What Generation Z’ers Want at Work?

In the United States alone, an estimated 61 million people belong to Generation Z, outnumbering Generation X’ers and representing about two-thirds the size of the Baby Boom cohort. As legions of Gen Z’ers move into the workforce, companies face new challenges and opportunities in the quest to attract and retain top talent.

The data is clear: Gen Z’ers want to move up within their organizations – indeed, three-quarters of them hope to be promoted within the first year of a new job. At the same time, a clear majority plan on heading toward the exits within the near-to-immediate term.

How Can Employers Possibly Hope to Retain Their Gen Z Talent?

An uncharitable view would hold that Gen Z just can’t figure out what it wants. But with Gen Z’ers listing professional development and upward mobility as their top priorities for a job, it’s understandable that many young employees are quick to seize a new opportunity when one comes along, especially if it’s one that’s likely to accelerate their career development.

How can employers possibly hope to retain their Gen Z talent – particularly in what’s currently a job seeker’s market? The answer lies in meeting their young employees’ desires for professional growth by providing such opportunities within the organization. Ping-pong tables and dog-friendly office environments won’t cut it anymore.

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The Deloitte Millennial Survey found that 44 percent of Gen Z’s ranked ‘opportunities for continuing learning’ as a very important component when choosing whether to work for an organization or not. A further survey revealed that 75 percent of Gen Z’ers are interested in holding multiple roles within an organization, suggesting that employers who offer horizontal growth in addition to traditional vertical growth strategies are in touch with the wants and desires of Gen Z employees. With job-hopping rampant amongst this generation, demonstrated by 61 percent of employed Gen Zers expecting to leave their current organization within two-years, facilitating an environment that meets their desire for continuous learning and progression is likely the smartest move an organization can take in the battle of retention.

Businesses can develop horizontal growth programs that are mutually beneficial to the company and its employees. For instance, enabling marketers to allocate a certain portion of their work time to a sales or business development project – or assigning a software developer to a marketing team project – can offer valuable new strategic perspectives, creating better-rounded employees and promoting fruitful cross-pollination within an organization.

For Gen Z’ers eager to enhance their skill set and grow as young professionals, horizontal growth combats stagnation and offers a way to take on new professional challenges and increase their arsenal of experiences and professional skills without leaving their current employers – a true win-win. Moreover, managers are able to easily source talent for projects, utilizing dedicated employees who are already familiar with the company’s culture and wider business goals.

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Embracing Digital Transformation

Analysts David and Jonah Stillman found in a recent study that 91 percent of Gen Z’ers would be more interested in working at a technologically sophisticated company. Of course, when the agreement is that overwhelming, it can be difficult for organizations to determine just which innovative solutions and processes can truly set them apart and attract younger talent.

The bottom line for employers is that the more integral technology is to their business processes, the more likely they are to win the favor of younger employees.  With such an emphasis placed on the digital capabilities of a company, it explains why a growing number of employers are integrating task management platforms, digital communication platforms like Slack, and HR management software.

For employers, digital transformation isn’t about gimmicky but ultimately low-value technologies; it’s about leveraging technology to catalyze fundamental change in how the organization operates. Having grown up in a digital-first, “always-on” world, Gen Zs expect their employers to harness tech in a way that makes them more efficient, productive, and communicative.

Rethinking Your Company Culture

Contrary to what many perceive, work-life balance and flexibility aren’t Gen Z’ers’ top priorities for a job – but there’s still tremendous value in instituting a company culture that emphasizes these attributes. Millennials value them most and are currently the largest generation in the workforce.

Experiments with four-day work weeks have found that they leave employees less stressed and more productive – and with younger employees likelier to report that they’re overworked and overstressed, shifting away from the standard Monday-Friday, 9-to-5 routine carries a special appeal to them.

Of course, not every company is in a position to move away from the five-day work week – but allocating employees one day a week that they can work from home, for instance, can still go a long way toward promoting flexibility, alleviating stress, and engendering loyalty. When young employees are valued for the quality of their work – and not simply the hours they log on-site – they’re more satisfied with their employers.

Inclusivity is also key, particularly given that Gen Z is the most diverse generation to date. More than three-quarters of Gen Z’ers say that their decision to work for a company is influenced by its diversity.

As waves of Gen Z’ers make the transition from school to offices across the globe, companies should evolve their business practices to appeal to these first-time employees. Fostering opportunities for career development and internal growth, leveraging innovation, and promoting flexible, inclusive company cultures can go a long way toward bringing Gen Z employees aboard – and keeping them from jumping ship.

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