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March 30, 2024

How To Understand, Recruit And Retain The Coming Wave Of Gen-Z Workers

We all have undoubtedly heard a lot about Generation-Z. But what do we know about this growing segment of the workforce? They are "just kids" to some, while others broad-brush them as lazy, disengaged slackers, the "quiet quitters" who only want to work if the work is easy. But that's a bad rap to place […]

We all have undoubtedly heard a lot about Generation-Z. But what do we know about this growing segment of the workforce?

They are "just kids" to some, while others broad-brush them as lazy, disengaged slackers, the "quiet quitters" who only want to work if the work is easy. But that's a bad rap to place on members of Gen-Z, the largest, most ethnically diverse demographic in American history.

Born between 1997 and 2012, half this cohort has begun streaming into the workforce, and according to a report by McKinsey & Company, may comprise one-fourth of the global labor pool by next year. Moreover, Gen-Z workers are expected to surpass the oldest working generation in 2025.

In other words, more Zoomers than Boomers in the workforce, sooner rather than later.

Wise employers are learning the unique attributes of Gen-Z, what they want in work and how to recruit and keep them motivated for the long haul.

Gen-Z: A Quick Primer

Members of Gen-Z are true digital natives, having grown up with technology and the internet, cellphones, tablets and laptops, and an explosion of social media. They were immersed in the world long before previous generations, with instant, international connections to other cultures, issues and news.

As a result, they tend to be open-mind­ed, lib­er­al-lean­ing and active­ly engaged in advo­cat­ing for fair and equal treat­ment for everyone, according to research by the Annie E. Casey Foundation.

Many were in school during the Covid-19 pandemic, which revolutionized how they learned when classes were forced online and how they socialized when so many things—from clubs and concerts to proms and graduations—were taken away from them.

In my experience, most working-age members of Gen-Z are so young that they haven't formed career goals. They know they will be working for a long time and prefer to learn more before settling into a lifetime job. Generally, they will insist on a work environment where they can "work to live," not "live to work," because they are protective of their personal time.

What Gen-Zers Want

If there's a word that describes Gen-Z when compared to other generations, it's "unique." You might think they prefer strictly remote work, but according to research by my company as well as others, Gen-Z's ideal situation is a hybrid. In a recent FlexJobs survey, only about 40% said remote work was important to them, compared to 75% of Gen-X.

They also, according to the Duffy Group survey:

• prefer email to other modes of office communications.

• generally enjoy meetings because they like to collaborate.

• desire a livable wage and want transparency on their colleagues' salaries so they know how high to aim.

• value immediate, honest feedback on their work with suggested plans for improvement and quarterly, not annual, reviews. (Remember, in high school, their online grades were updated daily.)

• favor business casual work attire. But the second most-popular response to our question about work attire was actually, "It shouldn't matter. It's about how I contribute."

According to a Deloitte report, Gen-Z values flexible schedules above all else. They don't mind coming to the office, but they don't appreciate rigid hours or having to worry about taking time for doctor's appointments. Blame the pandemic: Gen-Z students had to learn to work independently and earn the trust of their teachers and parents. As a result, they are self-reliant and value a certain amount of autonomy in the workplace.

Feeling valued, included and listened to is also critical for this young generation, as are opportunities for advancement. According to a report by Jabra, nearly 75% said changing jobs is the way to develop their careers, and 42% think owning a business is most desirable. Nearly half expect to change jobs within the next year.

Seven Ways To Help Gen-Z Succeed

Every generation complains about the generation below them. But all generations can bring fresh ideas, values, inspiration and brilliance to the workplace. We need them to succeed because they're replacing us, so here are seven tips.

1. Know where to find them.

Smart HR professionals and recruiters will look for prospective Gen-Z candidates online, via Glassdoor, Handshake, ZipRecruiter and LinkedIn, as well as via word of mouth through family and friends.

2. Teach your children.

With 23% of Gen-Z telling FlexJobs they question whether they have the skills and abilities required to do the tasks assigned to them, be ready to provide clear, realistic expectations. Don't drown them in work.

3. Walk the walk.

This generation is passionate about inclusivity and fairness, as well as societal challenges, and they won't be hoodwinked by employers claiming to care—about DEI or sustainability, for example—but not demonstrating this through action. Authenticity matters.

4. Pair them with managers who are transparent and responsive.

The top reason Gen-Z members leave jobs is poor career development, according to McKinsey. They can flourish with approachable, empathetic managers who encourage their professional growth. Leaders should share ways they can build projects, create processes, start programs or otherwise be part of inventing something that doesn't exist yet.

5. Place more importance on skills and competencies than on fields of study.

Remember, they're very young and may not have decided what they want to do with their lives yet.

6. Get creative with benefits.

Gen-Z values their mental health, so including health coverage for that is smart. Other possibilities to consider include reimbursement for gym memberships, yoga classes and providing good ergonomic tools.

7. Pair them with exiting Baby Boomers.

We all know they're a great asset for those who cannot figure out how to do things on their phones. But in the workplace, both sides of the generational divide can learn from each other.


The workplace is evolving with the advent of AI and the continued growth of digital technology. Thankfully, a passionate new generation of workers with many talents stands ready to capitalize on this change.

Article written by:  Orville Lynch, Jr.
Mr. Lynch, a member of the legendary two-time Ohio Civil Rights Hall of Fame Award winning Lynch Family. Mr. Lynch is a nationally recognized urban media executive with over 20+ years of diversity recruitment and serial entrepreneur with numerous multi-million dollar exits.
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