’t pursuing their goals. That lack of satisfaction can fuel resentment toward their places of employment, which can lead to unexpected two weeks’ notices.

Employers should demonstrate genuine interest in Gen. Z’s future achievements – academic and beyond. Invest in certifications, further education, and memberships to organizations. Support your employees’ quests, and the rewards will be double-sided: Their feelings of personal fulfillment and accomplishment will improve job performance and reduce turnover.

By committing to personal development, a company is proving that it truly values its employees. That makes it a more desirable place to work, filled with more desirable staffers.

Commit to Transparency – and Use Technology to Do It!

One thing that all generations can agree upon is that transparency is valued. But Gen. Z is the first demographic to expect – and, at times, demand – it.

Now, we aren’t advocating that you toss out everything you’ve been doing to onboard new employees. For instance, you don’t need to get rid of face-to-face training by HR, but you do need to add a digital component to make it a multichannel strategy. This can go a long way in increasing employer-employee trust by setting and sharing your company’s practices and policies with everyone. Gen. Z wants access to information. After all, they’ve grown up with all the information they need one click away on their phones. If they have questions about an internal policy, it should be easy for them to locate the answers.

If your company has the ability to create an internal-facing app with this information, definitely make that an option. WeWork, a coworking community and workspace for entrepreneurs and businesses, offers its members a user-friendly app where members can book meeting space, access information about their membership, interact with each other globally, and even recruit new employees. For this global community of loosely connected members, WeWork has created a climate of collaboration and transparency by simply having this app.

Again, as an employer, creating a culture of transparency is only to your benefit. It creates a better-functioning workforce where employees can easily communicate across departments, leading to increased productivity. Who doesn’t want that?

Be Fair

PhotosIf you want to keep your top talent – especially members of Gen. Z – you need to do the right thing, and that starts with paying them fairly. With one quick online search, your employees can see what others are being paid to do the same work at competing companies. If they see an opportunity to thrive elsewhere, they’ll take it. Pay inequity is no longer hidden behind a veil, so to gain the respect and trust of Gen. Z, you must make a clear commitment to fair and equal pay.

You can also create a culture of fairness by getting creative with benefits. Gen. Z saw the previous generation struggle through a recession, and they’re racking up plenty of debt of their own. They’re more willing to negotiate salaries if the benefits are better at one company than another. Think beyond gym memberships or social hours – although those are helpful, too! Maybe you can pay for their 401(k), match their savings, or offer a progressive parental leave policy.

Companies that are willing to partner with their most excited employees see more results. Why wouldn’t you want to work with your best advocates? Develop your young, talented, satisfied supporters, and the results can be huge. They’re going to essentially recruit for you, sharing positive work-related experiences via social media. Suddenly, you’re not doing heavy recruiting anymore, and that’s the big win. Make your company a place where employees are not only excited to be professionally, but will also thrive both personally and financially.

Christie Garton is an award-winning social entrepreneur, author, and creator of the 1,000 Dreams Fund, a social enterprise that empowers young women in the U.S. through scholarships and life-changing advice. 

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Christie Garton is an award-winning social entrepreneur, author, and creator of the 1,000 Dreams Fund (1000dreamsfund.org), a social enterprise that empowers young women in the U.S. through scholarships and life-changing advice. Garton is the author of the best-selling college guidebook for women, "U Chic: College Girls' Real Advice for Your First Year (& Beyond!)" (4th Edition, Sourcebooks 2015) and coauthor of "Marketing to Millennials: Reach the Largest and Most Influential Generation of Consumers Ever" (AMACOM 2013). Garton has contributed to USA Today, The Wall Street Journal, The Huffington Post, and U.S.News & World Report. She holds a J.D. from the University of Pennsylvania.