Will Gen Z Want to Work for You?

With an estimated 61 million members of Generation Z poised to enter the workforce, here are five keys to becoming that demographic's employer of choice.
By: | January 15, 2018 • 6 min read
Timeline with red sign where it is written the text generation Z, illustration of millenial generations born after the year 2000.

Generational literature has been fixated on the Millennials for over a decade, describing them as the “entitled generation” that was nearly a polar opposite of their Baby Boomer parents. There’s a new sheriff in town. Enter Gen Z. While closer in age to millennials, the warning for organizations is to avoid the assumption that they are simply a younger millennial. A cover story in Time magazine described Gen Z as “wired differently” — reminding us of these differences. This cohort has distinctive expectations of their employers.

Gen Z has been raised by Gen Xer parents who instilled a healthy understanding of losing in them. They grew up in a time of the greatest economic instability since the Great Depression. Many experienced a parent losing their job due to tough economic times. This mentality and coming of age in the recession have significantly impacted their pragmatic view of the world, their focus on preparation, and the need to be financially cautious. This outlook has shaped a generation that values hard work and acknowledges the need to invest in their future now. They want to be financially stable and are willing to perform to make this happen.


The Gen Z group includes those born after 1999. Some of the descriptors for this generation include Post-millennials, iGeneration, Digital Natives, Gen Tech, and Centennials. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, Gen Z is larger than the millennial or the baby-boomer generation at 61 million. They are poised to have a tremendous impact on the workforce.

Is your organization an employer of choice for young workers entering the labor force? By 2020, Gen Z will comprise 20 percent of the American workforce — a critical mass that cannot be ignored. To attract this generation, and even more importantly to retain them, organizations must re-assess key elements of their workplace. With that said, consider these five tips to become an employer of choice for Generation Z.

Provide flexible, unique career advancement opportunities.

Sixty-four percent of Gen Z respondents in a Robert Half survey cited the importance of career opportunities in selecting a job. They are not seeking just any opportunity in an organization. They want individualized career paths and performance-based advancement opportunities. Providing flexible and unique career advancement opportunities are necessary to attract and retain this generation.

The one-size-fits-all career paths won’t appeal to Gen Z. These individuals won’t be accepting the same career path as their co-worker. They seek a more customized career path that fits their specific needs and capitalizes on the experiences they have already gained. Gen Z wants to use their talents and experience multiple roles. Rotation programs can be used to leverage their experience and provide growth opportunities.  This customization may even go as far as allowing them to create their own job description!

Gen Z values stability and this can easily translate to a longer tenure with an employer. A key driver to gain this longevity is advancement. Members of Gen Z are willing to work hard and they want to be rewarded for their performance with advancement opportunities. Growth and professional development opportunities can be substituted when advancement is not available. The bottom line: Gen Z must be constantly challenged.

Deliver continuous learning.

Continuous learning is a critical part of growth for Gen Z. However, these opportunities for learning may look significantly different. Rotation programs could become a cornerstone in continuously exposing Gen Z to new opportunities for learning. With an emphasis on active learning, face-to-face communication becomes essential.

Gen Z expects to start at the bottom. They will embrace lateral moves that provide a challenge and an opportunity to grow. With clear expectations for their managers, they want mentoring and learning opportunities to prepare them for upward mobility and growth.

This need for continuous learning, then, requires that managers and mentors be available and provide continuous feedback. While Gen Z embraces those stretch assignments, these must be accompanied by feedback. They need to be kept apprised. Leveraging technology, learning takes place anywhere and anytime. They are used to figuring many things out on their own, so detailed instructions are not needed. They can simply be pointed in the right direction with general guidance. Gen Z prefers to find solutions and do so solo. They are used to sorting through large amounts of information on their own. After all, their parents often sent them off to “figure it out on your own.” When Gen Z comes back with a solution, one-on-one mentors will take on added importance in building Gen Z’s confidence to take the next step.

Change up training.

It’s back to the drawing board!  Literally! Gen Z seeks more of a partnership with trainers – positioned more as “learning guides.” Gen Z is prepared to become “self-learners” or active learners. They prefer solving problems and finding solutions on their own — with a guide providing feedback.

Today’s organizations must consider re-thinking the lecture. An overreliance on lectures is out. Gen Z doesn’t want formal workshops. With shorter attention spans, smaller training pieces and faster paced approaches with more feedback are essential.

A variety of approaches is required to engage the Gen Z learner. “Observing and doing” is critical. This is a very visual learning generation. Short videos can be an effective training tool. Trainers should also consider games for learning — especially on mobile devices- and small group activities. Training must expand beyond the classroom as on-the-job training takes on added importance for these individuals.