How does business recruit and retain disengaged Gen Z?

Generation Z, age

Employers are having to rethink their approach to attracting new talent, particularly when it comes to Generation Z. With the unemployment rate at its lowest since 2008 just 4.0 per cent currently, according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics and shifting attitudes towards work, it’s never been harder to recruit or retain Gen Z staff.

Beyond a tight employment market, there are many reasons employers are experiencing difficulties with Gen Zs.

One is the growing rates of anxiety among younger people, made worse by two years of the pandemic. According to a recent State of the Global Workplace report from Gallup, Gen Z and millennials are both more stressed and less engaged than older workers.

Even before the pandemic, there were growing signs of workplace pessimism among younger workers, with many sceptical about businesses’ motives and trustworthiness.  

That anxiety is apparent to those of us in recruitment. We have found that Gen Zs are a lot more in touch with their emotions, yet often without the proper processes for dealing with a heightened level of anxiety. Employee programs focusing on well-being and businesses with an open and supportive culture are attractive to younger employees. 

Gen Z is also much more environmentally aware and less willing to work for companies they believe contribute to climate change. As such, many young people are not interested in working in the resources sector, which is viewed unfavourably with regard to environmental impact.

So, how can employers attract the next generation of workers? Many employers are learning that entrenched expectations around long hours, loyalty and career progression hold no sway with Gen Zs. Instead, to attract young employees, employers need to introduce greater flexibility, demonstrate a commitment to staff well-being and offer more opportunities to give back to charities and local communities.

According to the Deloitte survey, 70 per cent of Australian millennials and Gen Zs are focused on taking action to improve their own lives in the wake of the pandemic and most say they are now more sympathetic to the needs of others in their communities. Businesses might consider offering incentives to staff, such as charity sponsorships or time off to volunteer, or letting Gen Zs contribute to establishing specific workplace values.

It’s also important to recognise that younger employees will generally not work overtime. They expect work-life balance and many won’t engage during their time off. Businesses that respect those requirements, and that offer flexibility with the opportunity to work from home a few days a week combined with some office time to interact with colleagues are more likely to attract Gen Zs.

Don’t expect Gen Zs to put their hand up for further training. Many have spent years studying and are reluctant to start a new role that would mean weeks and months training. For businesses that require ongoing on-the-job training, this reluctance might mean having to develop or adopt training and education solutions that have a simple or familiar user interface for the always-on digital generation.

Finally, after two years of border closures, it’s safe to say that many Gen Zs are eager and ready to travel. If you have found young employees who work well and fit your culture, make it clear to them that you would be happy to take them back when they have finished their travels.

It might be frustrating to lose people you have just brought on board, but with such low unemployment and uncertainty about how many international students and migrants will come back to Australia, keeping the door open to valued Gen Z staff makes good business sense.