Editor’s note: INMA just released a report on Gen Z. What Gen Z + Media Need From Each Other is free to INMA members.
When it comes to the Gen Z workforce, there are heaps of articles complaining about how high Zoomers’ salary demands are, how they should be happy to even have a job, and how entitled they are for “basically having little to no experience at all yet.”
However, if you think on it a bit deeper, their attitude toward work makes sense, and there is merit in understanding the new generation entering the job market. After all, they’re your future customers, so you desperately need them working on your product if you want your business to have a future.
Additionally, companies face huge labour shortages; within the next five years Boomers will start retiring, shrinking the labour force by 9% in Europe and 16% in the United States.
So, how do you make sure members of Gen Z want to work for you? Here is an overview loosely based on the employee lifecycle.
1. Communicate your vision, values, and challenges
There’s been a paradigm shift.
Back in the day, with so many people entering the job market at the same time (I’m looking at you, Boomers), you were lucky to even have a job. Nowadays, there are relatively few graduates starting out, and, especially if they have highly relevant skills (such as in AI, data, or cloud computing), they know any employer is lucky to have them — not vice versa.
Now, if you can work anywhere, why would you waste your time and energy on a company that doesn’t align with your personal values, working on something you don’t care about?
That’s right, you wouldn’t.
This especially shows up when it comes to diversity. According to a recent study, “86% of Gen Z job seekers cite a company’s commitment to diversity as an important factor in deciding whether or not to accept an offer. More than two-thirds would be reluctant to accept an offer if they didn’t meet any underrepresented employees during the interview process. Once hired, 78% would consider finding a new job if they found their employer wasn’t committed to diversity in the workplace.”
Additionally, it helps being open about the challenges you’re facing! No company has no problems, and acting like you don’t definitely makes you seem untrustworthy. The best hiring campaign won’t help much if your future employees find out the truth within the first weeks of starting their new job.
Consider openly discussing challenges and basing your hiring campaigns on looking for problem solvers who will help you fix what’s wrong.
2. Get real about salary and benefits
Not only are there few Zoomers, but they’re also highly skilled, so it’s no surprise they want to be paid accordingly. While there are definitely some with outrageous claims for compensation, it makes sense to rethink your pay structures. If you can’t adjust your salaries according to market prices, look at what employee benefits you can offer, such as a programme for receiving corporate shares.
I feel this shouldn’t need to add this footnote, but better safe than sorry: We’re talking real benefits, such as healthcare, parental leave, and paid time off. No one cares about your ping-pong table or fruit basket.
3. Be authentic
The idea that companies should be authentic might seem bizarre. However, Gen Z will do its research. The second public communications and internal affairs don’t seem to match up, these candidates will reconsider applying.
Instead of just having outstanding corporate communications, let your employees speak for you. What is their daily business like? Then, potential employees can see if they’d match with the corporate culture.
4. Adopt a growth mindset
The expectation for personal and professional growth has reached new highs. Zoomers want to learn on the job and grow into their role as opposed to already fulfilling 100% of the job requirements. This can include wanting to outgrow the current company, so definitely put great care into your talent management to retain Zoomers within the company.
There is also a big focus on independence. Gen Z employees count on their managers to help them understand where they need to go, but it’s ultimately their own job to figure out how to get there.
This goes hand-in-hand with the expectation that their expertise and possible objections matter — why else would you have hired them? Hopefully not to just suck up to you.
5. Embrace psychological safety
In my recent blog post, I talked about Gen Z having the most mental health issues compared to any other generation. Psychological safety in the workplace is a huge thing for them, in two different ways.
On the one hand, it should be possible to speak about mental health at work by discussing work load, potential mental health days off, and, ultimately, having more empathy for each other.
On the other hand, there’s feedback: When wanting to learn and grow, you need to know what you can improve upon. Something that tends to be forgotten in corporate environments, though, is also openly acknowledging work well done.
Like Amit Das wrote in his recent blog post: “Gen X [can’t] give lectures to Gen Z based on historical viewpoints simply by having the virtue of living a few decades more than them.”
While it might seem outrageous how much companies seem to have to change their existing mental models and corporate structures, it’s definitely worth it to include cross-generational perspectives to build resilient and regenerative organisations for the future.
One final tip: It might be tempting to read up on articles discussing youth culture, lingo, and emoji usage. Try to resist the temptation to insert yourself in their spaces like this, though. There are few things more cringe-worthy than someone trying too hard to act younger than they are. It’s OK to not be on top of all the new trends.