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Winning over younger employees

Firstly, I would like to acknowledge the complexity and difficulty of being in the HR space. It is a challenging space to work in as the world of work continues to change.  

This demographic presents a unique set of challenges to differing work expectations, technology preferences and higher turnover rates than previous generations. 

In January, KPMG asked 400 business leaders in Australia what was on their minds. Talent acquisition, retention, and re/upskilling staff to meet the future world of work requirements were their top challenges for 2023.  

Nearly 9 in 10 executives say their organisation is facing a skills gap or will be in the next 5 years. Although there are several causes that lead to the skills gap, one of the biggest is the rapid expansion of technology, requiring employees to develop their digital literacy and sharpen their leadership and soft skills.   

HR can get ahead of the curve by being proactive in developing the biggest anticipated skills gaps in the coming years, including advanced IT skills, data analysis, complex information processing, leadership, adaptability, and critical thinking. 

By 2025, Millennials will make up the largest percentage of the global workforce.  It is no surprise HR professionals are investing resources into implementing initiatives that will not only commit to developing the skills in the future but will also meet the needs of this emerging generation.

Meet your Gen Z and Millennials’ expectations and consider these 5 elements when planning your organisation’s HR initiatives. 

Understand their working and learning preferences

Gen Z’s working and learning preferences are shaped by their digital proficiency, desire for flexibility, inclusion and diversity, collaboration, and a commitment to continuous learning. 

Working arrangements such as remote work and flexible schedules allows them to balance work with educational or personal commitments and reduce burnout. 

Technology is not just a tool for communication and entertainment, but also a means of learning and working. They are accustomed to using digital resources to research, learn new skills, and collaborate with others. As a result, they often prefer learning environments that are tech-savvy and offer access to digital tools and resources.

They are geared toward the digital-first approach, but also thrive with opportunities to be mentored, coached and build relationships with others in person. They are a highly collaborative generation and want to work in environments that allow for teamwork, ideas-sharing and working towards the common goal. 

HR initiatives will need to align with their appetite for digital working and learning, coupled with opportunities to collaborate with others online and in-person.

Embed a culture of on-going learning and development. 

Gen Z and Millennials are ambitious and want to work for employers who will help them unlock their potential, achieve meaningful goals and thrive within the workplace. 

Provide enriching initiatives for staff to learn and adapt to new ways of work and promote a growth culture, by allocating designated time to on-going learning and development activities that enhance their confidence and skills to achieve career progression and personal development.

This demographic want and value being invested in. Recent data from the 2022 Workplace Intelligence Upskilling Study found that 74 per cent of Millennial and Gen Z employees report they are likely to quit within the next year because of a lack of skills development opportunities. 

Personalise their experience and embed programs that help your future leaders to develop the essential skills to navigate their careers, and provide regular supervision and support that promotes a culture of individual goal setting, learning, innovation and growth from making mistakes. 

Equip employees with preventative mental health tools. 

Whilst well-intentioned wellbeing days can be a fun and light-hearted way to promote employee health, they are not effective in addressing underlying issues related to mental health, nor do they provide staff with the preventive tools to maintain optimal wellbeing. 

A recent study from Deloitte reflects that stress and anxiety is at an all-time high in this demographic, with 46 % of Gen Zs in 2022 expressing stress around financial security, inability to be their true selves, poor work/life balance, mental health, and difficulty managing conflicting priorities.   

Equally, a Harvard Business Review Mental Health at Work Report found that 50% of Millennials and 75% of Gen Zs have left a job due to mental health reasons.

Approach providing education and training by offering professional training and coaching in personal leadership skills, stress management, resilience, and other mental health topics that support employees to better understand and manage their mental health. 

Create a wraparound culture that prioritizes wellbeing and open communication about mental health. Offer resources, employee assistance programs, flexible work arrangements and promote work/life balance by supporting your talent to achieve goals, overcome obstacles and thrive across all areas of their life. 

Reflect on your reward and recognition programs 

Organisations face increasing financial pressures, rising technology budgets and changes to consumer spending habits due to the increasing cost of living and high interest rates. Being able to increase wages across the board to remain competitive is simply not achievable or realistic for some.  

Typical one-size-fits-all approaches to rewards do not necessarily fit the bill for this generation, and they want personalised rewards that evoke emotion and reflect their individual needs. They appreciate customisation and choice when it comes to recognition of their achievements, and they want to feel valued as individuals. 

Consider offering personalized rewards that are unique to their needs, such as flexibility or autonomy on a project, and tailor to their values, interests, hobbies, or specific goals. The classic gift card does not have the same gesture and emotional response as a magazine subscription, awards nights, or social and memorable experiences that can be experienced with friends/family or colleagues. 

Demonstrate your commitment to their growth by investing in ongoing training, mentoring and career advancement opportunities. 

Understanding an approach that is geared toward your Gen Z and Millennial workforce can support organisations to provide meaningful rewards, that help boost morale and increase employee engagement and retention. 

Consider your employee value proposition in your recruitment strategy 

Your emerging workforce is looking for organisations with a positive company culture that aligns with their values and offers a sense of community and belonging. 

In addition to competitive salary, leave and flexible family-friendly work conditions, HR may benefit from the following key initiatives:

  • Diversity and inclusion within the workplace 
  • Corporate social responsibility goals and initiatives that create sustainable social and environmental benefits for the wider community
  • Philanthropic work  
  • Providing a connection to community through staff volunteer days, to collaborate with others, gain professional development and contribute to causes that they care about and that align to their values 
  • Investment into human-centred and ongoing training plus development for career progression and personal goals. 

As it is estimated that the cost of replacing an employee is one-half times their salary, organisations with engaging initiatives and tailored training and development programs for their Gen Z and Millennial workforce will see real results on their bottom lines.

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Courtney Grigg

Courtney Grigg

Courtney Grigg is the General Manager of Generation Thrive, a social enterprise of Youth Opportunities Australia, which works in partnership with organisations to attract, develop and retain their staff and future leaders through their evidence based and outcomes driven personal leadership training and coaching program.

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