Plan Now to Attract, Retain Generation Z

By Kathy Gurchiek Nov 19, 2014
Reuse Permissions

The oldest members of Generation Z are 20 years old and just entering the workforce; employers looking to woo and keep this future pool of talent need to be aware of what motivates them, said Dan Schawbel during a recent webinar.

Schawbel is the founder and managing partner of Millennial Branding, a research and consulting firm. Schwabel shared insights from a global survey conducted in April 2014 with 1,005 members of Generation Z ages 16-20 and 1,016 Millennials ages 21-32 about their workplace expectations.

Generation Z, born between 1994 and 2010, is entrepreneurial, less motivated by money and more focused on face-to-face communication than Millennials, who were born between 1982 and 1993, the survey found.

Schawbel advised employers to start connecting with members of Generation Z now. This group will make up about 50 percent of the U.S. workforce by 2020, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Career paths for this generation will be defined earlier than they are now, he predicted, noting that parents are pressuring their children to get work experience while in high school. Seventy-seven percent of Generation Z members said they were very or extremely interested in volunteering as a way to obtain work experience, and 50 percent of high school students who took part in the global survey are in an internship program. They see internships primarily as a way to learn and gain work experience, and as an opportunity to be mentored.

Schawbel pointed to Deloitte as an example of an employer that is introducing its brand to potential future employees and customers. Since 2007, it has offered the Virtual Team Challenge, a program that teaches high school students about accounting. Approximately 52,000 students from 40 high schools have participated. It also has labs in middle schools that promote science, technology, engineering and math; a NextGen Leaders Program that offers tuition, mentoring and internships for eligible college students and the opportunity to attend the NextGen Leaders National Conference. At the conference, college freshmen can receive career advice and mentoring. 

Generation Z members want their future employers to give back to the community, Schawbel said, and Deloitte capitalizes on this by offering an alternative spring break to college undergraduates, who volunteer in communites with Deloitte employees. In 2015, volunteers will work with schools and students from low-income areas.

“The best way for employers to support their community is to create jobs [locally],” but other methods, such as providing job training, offering career classes, holding environmentally friendly events and starting a fundraiser for a charity are also valued as ways employers can display corporate social responsibility, he said.

Since 2007, for example, JetBlue has had more than 1,900 crew members and other volunteers plant more than 1,200 trees. Through food and monetary donations, Sprint employees across the country collected the equivalent of 650,000 meals for food banks during the company’s 2013 Feed the Need campaign.

Helping Them Advance

“They want to know their ideas can be heard and people are willing to mentor them so they have a chance at success,” Schawbel said of Generation Z. That includes offering mentoring and cross-functional projects.

“You want to move them around your organization to learn other skills and connect them with employees who can serve as sponsors.”Generation Z members who are Hispanic especially favor cross-functional projects, those who are black favor mentoring and those from India consider online courses as the learning/development programs most beneficial to their future success.

The opportunity for advancement is what will motivate this generation to work harder and stay longer at a future employer, followed by money and meaningful work. Millennials said advancement opportunities were important, too—after more money. And 40 percent of Generation Z said it was important that a future employer have a wellness program, which should include health screenings, a gym, incentives for being healthy and walking/standing desks.

Leadership, Communication

Hire for integrity and promote your culture, Schawbel advised HR. Let potential employees know “this is who we are, this is what we stand for. Here are the people who work here.”

Honesty is the most important quality of a good leader, 52 percent of both generations said. Males of Generation Z listed honesty as the most desired trait in a leader, while females ranked confidence higher. Both value a leader who exhibits a solid vision and has good communication skills.

Organizations should include Facebook in their toolkit to reach job candidates of both generations; 63 percent of Generation Z and 68 percent of Millennials use Facebook during work, and 64 percent and 76 percent, respectively, use it during personal time. However, 51 percent of Generation Z ranked face-to-face conversations as the most effective way to communicate with future co-workers and manager, versus e-mails (16 percent), instant messages (11 percent), phone conversations (9 percent) and video conferencing (6 percent). Only 8 percent said social networks were an effective way to communicate with their future manager or co-workers.

For Generation Z overall, the work will be more important than where that work is performed, Schawbel said, although both generations—28 percent of Generation Z and 45 percent of Millennials—ranked a corporate office space as their top work environment for collaboration.

A co-working space that operates independently from the employer was both generations’ second choice (27 percent of Generation Z and 26 percent of Millennials). Home offices ranked low with both generations as best environments for collaboration.

“Create meetings and activities and social events; the more friendships they have [at work],” Schawbel said, “the more likely they will stay at your company.”

At least 200 respondents were surveyed for each country—the U.S., Brazil, Canada, China, Germany, India, South Africa and Sweden—with a minimum of 100 within each age group.

Kathy Gurchiek is the associate editor at HR News.

Reuse Permissions


Join SHRM's exclusive peer-to-peer social network

Join Today

Job Finder

Find an HR Job Near You


Find the Right Vendor for Your HR Needs

SHRM’s HR Vendor Directory contains over 3,200 companies

Search & Connect