What Generation Z employees really want

Bean-bag chairs, foosball tables, pizza Fridays, and work-where-you-want schedules became the business norm over the past decade as hiring managers and business owners competed to lure in the top talent. However, as the workforce transitions from Generation Y millennials (those born between 1981 and 1996) to Generation Z (those born between 1996 and 2010), employers may need another reboot to best attract the minds of the future.

Gen Z employees—who will bring expertise in strategically important areas like cybersecurity, tech systems and digital communication–don’t want to be “distracted” from work. They want, instead, to be engaged in meaningful work. They want an employer who understands their desire to grow, embraces their digital dependence and empowers their place in the process. Attracting top talent in these key areas begins with understanding what Generation Z employees really want, and then applying those concepts to your employee acquisition and retention strategies.

Embrace digital culture

The millennial generation was heavily influenced by technology, but Gen Z is the first generation to grow up completely immersed in technology and the digital age. You’re looking at a group that is unaccustomed to manual tasks, and that solves problems primarily through technology.

Generation Z employees want to work somewhere that utilizes technology in the workplace for everything from onboarding to communicating with co-workers from wherever, and whenever, they are working, to managing their benefits. Technology is in their comfort zone, and utilizing it allows Gen Z employees to exercise this vital skill set. Ask a Gen Z employee to bring a notebook to your desk, and they’ll ask you why you aren’t using Slack. Ask a Gen Z employee to map out a project on a white board, and they’ll wonder why you aren’t using Basecamp or Zoho. Overall, using technology in an office space is logical for Gen Z employees and it can drive efficiency and cost savings for employers too.

Improve and promote a workplace culture of growth

Whether managers want to acknowledge it or not, the recent trend in retention strategies has been to provide employees with perks that take their minds off work.

Rather than distract from what may seem like the doldrums of “work life”, employers can create and promote a workplace culture that excites them in a genuine way and is a place they want to buy into. For Generation Z, this means fostering a culture of personal growth, being more open to their input and investing in each employee as an individual person.

According to a 2018 Gartner Global Labor Market Survey,1 nearly a quarter of Generation Z workers identified developmental opportunities as a key driving factor in job attractiveness. This is up from 17% of millennials polled in 2013. If this trend continues, employers will need to make changes to stay competitive.

An idea of what this could look like includes:

  • Open dialogue about the direction of company projects
  • Clearly defined paths for upward mobility
  • Providing the “why” for job tasks when possible to demonstrate how their contributions further the company mission
  • Demonstrating how company leadership lives the mission and values it has defined
  • Opportunities to participate in community service and “give back” on company time
  • Regular and actionable feedback and not just annual performance reviews (they are accustomed to instantaneous response and rewards)
  • Transparent culture (where they feel heard as they are used to having their say)
  • An inclusive workplace – the office they work in should look like the world they live in
  • Flexibility

More than just personal needs

You don’t have to turn far to see the younger generation taking a more active role in global issues like climate change and environmental care. It’s important for employers to understand this care for the greater good extends past their time off the clock. These employees want to work with companies that are not only environmentally and socially conscious but enable employees to get involved and make a lasting change.

Examples of implementation include:

  • Reducing your company’s carbon footprint
  • Utilizing sustainable products
  • Offering company-sponsored volunteer opportunities
  • Increasing emphasis on corporate social responsibility (CSR)
  • Open dialogue about the issues important to your employees

Hiring and retaining Generation Z employees

By building and promoting a workplace that fosters growth, empowering workers to create their personal brand and embracing their digital needs, employers will be able to attract, and retain, valuable Gen Zers. Soon enough, you’ll be on the fast track to acquiring top-notch talent and keeping them around for longer than you would otherwise. Check out the business owner experience to find how to retain and incentivize valuable employees.

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1 https://www.gartner.com/en/newsroom/press-releases/2019-05-14-gartner-says-40–of-gen-z-employees-regret-accepting-