Generation Z, those born after 1997, are beginning to enter the workforce, bringing new challenges for employers seeking to attract and retain them.
Ernest Baskin, assistant professor of food marketing at Saint Joseph’s University, offered solutions in an FMI Midwinter Executive Conference virtual session, during which he presented findings from FMI’s and Saint Joseph’s University’s Gerald E. Peck Fellowship three-part research series on the food industry’s workplace attractiveness.
Here’s a breakdown of what Gen Z, which represents a quarter of the U.S. population, is looking for in an employer.
“[Generation Z] has a very quick expectation to advance without necessarily even understanding what the barriers to the advancement are,” Baskin said. “They are very, very competitive … and they want to be able to put that competitiveness essentially into winning. And what does winning look like to them? … Without any communication, winning looks like advancement. It looks like being able to talk to the CEO almost immediately. But the question is, what are other ways we can give them that same belief?”
“A lot of Gen Z are looking for an understanding of where they fit into the larger process, and they are looking for a way to understand what impact it is they are making,” Baskin says, noting that communicating what needs to happen in order for workers to advance, as well as benchmarking progress made against those steps, is also key.
Gen Z, which has lived through recessions, “really want job stability because they’ve seen a lot of folks lose their jobs,” Baskin says. When recruiting Gen Zers, examples of stability and “folks that have worked their way up through the ranks” should be made clear.
Making an impact
Young workers have also lived through acts of terrorism and political upheaval, and “they see themselves as being agents of change,” Baskin says, adding that“they want to work in companies where they can make a difference, and that’s going to become very important.”
Gen Z staffers want total compensation, which doesn’t necessary mean salary. “[Gen Z takes] a more holistic look at what a company is offering,” he says, adding that“at the end of the day, the front-line figure of salary is not the end all, be all. We want to think about communicating what are the benefits that we bring to the table for Gen Z. … Some of those benefits are impact to the community, focus on sustainability, employee work culture—all of these things are a part of total compensation,” Baskin says. “Yes, you need your front-line figure to be competitive, yes you need benefits—all of those things are a given—but … just being the highest number isn’t necessity what is going to get them in the door.”
Gen Z job hops more than any other generation, Baskin says, noting that “we’ve seen this start with millennials, and this has increased for Gen Z.” Young workers job hop for one of two reasons: either they aren’t getting the learning and the experience they want in their company or they see a better opportunity somewhere else.
A rotational program, in which an employee shifts roles to gain knowledge of multiple facets of the company, or highlighting other silos of the company can serve as “internal job hopping,” he says: “If an employee wants to job hop, one of the things that you can reframe it as [is] there is so much more to learn; you can job hop here.” It’s also important, Baskin says, “to make sure expectations match reality and you keep them on the treadmill working their way up so that they don’t want to job hop.”