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Ned Smith
10 min read

9 Strategies to attract and retain Gen Z talent

Learn how to unlock the potential of Gen Z and build a future-ready workforce with cutting edge strategies for recruiting entry level employees.

In today’s fast-paced job market, employers are looking to complement an ageing and retiring workforce with new talent streams. As a result, Generation Z (Gen Z), or those born between the mid-1990s and early 2010s, are expected to account for 27% of the workforce by 2025.

However, our research found 83% of young individuals are feeling the negative impact of Covid-19 on their career prospects. By supporting this generation of talent in their early careers, employers have an opportunity to establish mutually beneficial relationships while also harnessing their values and work ethic.

In this article, we look at how to recruit, retain and develop the young talent that can help your organisation thrive.

The benefits of hiring young talent

Before we delve into how to recruit young talent, let’s examine some of the core benefits of investing in hiring Gen Z candidates. These include, but are not limited to:

  • New perspectives: Every generation brings different values and ways of thinking to the workforce, and Gen Z are no exception. The newest additions to the world of work are renowned for valuing authenticity, transparency and inclusion, as well as being financially minded.
  • Adaptability: Research indicates that younger individuals are more adept at responding to unexpected changes. This agility proves invaluable in modern workplaces where technology, processes, and priorities continually evolve.
  • Technological proficiency: As technology reshapes work dynamics, young people who have grown up as digital natives are primed to harness emerging technologies, such as artificial intelligence (AI). Their familiarity looks set to aid in the seamless adoption of new tools and processes.
  • Filling skills shortages: Our findings show that more than a third of HR leaders consider skill shortages a top recruitment challenge, while just 18% are actively hiring entry level talent. Integrating young talent offers a cost-effective solution for bridging skills gaps and cultivating a pool of internal candidates for future roles.

How to attract and retain young talent

Our early careers research highlights the difficulties employers face during the hiring process for young talent and beyond:

These statistics underscore the need for comprehensive recruitment strategies for entry level employees, coupled with efforts to ensure the continued utilisation of their skills and abilities.

With this in mind, let’s delve into the techniques that allow you to hire entry-level employees and create an environment that allows them to contribute to your organisation’s goals and objectives in the long term.

1. Review entry level criteria

Job postings with strict educational requirements often, even if unintentionally, overlook an array of talent, with our research showing that:

  • 37% of businesses require entry-level staff to have a degree
  • 24% require candidates to have achieved at least a 2:1
  • 8% require a degree from a Russell Group university or Oxbridge

This exclusionary criteria not only has a knock-on effect on social mobility, but also means hiring managers miss out on young employees who may otherwise be well suited to their organisation’s goals, objectives and culture.

So, by undertaking a comprehensive review of the criteria for entry level roles, including consideration of whether a degree or a 2:1 is required to be successful, organisations can make it easier to hire Gen Z talent and widen the pool of potential candidates available to them.

2. Build a strong employer brand

Cultivating a reputation as an appealing organisation with a robust employee value proposition is pivotal across talent acquisition, including the pursuit of young and entry level talent. Demonstrating what makes them unique and the values they stand for can make it easier for employers to connect with young talent.

To showcase their values, an organisation can:

  • Implement Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) initiatives
  • Emphasise sustainability
  • Work with charities
  • Invest in training and upskilling opportunities
  • Demonstrate commitment to internal recruitment and succession planning

Remember, capturing Gen Z’s aspirations for a better world and fostering a vibrant, dynamic workplace is central to attracting them to your organisation and keeping them motivated and satisfied in their roles.

3. Demonstrate commitment to inclusivity

As previously noted, diversity and inclusivity are fundamental values for Gen Z professionals. Given that 50% are unlikely to accept a job that aligns with their skills but not their values, emphasising these principles wherever possible is essential.

To foster an inclusive workspace, consider:

  • Proactively reaching new and diverse talent pools
  • Establishing platforms for open conversations that welcome diverse perspectives
  • Providing diversity training to raise awareness and sensitivity, promoting a culture of value and respect for all

Championing inclusivity creates an environment where all professionals, including Gen Z, can thrive, aligning their values and skills while dismantling barriers that hinder growth and engagement.

4. Showcase your company culture

As well as promoting diversity, your employer brand provides a platform to exhibit that your organisational culture aligns with Gen Z’s preferences, creating a space where they can feel comfortable and productive.

Employers can look to highlight how their culture aligns with the priorities of young talent by:

  • Sharing authentic employee stories that highlight enriching experiences and growth opportunities
  • Crafting engaging videos offering insights into daily workplace life, showcasing camaraderie, challenges, and achievements
  • Leveraging platforms like Instagram and LinkedIn to offer glimpses into a vibrant company culture, reflecting not only what your business does but the values it upholds

By integrating these practices, you can articulate your company’s ethos to Gen Z candidates. This instils a sense of belonging, working to ensure young workers become integral contributors to your workforce.

5. Be proactive in schools and colleges

Almost half (48%) of 16–18-year-olds lament the lack of useful career advice they received at school. This presents an opportunity for employers to demonstrate their commitment to shaping young careers through collaboration with local educational institutions.

Forging these connections early can make it easier to attract young talent and subsequently gain from their distinct skills and perspectives.

To achieve this, employers can:

  • Promote alternative pathways into the workforce, including apprenticeships
  • Participate in careers fairs for direct interactions and exposure to your organisational offerings
  • Host workshops to provide insights into industry nuances, showcasing commitment to nurturing young talent
  • Engage in mentorship programmes that promote knowledge exchange and skill development, fostering guidance and growth

6. Offer development opportunities

A significant 58% of 16–18-year-olds feel there is a lack of information available to them on alternatives to university. Employers can tap into this by showcasing their dedication to offering avenues for growth and development outside the classroom.

Employers can demonstrate this commitment through:

  • One-on-one mentorships, fostering guidance and support
  • Access to diverse training programmes that broaden skill sets
  • Clearly defined career advancement paths that exhibit potential for professional growth

By implementing these components, employers can create an environment resonating with Gen Z’s yearning for personal and professional advancement. This investment not only draws them to your ranks but also helps to build loyalty and engagement.

    7. Leverage digital platforms

    Gen Z are the first digital native generation, with almost half (48%) excited about the future possibilities and innovations technologies like AI will bring to the workplace. As a result, navigating the digital realm that Gen Z has grown up with can enhance recruitment for entry level positions. This can involve:

    • Utilising social media platforms like LinkedIn and Instagram for direct engagement
    • Generating engaging online content resonating with Gen Z’s interests and values
    • Leveraging recruitment platforms like Totaljobs to broaden your reach and attract candidates seeking opportunities

    Aligning your recruitment processes with Gen Z’s digital inclinations can make it easier to attract top young talent with the skills your organisation needs to navigate future advancements in technology.

    8. Tailored Gen Z onboarding

    Recognising the value of personalised onboarding experiences that resonate with Gen Z’s preferences can simplify the process of appealing to young talent.

    An onboarding process optimised for young talent might include:

    • Personalisation, tailoring the experience to individual preferences and learning styles for immediate engagement and belonging
    • Interactive techniques, employing methods like gamified orientations and immersive virtual tours to enhance engagement and information retention
    • Technology-driven approaches, integrating tools like mobile apps and online platforms to streamline communication and administrative tasks

      An onboarding journey aligned with Gen Z’s penchant for tech and interaction can work to cultivate an early sense of investment. This not only expedites their integration into your workforce but also cements their enthusiasm for contributing to your organisation’s success.

      9. Provide flexibility and work-life balance

      Workers are prioritising work-life balance more than ever before, so accommodating this trend is pivotal for organisations looking to attract and retain Gen Z talent. Employers can tap into this by:

      • Offering flexible scheduling tailored to individual preferences, enhancing productivity, job satisfaction, and loyalty in the process
      • Providing remote and hybrid work options to promote autonomy and a conducive work environment, fostering trust with entry level employees
      • Developing wellness initiatives focusing on physical and mental health, reflecting your commitment to holistic employee well-being

      By adopting these measures, you can align your workplace with Gen Z’s expectations, fostering an environment where they can excel professionally while maintaining equilibrium in their personal lives.


      Building a future-ready workforce

      The need to integrate Gen Z into the workforce goes beyond talent attraction and retention – it’s about fortifying your organisation against challenges that lie ahead with industry shifts and technological leaps.

      Furthermore, Gen Z’s forward-looking mindset, diverse viewpoints, and digital fluency also empower you to seize future opportunities. By establishing an environment valuing their contributions, employers can start to build a dynamic workforce poised to thrive in an evolving landscape.