How to keep your Gen Z employees

It comes down to fostering a combination of development and flexibility.
20 May 2019

Gen Z wants to be constantly developing relevant skills. Source: Shutterstock

Generation Z is on track to comprise a fifth of the workforce by next year.

Aged between 19 to 23 years old, this group represents the new wave of young executives, and as it becomes a significant part of the roster, it would be naive for businesses to think their approach to staff can or will stay the same.

However, the evidence suggests many organizations are being slow to realize that things are changing. 

A study by Gartner found that 40 percent of Gen Z respondents regret their decision to accept their job offer in 2018. Nearly half (49 percent), meanwhile, said they couldn’t see themselves having a long career at their current organization.

Those stats boil down to dissatisfaction and failing expectations with their employer, which subsequently leads to high turnover, low engagement and lost productivity. In other words, not taking a different approach will come at a cost.


According to Gartner’s HR practice Vice President, Lauren Smith, with the workforce increasingly represented by Gen Z individuals, organizations must act now to determine what it is they want from their work.

Born from the mid-1990s to early 2000s, this group are ‘digital natives’ and understand that innovation and change are constant. As such, they are keen to leverage as many opportunities for development as possible. In fact, 23 percent of Gen Z candidates said the chance for skill-building was a top attraction to a role compared to just 17 percent of their millennial predecessors.

“Given that today’s graduates are focused on learning and developing skills, employers looking to gain a career commitment from their Gen Z employees must ensure they offer these opportunities,” said Smith.

With that in mind, Smith urged managers to become “connectors” between their direct reports and wider team in order to develop an employee’s capabilities. Ensuring employees remain content that their skills are relevant, this approach also “triples the likelihood” of them becoming high performers, said Smith.

“Our research shows that more than anyone, it’s an employee’s manager who influences the type of development an employee gets on the job.”


As well as the opportunity to regularly update their skill sets, Gen Z values flexibility.

With compensation less important for Gen Z than previous generations, they are also less concerned with seeking a defined career path. In 2018, just 25 percent of Gen Z employees said future career opportunities were a top attraction driver for jobs. In 2014, 34 percent of millennials felt the same way.

Gen Z also values flexibility from their work arrangements. Whereas prior generations have chosen or been encouraged to seek a ‘work-life balance’, the new generation believe “work should accommodate play and play should be incorporated in work”, says Gartner. That includes the ability to work remotely.

“With this latest crop of workforce entrants, we are seeing an increased focus on work-life integration and the ability to pursue interests simultaneously both in and out of the workplace,” said Smith.

CEO of Snappy, Hani Goldstein, encouraged organizations to move away from “stale policies and practices” or risk discouraging a new generation of workers.

“The ideal Gen Z workplace is immersed in innovation providing big picture, upward-trajectory positioning within their chosen career path; this encourages a sense of belonging, loyalty and increased engagement,” said Goldstein.

“Employers that remain comfortable in old-fashioned procedures will lose out on the influx and long-term presence of Gen Z workers to newer, more forward-thinking competitors – a key differentiator among the traditional talent pool.”

To this end, Goldstein suggests incorporating technology into all areas of the business, while striving to make employees “feel secure” at the front line of advancement.

“If your business is not actively pursuing new ways to drive growth, Gen Z will quickly pick up on it, disengage and look elsewhere,” she said.