What young talent look for in a job and how employers can give it to them.
A lot has been said and written about how critical it is for organizations to engage with the younger generation, both as a target audience and as a component of their workforce. Yet, companies are still struggling with attracting, acquiring, and, even more so, retaining young talent.
In this post-pandemic era, where workplace challenges have multiplied, the age gap issue is only getting more prevalent, especially in creative industries that (hopefully) rely on young talent to connect with young audiences. Bridging this gap is tricky; however, employers have no choice but to address it head-on as Gen Z, born between 1997 and 2012, make up for increasingly large proportions of their employee base – a state of play that has no chance of reversing itself as per natural laws. So, here is how to build a Gen Z-friendly and future-ready workplace.
Gen Z sees themselves as individuals above everything else and expects to be approached and treated as such. This means that, in terms of remuneration, they’ll appreciate packages that take into consideration their own circumstances and are designed on a case-by-case basis. Some will look at the benefits, others at the original salary, and others at the perks offered alongside money – be it a phone, a laptop, a car, free food, the opportunity to travel, well-being services, or the fact that they’re allowed to leverage their work for side gigs.
A one-size-fits-all type of package, based on money and only money, without the ability to somewhat adjust to candidates’ real needs, may suffice for a time but will not prove enough to retain them in the long run, keeping in mind that Gen Z are more comfortable with short- term commitments than long-term careers and have no problem job-hopping.
Flexible career paths.
In today’s day and age, characterized by innovation and instability, Gen Z has been taught to quickly adapt and adopt – be it the new tech craze, the latest social platform, or sudden remote learning. No wonder they cannot fathom how traditional career paths could work for them.
Young professionals expect as they’ve been taught their whole life, to adjust constantly and therefore embrace new skills and new roles when they see a need for it. This means that they simply cannot be confined to a clearly defined role and skillset. Just like they never waited for their parents to tell them to move from Facebook to Instagram, and from Instagram to TikTok, they won’t wait for their manager to tell them what the next step in their career will be and which skillset they’ll need to acquire when.
Naturally, no organization can operate without some structure and hierarchy. The nuance is in this organization is flat enough to allow digital natives to control their own career path and move around, at least to an extent. Employers can create an environment that will empower and motivate their young workforce to always achieve more by giving them the flexibility to upskill or reskill, join a project that would be a perfect fit for them, explore various experiences, and seize opportunities to move upward if they present themselves.
In addition, the possibility to earn a promotion based on their actual results rather than on the time they’ve spent in their current role is another crucial aspect to keep in mind. Gen Z yearn for appreciation and recognition which, in the workplace, can be manifested either through pay or by giving them more responsibilities up the career ladder than their age would have allowed in past decades.
Flexible work conditions.
Only two years ago, flexible work was all the hype, with a majority of organizations claiming that it was here to stay. Still, 2023 seems to be the year to be back in the office, with an increasing number of employers demanding that their staff come back in, full-time in many cases.
Whether this return to the office is required by business realities or not, the fact is that reversing this trend is a tall order. Most importantly, it creates massive friction with young employees who were yearning for flexible work conditions well before the pandemic. There’s no doubt that organizations aiming to offer an attractive work environment for Gen Z should approach remote work not as a given, but as an option that they consider seriously, allowing their staff to manage their own time and location of work, whether it’s from home, the office, or a coffee shop nearby. Gen Z crave human interactions as much as they appreciate the liberty to evaluate when and where they can enjoy them. Giving them the opportunity to do both by setting regular checkpoints, reasonable monitoring processes, and the tools to work efficiently either way, will go a long way toward achieving the desired outcomes for both employers and employees.
Long gone are the days when employees had to do something just because their boss told them to. Raw authority never was really effective but today, it is downright counter-productive. Few older managers can keep up with the rapid pace of technological progress, with younger employees often being more skilled and informed than they are in many areas. Without this technical advantage, older managers’ edge rather is in management experience and soft skills that young talent lack but very much value. Besides, since their job title is irrelevant in the eye of this generation, leaders can earn Gen Z employees’ respect by showing qualities that are as diverse as they are important.
First, because their world – the world that we built for them, by the way – revolves around communication, young talent cannot evolve in a space where they’re not listened to. Engaging in constructive dialogue will be at the heart of a healthy workplace for them, with empathy at its core.
Similarly, because they lived through a global downturn, a pandemic, and an emerging climate crisis, among other things, Gen Z is immersed in an anxiogenic environment that is at the center of many of their conversations. That leaves them with no choice but to prioritize their physical and mental health. Any leader that doesn’t put these concerns front and center misses the mark. Worse, a toxic workplace is sure to drive them away.
Most importantly, Gen Z values actions way more than words. They may like filters on pictures and collect likes on TikTok, but life on social media has taught them to differentiate between what someone says and what they do. The proof of an authentically good leader will be in the manner in which they will tackle problems and offer real solutions. Formulaic announcements simply won’t cut it; bold and effective moves will. Lastly, nothing will irk Gen Z more than being micromanaged. They’ll really value a supportive and collaborative style of leadership but, once the tasks have been attributed, the workflow put in place, and the checkpoints defined, they’ll resent the lack of trust and confidence that micromanaging often expresses.
Flexible work processes and tools.
The consumerization of every aspect of Gen Z’s lives their clients. They’re even best positioned to offer useful advice on what tools would work best.
Flexibility as an overall value.
Having flexibility as a value doesn’t mean that an organization should change its values constantly. On the contrary, it means putting openness at the heart of its mission and policies every day. Equity, fairness, diversity, and inclusivity… are all concerns front and center that miss the mark. Worse, a toxic workplace is sure to drive them away.
Most importantly, Gen Z values actions way more than words. They may like filters on pictures and collect likes on TikTok, but life on social media has taught them to differentiate between what someone says and what they do. The proof of an authentically good leader will be in the manner in which they will tackle problems and offer real solutions. Formulaic announcements simply won’t cut it; bold and effective moves will. Lastly, nothing will irk Gen Z more than being micromanaged. They’ll really value a sup- portive and collaborative style of leadership but, once the tasks have been attributed, the workflow put in place, and the checkpoints defined, they’ll resent the lack of trust and confidence that micromanaging often expresses.
Flexible work processes and tools.
The consumerization of every aspect of Gen Z’s lives cannot just stop at the office door. Trained to engage with seamless platforms to make purchases, consume content, connect with others, or book holidays, young employees thrive on efficient digital experiences at work too. They have used cutting-edge technologies since they were children; no wonder they’ll expect the same in their adult life at work.
Indeed, this preference for speed and immediacy will clash with slow, complex, intensively text-based work processes – from long email threads to intricate paperwork. Bullet points, videos, immediate feedback instead of distant performance reviews, and chat tools instead of long-winded emails… can all speed up processes and lean into Gen Z’s way of functioning.
Whether it’s the operational interface, the workflow, or the HR platform, organizations ready to embark on a Gen Z voyage need to prioritize digitalization, and the flexibility that it entails, with their employees just like they would for key drivers for young employees in the workplace, as they are in everything else that they look at. Bridging the gender gap, for example, will be key for organizations aiming to bridge the age gap – one won’t happen without the other.
With culture as one of the most critical drivers for young talent to accept a job offer and decline another, subscribing every day to values aligned with the world they aspire to live in will make all the difference, from the moment they hear about a company for the first time to the moment they leave this company. This all may seem like a lot but there’s no way around it; Gen Z will leave their mark on the workplace, whether we like it or not. Yet, in the end, these practices are not only good for Gen Z. By creating an environment that’s more open, nurturing, and considerate, they simply allow for a workplace that better reflects life outside of it and embraces everybody, old and young – something to thank the youth for.