Gen Z graduates are in the driver’s seat when it comes to recruitment and retention. The talent pool is barely sufficient to fill the growing number of job postings in the tech realm.
For startups and established firms on expansion paths, the competition has become fierce. Whereas a competitive salary offering and benefits package along with a collaborative workplace culture have been the essentials that could make or break a deal for a potential new hire, the pandemic and subsequent hybrid workplace models have taken hold. With that has come an unprecedented talent shortage and an additional set of demands on the part of graduates entering the market.
According to a 2021 Statistics Canada census, the Gen Z demographic accounts for 17.6% of the working-age population. Unlike other demographics, a significant portion of younger generation workers is keen to return to a social setting. A June 2021 ADP survey reported that 36% of Gen Z remote workers were the most excited to return to the office.
Even some of the most progressive companies find themselves struggling to attract talent and address the needs of a youth-dominated workplace. However, they are quickly realizing that the landscape is shifting from the conventional one-way conversation (“tell us about your experiences” and “why do you want to work for us”), into a two-way dialogue that addresses the needs of both sides of the negotiating table (“what are you expecting from our workplace” and “how can we help you build a successful career”).
Furthermore, like many companies, we regularly conduct internal surveys to ensure we give a voice to, and address the needs of employees. This is especially important given that more than 50% of our workers are under the age of 25. These are things they are consistently telling us:
- They want high-energy workplaces
- They expect to fast-track their career advancement
- They look for training opportunities and coaches that can help them excel
- They thrive in a collaborative and inclusive workplace culture that allows them to be themselves from day one
- They want to feel a sense of accomplishment and be appreciated and valued
- They look for employers that are genuine in their embrace of diversity and corporate social responsibility
Another demand we are seeing from today’s recruits – and perhaps the most important of all – is that they are striving to build a career that is meaningful and fulfills their personal aspirations.
There have been plenty of surveys that confirm the top priorities for Gen Z workers. But that does not paint a complete picture of the attributes that matter most in their workplace. We decided to examine the issue further with our own employees, which turned up some interesting details on what those priorities can actually mean in a day-to-day setting.
For example, when we asked our hires to name their top career priority, 54% ranked “leading a team of talented professionals” first. The second highest response was “developing innovative products and leading new business ventures.” The desire for advancement, autonomy and innovation are clearly discussion points that need to be addressed during recruitment and consistently followed up on once employed by a business.
Being part of an inclusive and diverse environment ranks high on the Gen Z list of requirements. They seek diversity that goes beyond age, race, ethnicity, gender identity, religion, culture and disability. For younger workers, diversity and inclusion are reflected in how different opinions and ideas are valued, and how different identities are accepted.
Growth and advancement are much more than training programs and annual check-ins to ensure their skills are progressing to their liking. Personal growth and empowerment are equally important to finding their way in the working world. Employers need to be clear and proactive in creating learning and development opportunities, including opportunities to live and work abroad as well as coaching programs, among others.
Even higher on the list of what our hires valued most, however, were colleagues and team members. More than 58% of employees said they value those above all other attributes in a workplace – more than fast career progression, workplace environment, compensation, and benefits.
Creating an open, transparent, and supportive culture is important – one where there is active listening, inclusivity, and activities that promote individuality and team building. A culture that has people at the center of its operations – from employees to local communities. A culture that is driven by a bigger purpose that goes beyond profits and connects all employees to a common good.
In addition, employers need to enhance the social and personal well-being of employees, from mental health and wellness support to flexible social programming that allows them to choose the activities and educational pursuits that suit their lifestyle.
This is not to discount the value of compensation packages, benefits, training, and a collaborative hybrid work culture. These continue to be table stakes in any recruitment or engagement conversation. But they have been relegated to starting points in the conversation, rather than the deciding factors that will secure a successful hire.
All of this is far from being a one-and-done deal once an employee joins a firm. Companies also need to continually revisit the employee experience, encourage employee feedback, proactively touch base with team members to discuss their progress through 1:1 interviews, team building, and bonding experiences, and most importantly, listen and acknowledge that in some situations, they know best what works for them.
Maggie Da Prato is the Head of Talent for the Americas at Dialectica, an information services company that shapes better business decision-making worldwide.