Employee engagement and staff retention are HR objectives that are constantly evolving in accordance to what kind of talent a company is looking for. Right now, there is a lot of focus on Generation Z: those born between 1997 – 2012. The problem is that the latter’s image of the world of work has been developed through experiences in the 2008 economic crisis and the COVID-19 health crisis. Rising unemployment rates, a proliferation of short-term and even 0 hour contracts, plummets in recruitment following the pandemic, as well as witnessing the births of new professions in which they have not been trained… this young generation of talent understands obstacles. And their response? They are embracing investing in the present: often refusing to make long-term commitments. So, how can you engage and retain employees, especially those like Gen Z, who approach the world of work very differently than past generations of employees?

Reinventing our relationship to work

The truth is, Gen Z is challenging how we view work, how we access it, the processes by which we do it, and how we value it. Your recruitment and workforce objectives certainly include some talent from this new generation whose codes force us to reconsider our vision of employee development.

First of all, the best tool at our disposal to build commitment, loyalty and inevitably change is our ability to listen. Engagement begins by listening and above all showing that you have heard what they said by trying to offer an employee experience and management that is more in line with their expectations. When a recruiter approaches the situation from the point of view of their target and uses their language, that’s when we’re likely to catch their attention.

Engage in unconventional places

Gen Z views their career as a string of rewarding experiences. Their desire to try out multiple paths keeps them independent of any one company, guided by their own principals and ambitions. Even if they are unmatched in their concern with community: the fate of our society and planet, Gen Z remains individualistic in their career strategy

To begin a conversation with them, you will need to meet them in their own ‘back yard’. The good news is it fits in the palm of your hand, and very well may already be there right now. Social media and private messaging platforms like WhatsApp or Signal are places where your targets consume with little thought of restraint. And it’s exactly where you have an opportunity to explain your QWL approach to them however you like – even with a GIF or a meme.. But you’ll have to get to the point, because they aren’t likely to stick around and check it out for long. 

Welcome to a world where anything is possible

When in search of answers to their questions, Gen Z instinctively turn to the digital tools at their fingertips. While Google seemed to have the answer to everything before, now communities on Facebook and Reddit or even private messaging channels like Telegram or Discord are the best resources for digging up the latest information. This endless flow of information is accompanied by a large dose of creativity. It makes sense, when you need to stand out online, or sift through algorithms and fake news, it encourages you to think outside the box and master each platform’s codes.

Information’s accessibility takes precedence so communication is responsible for disseminating ideas through the right channels, each with its own well-defined codes. It all happens on a handful of platforms and in a short period of time. The simplicity of content creation and distribution invites responsiveness. Today, you can create an animated brochure in ten minutes, or edit and animate a presentation video for Instagram and Tik Tok in even less time.

“Less is more” when it comes to engagement

Adopt the same approach in your recruitment! Your company’s website and job offers need to reflect the universe Gen Z is evolving in: simple, direct and informal. Information is delivered with clarity, while being broken into digestible chunks in order to capture limited attention on social media.

Gone are CVs and interview questions from another era. The digitisation of HR and Recruitment processes helps boost Talent Acquisition and gets the most attention from the targeted talents. There are tools that challenge candidates to play out specific scenarios, breaking the formal codes of classic recruitment assessments. In this vein, psychometric tests dig deep in each candidate’s expectations and motivations. In return, they are asked to project themselves into the position’s missions and choices. Ultimately, presenting yourself as an employer who wants to do things differently is a step towards employee development.

Loyalty comes from people

So, you’ve managed to recruit that elusive talent, now you need to keep them! Their sensitivity to micro-trends makes these employees eternal early adopters. Their curiosity is also likely to push them towards innovations that pique their interest.

Management that fits

Helping reveal potential, offering helpful directions and guiding talent towards jobs or skills acquisition…these missions are now a part of any management position. The stronger the manager’s soft skills related to communication and managing emotions, the more they will succeed in engaging employees and developing loyal talent that sticks around. It’s also necessary to understand work-life balance to promote employee development and better performance. 

As Gen Z is accustomed to increasingly rapid changes in trends, they show significant cognitive and cultural agility that allows them to easily navigate worlds and tasks. This versatility, which is essential to innovation, needs to be stimulated and encouraged if you want to retain them. Novelty fascinates them and the worst that can you can do to Gen Z is bore them.

No stress: change the world without putting pressure on yourself

Fuelled with a strong sense of responsibility towards the world around them, Gen Z aspires to play a major role in the face of ecological and societal issues. These emotionally charged topics appeal to young employees who have grown up seeing the consequences of climate change, racial discrimination and gender inequality play out in both social and mainstream news.

However, even with missions that give them purpose, no one can ignore a bad work environment. Management will have to resolve conflicts to prevent tensions from arising, fostering an atmosphere that is conducive to employee development. Managers may opt for separation tactics: by sequencing tasks to avoid unproductive multitasking or by fragmenting teams to restore productive group dynamics.

Diversification: revisiting recognition

The results-oriented culture has consolidated recognition most often into the form of a bonus or a pay raise, as something based on measurable performance indicators. However, recognition can be based on indicators fed by informal observations. This kind of recognition that reinforces an employee’s investment falls squarely on the shoulders of each manager. Outside of results, recognition for their investment amounts to acknowledging their commitment to their missions and the objectives of the company as a whole. This kind of existential recognition can be expressed through gestures showing attention: greeting each other in the morning or notifying all team members of a decision that will impact their missions. In short, it’s being aware that an employee’s fulfilment also comes from their contact with others. This type of recognition mainly involves real-time communication reinforced by a culture of feedback. Soft skills like listening, empathy and positive communication must be part of each manager’s range of behavioural skills in order to inspire confidence and ensure each employee’s development.

Let’s face it, Gen Z candidates rarely apply to you for a “career”. You will have to accept that they will certainly leave one day, but that in the meantime they will have given their best. It is more important than ever to make sure an employee’s exit from your company is as pleasant as their arrival. Because who knows, the grass might not be so green elsewhere and Gen Z are experts in pivoting and turning around!