Pragmatic Generation Z Plans to Stay with Employers Longer

By Dinah Brin July 7, 2017
Pragmatic Generation Z Plans to Stay with Employers Longer

PHILADELPHIA—The oldest members of Generation Z have landed in the workforce, and their attitudes about their careers may be welcome news to major employers.

They seem to view work life differently from their Millennial counterparts, showing more of a willingness to work for big companies and to stay put longer, according to Deborah Brecher, a managing director at Accenture Strategy. She spoke on the topic recently at the 21st annual Wharton Leadership Conference in Philadelphia.

Members of Generation Z—those born roughly from 1993 to 2010—have a more pragmatic outlook than Millennials, who were born roughly from 1980 to 1992.  And that mindset may translate into a steadier workforce for employers, according to a recent Accenture Strategy survey of 2015-17 college graduates, published in the report Gen Z Rising.

"They are very concerned about being unemployed or underemployed," Brecher said. Because of that concern, many Generation Z members want to work for big companies, "and that bodes well for us."

They want the opportunities for career advancement that a large employer affords, training and access to digital learning, and flexibility for work/life balance, she said.

Unlike Millennials, who've tended to change jobs comparatively quickly, members of Generation Z are willing to commit to three to five years with the right employer, Brecher said, citing statistics from the report.

Compared to 2016, there was a 37 percent increase in the number of U.S. college graduates wanting to work for large companies, according to the survey, which was conducted in early 2017. That's the first increase since Accenture started the survey in 2013. Class of 2017 graduates see a majority of their recent predecessors feeling underemployed and "want to avoid that fate," according to Accenture Strategy.  

[SHRM members-only toolkit: Staffing in Special Markets: College Students]

Meanwhile, 2015 and 2016 graduates "are two-and-a-half times more likely [than Millennials] to stay for five or more years if they feel their skills are fully utilized with challenging, meaningful work. Training and development plans as part of a well-designed, engaging employee experience become increasingly important for Gen Z workers, and can be the difference between retaining and losing digital talent," the report said.

Seventy-five percent of Generation Z members are willing to relocate for work, according to the findings. New graduates' "refreshing practicality" includes a willingness to take an unpaid internship after graduation, the report said. Nearly 80 percent of the 2017 graduates, though, will have finished an internship before their first day of work.

In the recent past, graduates tended to take jobs with small companies or to start their own businesses, the report noted. Large companies, however, can offer the "complete package" that this generation of workers wants—a strong career path with mentoring, training and competitive compensation, the report said.

Sixty-two percent of 2017 graduates expected to stay at their first job for at least three years, and 84 percent expect their first employer to provide formal training.  As digital natives, they bring a "highly marketable digital mindset" to the workplace, the report noted.

"Although their attitudes reflect a return to more traditional workplace values such as the desire for a clear career path and stability, these potential employees are not old-school. They bring a future-forward outlook, in the form of digital skills and mindset, to any employer," the report said.

They also value the "human touch." Forty-two percent prefer in-person meetings, according to Accenture Strategy. They most want to develop communications, problem-solving and management skills.

Large employers can embrace the values of recent graduates, the report recommended, by:

• Using technology to find new talent pools.

• Creating a staffing and project model that provides young employees with experiences in different areas of the company.

• Showing employees how their contributions support the company's purpose.

• Working with each employee to develop a customized skills-and-career plan.

• Assigning coaches to new employees.

"This generation remains focused on being purpose-driven," so employers need to "connect our purpose to their purpose," Brecher said.

Father-and-son authors David and Jonah Stillman wrote in Gen Z @ Work (HarperBusiness, 2017) that this generation has developed a pragmatic outlook in planning for the future. The independent, do-it-yourself nature of a Generation Z member is likely to clash with Millennial-influenced collaborative workplaces, the pair predicted in a Q&A for SHRM Online.

A majority of Generation Z members think they should choose a career before starting college, David Stillman wrote on his Gen Z Guru blog in late 2016. Companies that introduce themselves to members of this generation early on "will have a leg up," he added. If members of this generation feel pressure to gain early work experience, this will "help alleviate the pressure by opening up the door."

In a separate post, he wrote that salary is Generation Z's top concern in choosing an employer, while Millennials have focused more on having a job related to a cause.

"Generation Z also wants to make a difference," he wrote, "but they're fine doing so after hours, not on the clock."

Dinah Wisenberg Brin is a freelance journalist writing about workplace issues, small business, entrepreneurship, health care and logistics from Philadelphia.

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