Rise of Gen Z: Attraction and Retention

rise of gen z_igen contract worker in a blue hat gray shirt and using a hand saw

When it comes to Generation Z, money isn’t everything.  This generation will put their work ethic, diversity and work-life balance at the center of reasoning when deciding whether or not to join a company.  In other words:  Generation Z morals count more now than ever before.  Companies who ignore this run the risk of being ignored.  Those who embrace it will be able to successfully attract and retain Gen Zers.

There in lies the most significant challenge facing HR preparing for the ever increasing numbers of Generation Z workers joining the workforce.

Rise of Gen Z

Over the last few weeks, I’ve written a series of articles directed at Gen Z trends.  In my first article, I introduced Generation Z characteristics and explained what HR should know as the youngest group of workers takes their rightful places across the workforce.  To summarize, members of Generation Z are:

  • the first true digital natives
  • really focused on diversity and social issues
  • pragmatic, especially when it comes to money
  • entrepreneurial in spirit
  • looking for more face-to-face communication

In the second article, I focused on redefining HR for Generation Z.  I reflected on what makes companies attractive to Generation Z, specifically looking at employer brand and why it is such an important tool when trying to reach Gen Zers.  I also explained why companies needed to be transparent in the information they make available to employees as well as supporting flexibility.  Finally, I looked at employee engagement and why it was important to keeping Generation Z workers on board.

Attracting Generation Z

It’s not hard to see the threads of attracting and retaining Gen Zers running through the previous two articles.  It’s for that reason it is extremely important that HR staff be capable of seeing the world through the eyes of a Gen Z worker.

I start with a comparison between Generation Y, also called millennials, and Generation Z.  Why?  It’s important to see both sides of this particular coin. 


Generation Y (Millennials) Generation Z
  • Fast track to the top of the ladder
  • Unique career advancement opportunities
  • Mentorship
  • Innovation opportunities
  • Work-life balance
  • Remote work, flexible schedule

Companies are attracting and retaining workers from both generations.  That means any strategy has to serve a dual purpose in attracting high quality talent.  Millennials have been around for a while now, so attracting those workers is more of a science at this point.  I don’t mean to insinuate millennials be ignored.  Quite the contrary, but they are no longer the youngest generation in the workforce.

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Not as familiar to companies, however, are the items of significant importance to attracting Generation Z.

The Hiring Process

When seeking out talent from Generation Z, companies have to make sure their hiring process is equipped to handle the challenge.  It’s not all about college degrees anymore.  Not all Gen Zers have these.  Some were homeschooled and acquired self-taught skills through online courses.  This forces HR to change their perspective on what the future worker looks like.

Having said that, part of the hiring process must also focus on how best the Generation Z worker can serve the company.  Look at their ability to direct themselves, along with how they motivate themselves.  

One note of warning to the HR professional:  Gen Zers are not shy about asking questions.  They are very confident and will be so in the interview/hiring process.  Many will want to explore the office and talk to current employees.  They are very self-aware.  They know what they want and what they don’t want.  If they don’t see it in the interview, there is a high probability they will not want to work for the company.  This supports the idea that companies are really no longer interviewing perspective employees; it is employees interviewing prospective employers.

Retaining Generation Z

In previous articles, I’ve looked at the surface of retaining Generation Z through employer branding and employee engagement, but it goes much deeper than that.  Gen Zers are ambitious, creative-problem solvers, and tech-savvy.  In one word, they’re agile.

They expect employers to be the same.

Steve Roberson from Glassdoor offers three tips for, as he says it, becoming Gen Z Friendly.

Structure, rather than control, work

Gen Zers, just like Millennials, are independent.  They can customize their experience with the click of a button.  They also want the flexibility to structure work around their lives.  If that means working from home, than so be it.  Robertson said flexibility “has replaced healthcare as the No. 1 sought-after benefit, and World Services Group found 28 percent of Gen Zers rank work-life balance as their top career priority.”

For employers, that means giving up a bit of control.  Instead of trying to control work, offer guidance without dictating how work gets done.  Focus on the quality of the end result.

Don’t Manage.  Mentor.

Gen Zers don’t want someone telling them what to do.  Focus on mentoring. 

Help them work toward long-term goals through well-defined markers, but don’t take away the opportunity for creativity,” Roberson said.  “Done well, setting goals in advance can turn goal progression into a game, allowing this generation to “level up” and achieve amazing things.”

Make Deliberate Workplaces

Gen Zers need a place to think, create, and o their thing, but Robertson says it must foster collaboration without making the worker feel claustrophobic.

“When Gen Zers feel engaged and valued, they’re more likely to invest in the company as a whole,” Robertson said.  “Don’t assume that your younger employees always want to be surrounded by co-workers because it’s trendy. In fact, only 8 percent said they like the idea of an open workspace because all that face-to-face interaction is stressful for them, according to research by author David Stillman.”

In summation

Generation Z is changing the way companies function at all levels.  HR needs to take this to heart.  HR must adapt and equip themselves to handle the needs of this new worker.  Those who fail to do so will simply fall behind.

This is the final of three articles in the Rise of Generation Z article series.  Read the first article here and the second article here.


Picture courtesy:  Stock Photo Secrets