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How to successfully attract and retain Gen Z employees

10 DecemberBy Rob Forsyth

Every generation of talent has its own unique traits and the so-called 'Generation Z', born between 1995 and 2015, are now entering the workforce and moving the discussion focus away from their much-debated predecessors, the millennials.

Already, the older members of the Millennial generation are approaching 40 and are well into their careers. Gen Z is now the target for employers who are looking to propel their businesses successfully into the future. This generation represents a staggering one-third of the world's total population. This means that, by next year, a quarter of the workforce will comprise Gen Z workers.

So, in order to grab the finest talent, you need to be ready to adapt your strategies to meet this unique group's needs.

The good news is that the older members of Gen Z are already working and have shown businesses what makes them tick. Interestingly, they are entirely different as a generation from millennials, so there is no room for complacency when it comes to hiring.

In the same way that modern-day marketing methods have to flex and target in order to meet the different needs of segmented groups, recruitment strategies must be equally responsive and intuitive to unique needs.

So without further ado, let's look at what makes Generation Z tick, and what you need to know about them.

1. Technology drives them

It's no surprise that this is the most technology-driven and enabled generation to date. As true digital natives who have never known any other way of life, they are completely comfortable with living their lives online, both professionally and personally. They also know digital etiquette in a way that no other generation yet has and they take digital media and technology offerings seriously.

For example, 12,000 young people in Gen Z were surveyed about employment choices [1] and a whopping 91% said that the technology on offer by a potential employer would be an influencing factor in their eventual job choice.

It's worth knowing too that this generation is completely present on social media platforms. They prefer Snapchat, and Instagram comes a close second. Bear this in mind for your hiring practices and HR policies.

You will also need to ensure that the online presence of your brand is up to scratch. Fail to impress this generation with your digital offering and they are likely to look elsewhere. A smart office and benefits package won't win them over if your website looks outdated, has bugs in it or fails to work on their smartphone.

It's important to look up to date with this talent pool, so that they feel inclined to work for you. Similarly, pay attention to your employer brand on social media and remember that they simply aren't on Facebook in any notable way. It's still important to have a Facebook account for your other generation customers and employees, but you'll need to consider signing up to a Snapchat and Instagram account too in order to engage.

Another important area in which to focus your digital efforts is online reviews. Gen Z is all about brand perception and they will instantly go online to find out what other people think about your company and working for you. Remember that they have grown up living every aspect of their life online, so reviews from ex-employees and customers are an obvious stop for them.

Scour online to see what sort of material there is about your company. If you find negative reviews, answer them and address them. Don't try blackhat or underhand PR techniques though (see authenticity below) but aim to really work out where any problems might exist and show that you are tackling them in a meaningful and real way.

2. They are independent

This generation cares greatly about independence and autonomy and this is shown in their working practices. The internet allows them to find answers to the majority of questions that they may have and they will naturally turn to Google when they want to know something. They expect their need for independence to be met and this includes having a healthy degree of flexibility and work-life balance.

However, it is interesting to note that they are prepared to meet employers halfway and work hard for their careers. Employers who can offer flexibility and freedom in roles will find that they can attract this young talent. Allow them to work on their own, to set their own schedules and to talk in-depth about the work for which they will be responsible.

Give them tech that allows them to work from home and show that they are trusted to do this to the best of their ability. Remember, this generation isn't used to being physically present in a space in order to contribute. They buy things online, socialise online, enjoy events online, become informed online and take their careers forward online too.

Working remotely or flexibly will not be remotely strange or undesirable to them, although most will want the camaraderie of a team and the chance to be physically present too. These steps remind them of responsibility and allow them to set up for the challenge. And step up they will because...

3. They are competitive!

Millennials were all about the team, but Gen Z love healthy competition. This is largely because they grew up in an economic downturn and saw the importance of having enough money and security. They love to be seen and to be appreciated and have grown up being assessed and receiving feedback throughout their education.

So, offer regular feedback and make it specific and constructive, so they can work on their performance and drive their career forward. Gen Z workers will put in plenty of effort, but they must feel that they are being recognised. Just show that their commitment and performance is noted with a meaningful thank you and other forms of recognition.

Train your older managers to give daily check-ins for younger workers - even just five minutes - which will go against management cultures for Millennials upwards. The more structured your performance management can be and the more clear your routes to promotion and progression, the more engaged your younger workers will be since they were already raised on a diet of gamification and a desire to "level up" through effort and talent.

4. But at the same time, risk-averse

Again, driven by their experiences of growing up in a recession and perhaps an educational culture that has avoided risk-taking as a core skill, this generation value safety and are not keen to take risks. They want employers who can offer security and stability, with nearly 70% staying in a survey of 1,000 young workers [2] that job stability was actually more important than a role they felt passionate about, contrasting sharply with Millennials in this regard.

Employers who can emphasise the security of the job and the opportunity for growth and development will find it easier to attract and retain this age group. This value also means that the quirky perks of old - nap pods, pool tables, film afternoons and the like - are becoming less important. Gen Z workers want to see paid leave, share schemes, training opportunities, volunteering, private healthcare, flexible working and other more fundamental perks.

This generation also likes financial stability, so a good pension and benefits such as interest-free loans for rail season tickets will be attractive to them. It's worth noting too that Gen Z workers are highly aware that their current skills will rapidly outdate and the jobs that they will be doing in a decade are likely to be completely different and tech-driven. Show that you invest in ongoing training and development in a real and meaningful way.

5. They are broad-minded

Broader society has gone through some significant shifts in the lifetime of these young workers and they are particularly open-minded as a result, as well as being very interested in inclusivity and diversity. For example, they are more likely to support issues such as gender-neutral bathrooms than older generations.

Of course, part of this interest is because Generation Z is the most diverse yet, ethnically, socially, economically and in terms of religion, politics, sexual orientation and other key demographics. They have been shaped by the #metoo movement, Black Lives Matter, changing LGBTQ rights and other key issues of inclusivity. So this also means that they expect diversity and a real commitment to inclusivity from their employers. If there is any hint of unequal pay or a promotion culture that still favours middle-aged white men, you won't see them for dust.

Employers can simply progress their existing good work in this sphere and show that their efforts are genuine and sincere. Employee groups and forums are a great way to show this authentic commitment and to encourage ownership of diversity issues across the company, letting employees make decisions about issues which affect them.

Let your teams talk about these areas rather than attempting to PR things. Encourage your Gen Z workers to become involved in forums and groups which allow them to shape the internal culture and agenda so that they feel bought into it and key to its development. These are young adults who expect to be treated as such, albeit with that regular feedback loop which tells them that their efforts are taking them on the right path.

6. Above all... they value authenticity

As with Millennials just before them, this generation is keen to support brands and causes which tie in with their personal values. Environmentalism, sustainability, fairness and inclusivity all weigh in heavily here. They will look for jobs at brands whose business offers they feel an affinity with. They expect trust, transparency and honesty at all times, even when this means sharing a hard message.

Today's employers need to look carefully at how they are positioned within the communities that they serve. They need to have genuine CSR strategies and products and services which are produced in ethical, sustainable ways. They need anti-slavery policies and inclusive access that allows everyone in their community to engage with their offer without discrimination.

They must strive to be 'better' businesses that create holistic value that exceeds the simple shareholder value maximisation of old. And in return, these talented and hard-working young people will strive to perform and to make a real difference, especially when treated as adults, listened to, recognised and treated fairly with appropriate compensation and reward.

It may feel that we were only discussing Millennials and their needs a few moments ago. But this exciting new generation of Z-ers is coming fast and they offer great potential for forward-thinking businesses who are serious about building their talent capability for the future. Whether in digital or events, SaaS, sales or another field, it is essential to know how to secure the best talent.

Learn about Generation Z now and adapt your marketing, recruitment and employee engagement strategies accordingly to attract these bright young things and to align your business's strategic position for the future.




[2] They are broad-minded



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