How to attract and retain the new generation of digital natives

Timeline with red sign where it is written the text generation Z illustration of millenial generations born after the year 2000.

Attracting and retaining Generation Zers at work, and getting the best out of them during their time with you, starts with understanding how they think and what’s important to them, on and off the job.

Earlier this year, Nintex polled 325 Gen Z Australians – all current and future university graduates – on work, corporate culture and automation. As the pre-war generation would have put it – here’s the skinny.

Keep it flexible

Generation Z is often described as the first generation of digital natives – hyper-connected individuals who have no memory of life before Google. Over the past two decades, digital technology has made a myriad of tasks and activities faster and more flexible, at home and in the workplace.

Gen Zers who’ve grown up as the transformation has occurred don’t regard flexibility as a privilege or a virtue. To them, it’s normal – and what they expect to see in a workplace. Employers who can’t provide it may struggle to retain their interest and their services, given our survey respondents stated it was a key determining factor in job selection, followed by salary and the often-elusive work-life balance.

When it comes to feedback, don’t hold back

Historically, feedback for employees in many workplaces consisted of the odd compliment or complaint from their manager and the annual performance review from HR. Little more was expected – but that’s not the way Gen Z prefers to work. Our survey respondents tell us they like one-on-one sessions to happen frequently and in person. Coaching or mentoring sessions which invite Gen Zers to give, as well as receive, feedback, including suggestions on how processes and technology usage could be optimised, are well worth instigating if you’re serious about helping young employees to shine.

Relationship with technology: it’s complicated

Automation is fast finding applications across a range of disciplines and occupations. It’s a less remarkable phenomenon for Gen Z workers to deal with than it is for their more mature colleagues from the pen-and-paper era, but that doesn’t mean they’re not every bit as worried about what its prevalence may mean for their own prospects. Jobs for life are already the stuff of history and casualisation of the workforce has accelerated over the past decade with the rise of the gig economy. While Gen Z believes automation will make their jobs easier, they’re cognizant of the fact it could also make them even more insecure.

At the same time, their ease with technology is innate. Most of the Gen Zers surveyed will bypass the helpdesk if they’re having trouble with equipment or systems and attempt to rectify the issue themselves.

The protean career

Baby boomers and Gen X employees may have entered the workforce with the then reasonable expectation their careers would follow well-defined trajectories or paths. Gen Zers know the world doesn’t work that way anymore. They expect to be responsible for charting their own courses.

The concept of bringing your whole self to work – and taking it home again with you – has also found favour with this cohort. For many, it comprises part of their identity and they’ll favour roles which are compatible with their interests, and employers whose values are in accord with their own.

Today’s juniors, tomorrow’s leaders

Today, they’re the junior members of the Australian workforce: young people with lots to learn – and plenty they can teach their elders about navigating the brave new world of digital where they’re completely at home. Understanding what motivates Gen Z workers and developing plans to mentor and manage them in ways that will resonate is an investment that’s well worth making by organisations across all industries.

Chris Ellis, APAC Technical Evangelist, Nintex