Workplace Wellbeing

Gen Z Employees: 3 Successful Strategies for Attracting, Retaining, and Supporting Them

Gen Z employees know exactly what they want in a first job and workplace culture, and are much more likely to move on if their expectation levels aren’t adequately met. Here's how to successfully attract, retain, and support them.

Written by
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Dave Fisse
Clinically reviewed by
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Gen Z employees huddled next to each other smiling

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    In Part 1 of this blog series, we gained a deeper understanding of Gen Z’s unique character traits, motivations, and values regarding work—which can pay dividends down the road for forward-thinking business leaders. Gaining an understanding of Gen Z is, admittedly, the least challenging part of this whole equation. Putting what you’ve learned into practice—seeing those strategies effectively resonate with these employees, on their level—is a little trickier.

    Bruce M. Anderson, LinkedIn’s senior content marketing manager, perfectly captured the essence of this challenge for recruiters and hiring managers, stating that Gen Z is not a problem to be solved but an opportunity to be seized.

    So, let’s take the next step in leveraging our new understanding of Gen Z to develop successful strategies to attract and support them in the workplace.

    Leveraging a deeper understanding of Gen Z

    Make no mistake, Gen Z knows exactly what they want in a first job and workplace culture. And they boast a stubborn unwillingness to compromise that vision. In fact, Gen Zers are much more likely to move on if their expectation levels are not adequately met by employers.

    LinkedIn platform data shows that Gen Z employees in the U.S. are transitioning jobs nearly 40% percent more than last year, and more than double the rate of millennials. 

    When you combine this deeply ingrained belief of what’s “deserved” with an elevated view of self (and perceived value), it’s understandable to be taken aback by how unrealistic Gen Z’ers expectations can be. 

    This can be especially true when contrasted with the harsh realities of today’s job market for entry-level candidates and a shaky economy. Consider Exhibit A, the headline “Generation Z Says They Work the Hardest, But Only When They Want To,” from a 2019 Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) article. 

    Attracting Gen Z talent

    Successfully attracting Gen Z employees begins with a steadfast commitment to a new-and-improved culture that continually fosters wellbeing at work. This includes more support for mental health and wellbeing, more flexibility, more transparency and authenticity, and more career advancement and compensation, to name a few key areas.

    Handshake conducted a recent survey of Gen Z college students and recent graduates to learn more about the factors that compel them to apply for and remain at a job. The results revealed some interesting and actionable insights for HR and People leaders to consider when developing new strategies to attract and support Gen Z:

    • 70% say pay is the most important factor. Gen Z’ers want a level of compensation that enables a true work-life balance—covering the current cost of living and enabling remote work opportunities.
    • 71% expect to be promoted between 6 months to 1.5 years after starting a new role.
    • Approximately 60% say they avoid applying for jobs with employers that have even a perceived negative impact on the environment.

    3 strategies for cultivating a Gen Z-friendly workplace

    Your new understanding of what drives Gen Z’s belief system concerning what the workplace should look like, and why, will inform more effective talent acquisition strategies you can put into practice.

    HR and People leaders can get ahead of the game with this short list prioritizing what Gen Z wants from employers.

    Embrace flexibility (like never before)

    Workplace flexibility is no longer a “nice to have”. Gen Z desires a culture of full flexibility, where employees can determine their own schedules, including “non-traditional” work hours, daily remote or hybrid work options, and more paid time off. 

    Here’s an all-too-obvious reality check: the days of a traditional 9-5 spent heads-down in a cubicle is just not going to work for most Gen Zer’s. 

    Invest in learning opportunities and professional growth

    A workplace culture that emphasizes and encourages on-the-job training not only engages and incentivizes your existing employees, but will also get the attention of Gen Z talent seeking employers that prioritize learning. Gen Z’ers love to learn new skills, especially if it adds to their value and helps them excel in their roles.

    According to LinkedIn’s recent Employee Well-Being Report, employees see “opportunities to learn and grow” as the top driver of work culture. In fact, 76% of Gen Z’ers believe that learning is the key to a successful career.

    Put corporate values into practice

    It’s hardly surprising that 80% of Gen Z’ers are seeking employers that better align with their values. Gen Z is remarkably well-equipped to differentiate “corporate speak,” touting an organization’s stated mission and values when it’s not actually put into practice. 

    Here’s a quick capture of some of what they’re looking for, to help you visualize your plan of action:

    • Greater diversity and inclusion that’s more than surface deep
    • Meaningful, impactful work that challenges their mind and doesn’t just keep them busy
    • More frequent recognition for the work they produce
    • Higher starting salary and a promotion after 1-2 years

    Supporting your Gen Z employees

    Forward-thinking HR leaders and recruiters are winning hearts and captivating the minds of young and eager Gen Z’ers by speaking their language and directly appealing to their egos. How? By “cashing in” returns on the investment they made early on to learn about their strengths and weaknesses, motivations, and non-negotiables on a deeper level. 

    We’ve said it before, and we’ll say it again—similar success with supporting Gen Z employees is achievable if we embrace an evolution in the way we work. 

    So, what exactly does “evolution” mean in practical terms for HR and People leaders? When it comes to the support Gen Z demands of their first employer, it really means prioritizing wellbeing through transparency, honesty, and authenticity.  

    Madison Vitug, LinkedIn’s engineering recruiter (and proud Gen Zer), authenticates this “non-negotiable” for Gen Z’ers in her insightful blog article

    “In [LinkedIn’s] latest Global Talent Trends report, we noted that 66% of Gen Zers would like to see more investment in mental health and wellness as a way to improve company culture compared to 51% of Millennials, 41% of Gen X, and 31% of baby boomers.”

    The importance of wellbeing in the workplace for Gen Z

    Gen Z is the most likely of all generations to report poor mental health, including higher rates of anxiety, depression, and distress than any other age group. 

    That’s why it’s never been more important for HR and People leaders to develop training models and peer-to-peer initiatives that adapt to Gen Z’s need for wellbeing in the workplace.

    To meet the level of mental health support and sense of wellbeing Gen Z’ers want and need, consider investing heavily in the following focus areas.

    Normalize conversations about mental health

    Regularly talking about mental health challenges in the workplace can help normalize these conversations, and create a safe and stable space for Gen Z’ers continually coping with a sense of uncertainty.

    Provide effective leadership training

    It’s essential for management on multiple levels to be properly trained so that they’re equipped to recognize the signs of anxiety and depression in employees, and properly initiate confidential peer-to-peer conversations. 

    Reduce mental health stigma with open communication

    New initiatives led by HR and People leaders that encourage open and honest communication— led with empathy and understanding—can defeat the stigmas around mental health in the workplace.

    Learn why mental health benefits matter to Gen Z women more than any other demographic and how they're driving change in the workplace. 

    About the Author
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    Dave Fisse

    A proud Pacific Northwest native, Dave lives in Los Angeles where the abundance of sunshine fuels his creativity. The University of Oregon School of Journalism provided the foundation for his 15-year career as a copywriter and storyteller. Dave is passionate about advocating for men's mental health, spending quality time with his wife and three-year-old, and watching Oregon Ducks football in the Fall.

    About the clinical reviewer
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