Employers and Gen Z: Time to Lay The Foundation For the Next Wave of Talent

Gen Z

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

And for good reason: More than one-in-three American workers today fall into the age group.

However, as 18-35 year-olds settle into the workforce for the foreseeable future, 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 Gen Zs 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 Zs requires an entirely different dance.

Understanding the next generation

Self-starters, autonomous, career-focused, and debt-adverse – these are all adjectives that describe the Gen Z bunch. Not to mention, they’re the most digital native generation to date, raised with a smart phone 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, who they work with and how they work together for a purpose beyond profits is paramount. This is likely why they are attracted to smaller, more unique companies. Their culture is the most on-demand to date, seeking immediate resolutions to problems and finding great satisfaction in rapid results.

Variety is a driving force for Gen Z, as they’re eager to connect with their peers and exchange ideas in open and collaborative environments. They’re equipped with an entrepreneurial spirit and desire to make a meaningful and immediate impact in both their careers and 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 goalsWhen asked what they’d look for in their first job, Gen Zs 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 — Gen Zs want to define their career paths early and expect workplace hierarchies to be level, rather than the traditional chain of command. Organization 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 continuously change.
  • Offer a mission-driven environment — Gen Z’s have a strong desire to capitalize on entrepreneurial visions and make a positive impact in their communities. In fact, the Bureau of Labor Statistics found that 26 percent of 16 to 19-year-olds already spends time volunteering.
  • Be flexible — Gen Zs have never been tethered by wires, creating an expectation of freedom technology that eliminates the traditional in-office 9-5. They’re more concerned with the work they produce vs. where they produce it, and organizations must share in that feeling.
  • Boost the business’ brand — Nearly three in four HR professionals don’t have a formal branding program, and 51 percent aren’t even considering one. Gen Zs are consistently browsing your website and social 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 takes it to whole new level: 83 percent of Gen Zs 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:

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  • Prioritizing variety — Crucial to Gen Z retention, organizations must introduce “microlearning” to deliver bite size learning content quickly, and provide opportunities across a learning community for Gen Zs to contribute at a meaningful level.
  • Mentoring throughout the employment cycle — Helping Gen Zs carve their niche while nurturing development opportunities at every turn brings multiple benefits, as it enables organizations to groom Gen Zs for leadership roles while maintaining a high level of engagement.
  • Starting fresh — Organizations must be willing to toss the “this is how we do it” attitude out the window and connect with Gen Zs on how to best help them succeed in their role to drive mutual growth.

Laying a foundation for the next wave

It’s estimated to cost between $15,000 and $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.


  • JB

    Debt averse? They’re only 11 tops. What, do they never borrow lunch money?