How to Recruit & Retain Generation Z

How to Recruit & Retain Generation Z

More and more SMEs are beginning to tailor recruitment drives to different generations. Here's how to attract and retain employees from 'Generation Z'.

By Howard Wiley

Millennials, Baby Boomers and Generation X all report to behave differently and value different elements in their careers. However, with Generation Z (Gen Z) primed to enter the workplace, global business culture is set for a new wave of change – and so is recruitment.

Who are Generation Z?

The generation after Millennials, Gen Z are born from the mid-1990s to early 2000s. With the oldest Gen Z individuals being only in their mid-twenties, Gen Z will be the fastest-growing demographic in global workplaces.

What are Generation Z like as employees?

Growing up with smartphones and bite-sized content on YouTube and apps like Snapchat means Gen Z process information faster than other age groups. Employers can work with shorter attention spans to harness the incredible multi-tasking abilities of Gen Z to drive engagement and productivity.

Constant access to technology means Gen Z are built to be speedy communicators - they're used to responding fast to problems and questions, and more at ease with tailoring written communication to a plethora of channels and social groups as and when appropriate. This generation are also flexible, adaptable and quick to grasp new ideas and processes.

What do Generation Z want from their careers?

Having grown up with university fees tripling in cost, industry leaders are predicting increased numbers of current teenagers entering the workforce straight from school. In an increasingly connected and transparent world where knowledge is a just a click away, Gen Z are more confident in building their own knowledge and know that by joining a workforce earlier than previous demographics, they can get a head start in their career without crippling debt.

1. Financial Success – A report from the Barna Group labels Gen Z as ‘the most success-oriented generation’. Over two-thirds of Generation Z value financial independence as the most important thing to achieve before turning 30 years old.

2. Ethical Practices – Generation Z has grown up with the ability to see more of the world than any generation before, at the touch of a button. Another study found that 81% of Gen Z respondents would refrain from purchasing from brands with sexist, racist or homophobic values, and would also actively dissuade others from purchasing from the brand. Employees of this age group value ethical practices in the products they buy, the clothes they wear and the food they eat, and as employees they will value a workplace that also exhibits ethical practices across its supply chain.

3. Purpose – Globalisation and the fast-moving and transparent nature of information mean Gen Z are clued-up on worldwide problems and challenges. This generation want their careers to have meaning and many seek to be involved in a higher purpose than the creation of profit, such as furthering human rights advancements across the globe, protecting the environment, raising funds or awareness, or simply helping others as much as they can.

4. Unique Working Experience – Coming of age during the rise of the Internet and AI means Gen Z are quick to grasp technology. Social media usage has helped Generation Z to develop their identities and personal brands, fuelling individuality and entrepreneurial focus. Generation Z are most likely to want to work for companies with unique brands and diverse workforces that truly understand their values and perspectives.

5. Work-Life Balance – Whilst Gen Z value financial independence and are willing to work hard to achieve it, they also want to live life to the full. Young people are keen to travel, see the world and experience as much as they can, and a career that offers extra holidays and benefits is sure to attract this generation.

How to attract and retain Gen Z 

1. Promote Learning & Development – An EY study reported that 84% of Gen Z respondents see themselves as ambitious and prioritize career development and professional growth. As such, it may be worth considering promoting your company’s Learning & Development programmes when marketing for new positions to appeal to Gen Z.

2. Incorporate Diverse & Inclusive Recruitment Practices – Gen Z is the most diverse generation yet, with 20% of UK citizens expected to be from an ethnic minority background by 2051 and only two-thirds of Gen Z identifying exclusively heterosexual. Generation Z are therefore more likely to believe employers should do more to tackle discrimination, and they value others as unique individuals, regardless of characteristics or background. To attract Generation Z, ensure your HR and Recruitment teams are doing everything they can to combat discrimination and conduct equal hiring activities.

3. Offer Employee Benefits – Review and overhaul your employee benefits programme to include flexible working (which can increase productivity by 30%), experience-focused activities such as extra holiday leave and trips abroad, and on-site services such as fitness classes to enable Gen Z employees to socialize at work and gain a good work-life balance.

Skills shortage & the generation gap

The next decade will see the retirement of the Baby Boomer demographic. The continually declining birth rate over the past 20 years means that there will not be enough Millennials and Generation Z employees to fill the gaps left by previous generations. Skills shortages are particularly prevalent in Engineering and related industries, which given rapidly increasing technological advancements, could create significant challenges for businesses around the world.

Solving the skills shortage and recruiting Generation Z lies in redefining the way that we attract and recruit talent. Whilst specific benefits and elements of company culture are favoured by different generations, the best recruiters value the skills and experience of each candidate as an individual and treat them as such. 

Although Generation Z on the whole favour financial success and ethical practices, each candidate will have their own wants and needs, and these must be considered throughout the hiring process and throughout their career.

A holistic recruitment approach will not only consider candidate attraction by demographics but look across the entire business. Implement programmes and benefits that will appeal to all potential employees at every phase of their career, and candidates will proactively seek out your organisation.

About the Author

Howard Wiley is the Engineering Recruitment Specialist for VHR. VHR is a global technical recruitment consultancy specialising in the Aerospace & Aviation, F1 & Automotive, Engineering & Defence and Marine industries across 45 countries. Established in 2003, VHR received the Queen’s Award for International Trade in 2018 and has delivered over 9,000 contract and permanent placements around the world.