Ten Ideas to Keep Your Best Generation Z Talent

by | Oct 6, 2022

“Eighteen months,” declared my friend over lunch last week. “That’s about how long my young team members stay on the job. Some only last 90 days. I don’t know how to keep them.”

Indeed, my friend’s experience is not isolated. Gallup released a report in 2016 called, “Millennials: The Job-Hopping Generation.” And Generation Z? They feel they know too much to settle for a low-paying job when their talent is worth far more than your wages. They may have eleven jobs in their twenties. The corporate ladder has become the corporate lily pad.

New Strategies for a New Workforce

When reviewing the data on today’s youngest workers entering the job market, I believe employers will likely need to offer a different kind of opportunity. While Generation Z tends to be a very educated population, many have chosen to “hack” their post-secondary experience. Instead of enrolling in a four-year college, many have gotten creative and have chosen to learn specific job skills through mentors, MOOCs, Master Classes, and internships. Gen Z witnessed the “great resignation” and millions of them were a part of it, in the early stages of their career. The Work Institute, a leading employment consulting agency, estimates that over 42 million U.S. workers left their jobs in 2019. By 2021, four million quit their job in a single month.

Today’s newest and youngest employee comes into the workforce with:

  • High agency—They feel empowered by that smart phone and make audacious requests.
  • High anxiety—They struggle with mental health issues which often hinder productivity.

So, what can we do to attract and keep the most talented and ambitious Gen Z workers? Let me offer ten ideas based on the data I’ve read and observed on this new generation.

Ten Ideas to Attract and Retain Generation Z Team Members:

  1. Create an internal gig economy: Since Gen Z loves change and job-hopping, what if you focused on cross-training, and welcomed teammates to move around every several months? They may look forward to it.
  2. Offer flexibility and autonomy: The pandemic changed most of us. Gen Z has asked for autonomy to work from anywhere and also asked for four-day work weeks, working 40 hours, then having three days free.
  3. Consider unlimited PTO: We now offer unlimited personal time off, communicating trust in our team, knowing each will collaborate with teammates. Train them—then trust them that they’ll get the job done.
  4. Make room for no-collar and new-collar jobs: Forget blue or white collars. The new workforce may be no-collar entrepreneurs who serve from home, and “new collar” staff who have highly specific job skills without a college degree.
  5. Provide meaning as well as money: Gen Z loves knowing how their small task is tied to the larger mission. Ensure they see how your mission and products serve the community around them. They want meaning.
  6. Implement a “Listen, Empathize, and Guide” policy: Management is often viewed as tellers, not listeners. Practice L.E.G. with young staff: listen (they’ll feel heard); empathize (they’ll feel understood); and guide (earning the right to direct).
  7. Furnish continuous learning and growth opportunities: Gen Z data reveals they want to work at a place that develops them professionally and personally. Offer training, trips, mentors, LMS courses, and experiences that grow them.
  8. When possible, embody descriptive not prescriptive leadership: Adults often lead youth by prescribing each step along the way, leaving kids little experience to think on their own. Instead, describe a mutual goal and let them “own” how to reach it.
  9. Don’t gaslight: When we gaslight, we react to young teammates’ comments with impatience, making them feel foolish for making the remark. Work to cultivate psychological safety for their learning.
  10. Practice reverse mentoring: This is when experienced veterans and young rookies meet, swap stories, then offer insights the other doesn’t have, based on the generation they’re from. This gives dignity to all.

I love what Abraham Lincoln once said: “I don’t like that person. I must get to know him.” Perhaps this is the approach we need to take with Generation Z team members. The more I get to know them, the more I like what they bring to the team.

Photo of Tim Elmore

Tim Elmore

2022 Workmatters Conference speaker, Tim Elmore is “pracademic,” down-to-earth, and research-based. As a best-selling author and international speaker, Dr. Tim Elmore creates unforgettable leadership experiences for the world’s top brands. He’s authored more than 30 books and trained thousands of leaders in nationally-renowned organizations such as Delta, Home Depot, the National Football League, and the U.S. Department of Justice.