Feature article

Generation Z – the new workforce knocking on our doors, but are we opening them?

Grace Fox from HainesAttract shares how to better understand, attract and retain this new generation of workers.

We recently spoke to Grace Fox at HainesAttract about the latest Kiwi to enter our workforce, Gen Z, and how businesses can understand, attract and retain this new generation of workers.

It’s not breaking news that unemployment is at an all-time low and the labour market is facing challenges it’s rarely seen before. Organisations are doing everything they can to attract and retain top talent but it’s hard. Enter Gen Z (people born between 1996 and 2012). With 40,000 students graduating from New Zealand universities every year, they will make up a large portion of new talent entering the market. Could they be part of a solution to our workforce woes?

Firstly, we think it’s important to take a step back and understand this potentially misunderstood generation:

  • They care about their careers – they want to develop their skills and fast.
  • Technology and innovation talk – they are digital experts and have grown up in an era where technology and AI have boomed.
  • Money matters – with house prices through the roof and the cost of living increasing it’s no surprise this is important.
  • Culture is King – they value a good team and a leader who cares about individuals.
  • Wellbeing is critical – mental wellbeing has never been more important and rightly so. This generation is talking about topics that need to be heard!
  • Flexibility is at the forefront – don’t just think about breaking the 9-5, think outside the box – things like OE leave or fully remote roles.

Now the above may sound like a lot, but it’s about shifting our perceptions and getting comfortable with the new normal. In fact, it will quickly become uncomfortable to not get on board, with the current challenges the labour market is facing.

The current workforce is predominantly made up of baby boomers, Gen X and millennials. But when thinking about the future and understanding Gen Z we need to leave all preconceived views at the door. Remember we’re recruiting an individual, and focus on the person, not the position.

Now you understand them, how do you attract them?

  • Write a great job ad – one that’s honest, inspiring and demonstrates the lived reality of what a role with you has to offer them.
  • Remove bias from your process. The first step to doing this is removing ‘must have X amount of years’ of experience’ from your job ads.
  • Be flexible – does the role need to be based at a set location? Do the hours need to be 9-5?
  • Show them what your organisation stands for. Gen Z are a generation that cares, they want to make a difference in the world. Enter your Employer Value Proposition (EVP) – it has never been more important to ensure yours is front and centre of your recruitment process.
  • Pay for skill and potential over years of experience.

Ok, attraction – nailed but, how do you retain them?

Gen Z care about their careers, so here are some top tips on making sure they stay engaged within your organisation:

  • Invest your time in them – career mapping, regular feedback, and development plans.
  • Show them value outside of their salary – benefits, upskilling, additional leave.
  • Prioritise their work/life balance and mental health – Gen Z are making so much positive change when it comes to wellbeing and previously taboo subjects. Don’t shy away from it, embrace it and learn from them.

In summary, it’s important we shift our perspective and get curious about Gen Z. They’re the future of our workforce and they will shape and evolve it. They have been raised at a time when anything is possible (people having full-time jobs as YouTubers or influencers). This could open so many doors for organisations that are willing to challenge the norms and be curious.

Who knows where this generation could lead us in the future, but it’s down to employers now to ensure that we’re doing everything we can to enable them.

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