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You Worked Hard to Recruit 2018 Grads—Now Get Them to Stick Around

Fresh out of school, Generation Z is ready to get to work. They’re also just as likely to quickly move on to the next best thing. Keep them engaged and informed and they may just stay a bit longer.

You Worked Hard to Recruit 2018 Grads—Now Get Them to Stick Around

By: John Rossheim

Millennial workers, born between 1981 and 1996, have quickly become the largest generation in today’s workplace. And from the get go, they’ve been known for their independent thinking and propensity to jump from job to job. In fact, nearly half of surveyed Millennials in this 2018 Deloitte study said they expect to leave their current employer within two years. 

It’s no surprise then that their younger counterparts, Generation Z workers (born between 1997 and 2012) are even more mobile-minded. In the same survey, 61 percent of Gen Z said they would leave for greener pastures within the same period.

Gen Z’s penchant for thinking in terms of gigs rather than jobs isn’t surprising—after all, they’ve grown up in a gig economy. That means you’ll likely be facing a major employee retention challenge with these young workers. 

It’s a conundrum that some employers have already experienced firsthand—one that you may have experienced yourself. “Retaining young employees who are new to the job market is extremely challenging,” says Chris Wunder, senior director of recruitment at Leap Hospitality

So how can you get these gig-minded Gen Z workers to stick around a bit longer? “If you’re targeting younger workers, do your research,” says Caitlin Bidwell, vice president of operations at Davies Public Affairs. “Know what is and isn’t important to them, and what your competitors are doing.” Get to know them by talking with them—and often—and not just about the task of the moment. In other words, engage them, and then demonstrate that you heard their concerns. 

The following insights from small business owners will help keep your youngest workers busy, engaged and in place. 

Give them the big picture from day one. Many post-Millennial workers know they want to make a mark in business, but they don’t know how. So the key to retaining Gen Zers is to convince them from day one that, as long as they’re with you, you’ll help them make something of themselves.

Let each Gen Z new hire know what they will get to do in their first week, month and year. And then plant a longer-term 5-year vision about their possible career trajectory at your company.

Also, make sure that your young hires know that your leadership is accessible. “I’m the owner, and I sit out on the floor with everybody,” says Deborah Sweeney, CEO of MyCorporation. “New employees recognize that everyone is talking to everyone—including management—all the time.” 

Even if your recent Gen Z grads don’t have in mind a clear career trajectory, they’re always be thinking about what comes next. “You need to talk to them, figure what their plan is,” says David Lord, CEO of educational game maker JumpStart. Work with these hires on their goals, or help them revise those goals to mesh with reality. They expect leadership to be accessible, and achievable; if you want to keep them, show them how to lead.

Create opportunities to gig in diverse functional areas. Adopt the Gen Z’s gig mindset by exposing them to several functional areas of your business. That will give them a sense of the possibilities your company offers. It will also help you see what they do best. 

Put this plan into action early on by giving them self-contained projects with a well-defined beginning, middle and end. Keep in mind that Gen Z is even more gig-minded than their Millennial elders.

“Gen Zers want to go out and create something; they’re entrepreneurs,” says Chad Sorenson, president of Adaptive HR Solutions and Treasurer of HR Florida State Council. “The question for employers is, how can we keep them engaged, yet independent?”

Rotating through different areas of your business should be meaningful, even if it’s limited in scope. Be sure to keep it real; Gen Zers will smell “make-work” a mile away. “We came up with an accounting project for someone in sales when they earned a business degree and wanted to try out accounting,” says Sweeney.

Mentoring can work well for Gen Z.  Gen Z workers are willing to accept counsel as long as their more experienced colleagues are willing to listen to them. Develop a mentoring program that pairs your new hires with someone in a similar role with more seniority. This helps entry-level professionals feel both grounded and upwardly mobile.

Lord says that Gen Zers “come in much more balanced” than Millennials. “They have a holistic view of the world; they’re not self-absorbed.” This can help your Gen Z workers get more out of their mentor relationships.

Make feedback a two-way street. Tell your youngest new hires how they are doing—and do it frequently and on a regular basis. “Gen Z needs affirmation. They need to know that they’re doing the right thing,” says Sorenson.

But before you do that, ask them how they are doing, and ask if they’re encountering any obstacles (whether with policies, procedures or people) in your organization. This generation expects a dialog that continuously relates their tasks at hand to the achievement of their career goals.

Do all you can to show your young workers that you’re sincerely seeking out ways to make your organization work better for employees. You can ask, for example: Are there things that prevent you from doing your job as well as you could?

Use digital media to show Gen Z the value of their benefits. Teach Gen Zers the value of their employee benefits. Don’t assume they understand even the fundamentals of insurance, for example. This youngest, most mobile of generations expects this information in an easily digestible form, whether it’s brief videos or terse text. Leave the details to the fine print.

But don’t stop there. Explain perks face-to-face to make sure they understand the value that they’re receiving and how it accumulates over their tenure. Demonstrate, for example, how 401(k) accounts, especially those with a match that grows over time, become much more valuable with longer tenure at your organization. 

Show Gen Z how they will grow with your company. Demonstrate that every new employee is directly invested in the growth of the company, in terms of both compensation and professional development. Draw direct lines between company growth and personal and professional growth. Make this point in multiple forums and media, from videos to periodic company meetings to one-on-ones.

As Gen Z joins the front lines of companies like yours, they’re ready to soak up as much experience as possible. Take advantage of their zeal to learn. After all, these young workers will contribute to the vitality of your workforce and the future of your business, so remember to approach them with care.