The youngest talent populating the labour market belongs to a cohort called Generation Z; generally defined as anyone born after 1997. Now making up roughly 30% of the global population, the question has quite rightly been asked: how can we strategize to attract and retain these alien ‘digital natives’?
You will have already seen the researchers and think tanks throwing their scare-mongering claims at you, with each article making different assumptions for what an entire generation demands from their employers. Sounds ridiculous right? The reality is, being born in 1998 myself, even I can’t speak for the hundreds of millions of young people belonging to Gen Z. The irony is, as we explore what might enhance the workplace for Gen Z, in fact makes the workplace better for everyone.
- Training and development.
I think I’m safe in saying the concept of staying with the same organisation until retirement has long expired. A symptom of this change in labour market conditions is that job-hopping is a bigger concern than ever. Retention is an increasing challenge then, for a generation with the same lack of organisational loyalty as the millennials before them. Effective and frequent training & development is therefore a crucial factor in fostering a longer-term allegiance, by demonstrating your will to invest in their futures. Not only retaining an engaged Gen Z workforce, but an engaged workforce in its entirety.
- Student debt help.
For the Gen Z graduates of today, there is no doubt that student loan repayment will be a significant factor in their financial well-being, with the average cost of a 3-year degree sitting at £35,000. Solutions to address student debt makes employers immediately relevant, signalling empathy in a move that can really make an impact. Its not hard to see this offering a serious competitive advantage in attracting top graduate talent, and once again it’s not just Gen Z that benefits, anyone with a considerable amount of student debt will be more concerned with its repayment before making any meaningful retirement contributions.
- Mental and physical well-being.
Amid a generational mental health crisis amongst young adults, employers that can demonstrate what they are doing to promote cultures of openness and support will only surpass those who neglect the issue. The exact same goes for physical health and well-being, which is just as important and entirely interlinked. The common theme of empathy towards societal issues is clearly becoming a strategic tool in attracting and retaining Gen Z talent, and equally, ask yourself which generation doesn’t want their mental and physical well-being to be a priority?
- Exam help.
The importance of career-focused perks is again highlighted as we look at employers projecting empathy towards their current or prospective talent’s goals. Offering things like paid study leave, exam materials, or opportunities to take professional qualification exams in-house go a long way to achieving this. No question Gen Z’s are exam and development focused, but yet again we see desires that are not exclusive to one generation.
So perhaps my title was misleading, but hopefully we’ve stripped away the mystery surrounding what Gen Z wants. And at the same time highlighted that it’s very easy to look at Gen Z as making new demands, when really the uncomfortable truth lies in a historic lack of being strategically prepared incoming generations and emphatic around issues that are nothing new.
Josh Milton-Edwards is a fledgling HR professional mad about all things culture, engagement and wellbeing. I work for an award-winning best-practice culture department based in the UK. Soaking up every last bit of the experience before completing my HRM degree in 2019/20. Aiming high and can’t wait to see what more opportunities arise for the taking!