Published in CHRO SA on 23 May 2023
Employer brand futurist Celeste Sirin gives key factors that matter most to Gen Z.
Gen Zs, the digital generation and early career seekers, can be characterised as authentic, pragmatic, entrepreneurial, resilient, ambitious, and collaborative. They are fully armed with what matters to them from their future employer. And while this talent market’s demands remain quite fluid through times of uncertainty, it is interesting to observe how the needs, characteristics, and values of students mirror those of Gen Zs presently establishing their careers in the workplace. Understanding these unique challenges and concerns is critical for unlocking the potential of Gen Z employees and external work seekers. These are key factors that matter most to them and learning how one can leverage them to drive the employer brand and nurture successful employee engagement can prove to be beneficial.
The rise of Gen Z and its impact on the workplace
So, why should we concern ourselves about what this first fully digital native generation wants from their future employer? By 2030, Gen Z is estimated to make up 30% of the total global population, and it’s predicted that by 2023, this generation will make up about 27% of the workforce. This makes it essential to understand how best to attract, engage, and retain this generation.
While it’s debatable whether one should box or rather super-personalise one’s employer value proposition to meet each individual’s needs, it is essential to shift our focus to this global community who have now surpassed millennials.
Embracing Gen Z’s entrepreneurial spirit
Gen Z workers prioritise job stability and financial security, leading many to pursue side hustles in addition to their full-time jobs. These young workers are often dubbed the ‘hustle generation’ due to their willingness to take on various entrepreneurial ventures, such as crypto, social media, event management, and vintage clothing sales.
Rather than discouraging these pursuits, some employers are embracing or even encouraging their Gen Z employees’ entrepreneurial spirit. This newfound understanding stems from the uncertain economy and job market, which has forced many workers to seek alternative sources of income. This shift in attitude towards side hustles can lead to increased job satisfaction and retention among their employees.
Supporting mental, financial, and overall wellbeing
It is important to recognise that despite the increasing focus on mental health and wellbeing in the workplace, there can still be a stigma attached to seeking support. Employees should be encouraged and reassured that it is okay to ask for help and that they will not be judged or penalised for doing so. Employers can create a supportive culture by promoting open communication and providing resources for mental health support. By creating a safe and accepting environment, employers can empower their employees to prioritise their mental health and seek the help they need when necessary. It is important to remember that mental and physical health are just as important as financial health, and everyone should feel comfortable seeking support and resources when they need it.
Leveraging technology for enhanced learning, development, and career growth opportunities
While a good salary is important, prioritising opportunities for learning, development, and career growth has been cited as equally important for this generation. Adopting a skills-based strategy that prioritises skills development and regular leadership feedback is crucial in this regard. Additionally, companies can leverage technology to enhance learning experiences and engage with Gen Z employees. By embracing technology such as AI-powered learning platforms, virtual reality simulations, and social learning tools, organisations can provide personalised and engaging learning experiences. Moreover, technology can facilitate knowledge sharing and collaboration, which are essential in a skills-based working environment. By investing in technology-enabled learning and development programmes, companies can equip employees with the necessary skills to thrive in a rapidly changing job market.
Gen Z expects employers to foster inclusive and diverse workplaces
While the workforce of the future is more diverse than ever, this generation continues to heavily prioritise this company value in their employment decisions, with many companies still struggling to make meaningful progress in their DEI (diversity, equity, and inclusion) initiatives. Research confirms that while many companies believe that DEI is valuable, leadership is not investing adequate resources to create significant change and isn’t necessarily making it a strategic priority
This is particularly important given that Gen Z is the most diverse generation, leading the way in gender, sexuality, and religious inclusivity. As such, they expect their employers to create a safe and welcoming workplace that reflects and celebrates their differences. Gen Z believes that a diverse and inclusive environment fosters innovation and creativity, and they are looking for companies that walk the talk on DEI by holding themselves accountable and acting on their DEI plans.
Aligning purpose and ESG: attracting purpose-driven Gen Z talent
Gen Z is a purpose-driven generation that seeks meaningful work and wants to know how their contributions impact their organisation’s overall mission. They value a sense of belonging and are attracted to companies that prioritise their environmental, social, and governance (ESG) strategies, particularly their climate strategies. They want to work for organisations that prioritise ESG and contribute to the greater good of society and the environment. To attract and retain Gen Z talent, companies need to prioritise ESG, especially climate strategies, and inspire their workforce to participate in such actions. Nestlé is a prime example of creating sustainability in the workplace and this serves as a strong catalyst within their talent management strategies. This can be achieved through education and empowerment, encouraging people to make sustainable choices, such as reducing carbon emissions and recycling plastics. By doing so, companies can show their commitment to sustainability, which aligns with Gen Z’s values and purpose-driven mindset.
Gen Z in a hybrid work environment: balancing flexibility with human connection and mentorship
At the beginning of the year, employers and employees had mixed emotions about returning to the office. Many companies have introduced hybrid and flexible three- or four-day working arrangements, which come with pros and cons. However, both parties acknowledge the advantages, such as reduced commuting time, cost savings, increased engagement, collaboration, creativity, and productivity. Gen Z values flexibility and hybrid work arrangements, but also values leadership and human connection. To foster these connections in remote and hybrid work, investment in technology and a strong company culture is essential.
Gen Z highly values work-life balance and flexibility, which means offering remote and hybrid work arrangements and access to technology. The pandemic has only accelerated this trend for many Gen Z workers.
Seth Godin has said:
“Generations aren’t different, they’re just people who happen to have been born at different times. What is different is the world around them.”
This highlights the importance of understanding and creating a workplace that caters to the preferences of Gen Z and other generations. Recognising the changing landscape of the world, and intentionally adapting to meet the needs of their employees, is crucial for companies to thrive in today’s fast-paced business environment.