Preparing for Millennials and Gen Z in the Workforce

Millennials, which includes those born between 1982 and 1996 currently comprise 35 percent of the US workforce, and data suggests that their ranks could swell to as much as 75 percent in 2025. However, Gen Z, which includes those born between 1997 and 2012, are just now entering the workforce, but are expected to make up nearly one-third of the workforce by 2030.  With these growing ranks, employers need to shift their focus from retaining the baby boomers who are rapidly aging out of the working environment and instead make small but important changes to meet the unique needs of this workforce. 

Beyond the sheer volume of workers, these two age groups have high expectations for what they want out of their careers and aren’t afraid to move on if their current employer can’t meet their needs. Looking at Millennials specifically, data show that less than 30 percent of workers in this age bracket are engaged in their work and 21 percent have switched jobs in the last 12 months, costing the US economy a staggering $30.5 billion per year. Generation Z, meanwhile, reported the lowest rates of satisfaction with their workplace, with only 73 percent reporting that they look forward to going to their workplace. In addition, Generation Z is 32 percent more likely to leave their jobs than Millennials and 2.8 times more likely to leave than baby boomers. 

With these groups making up the base of your talent pool, below we outline a few changes you can make now to keep your workforce satisfied in the weeks, months, and even years ahead. 

To recruit and retain your Millennial workforce, consider: 

While we hate to paint in broad brush strokes, in general Millennials are an age group that is mostly established in their careers but yet are still very much interested in opportunities that can help them grow and progress to achieve true workplace satisfaction. To meet the needs of this workforce, companies should: 

Make it transparent: 
Plan to be transparent with Millennial workers, who are at a point in their career where they are invested in the company and thus want to be looped into major developments and trajectory changes so that they feel like an integral part of the company. 

  • Businesses should plan to share information freely and openly about their company’s values and culture, especially in this post-pandemic environment where so many business owners have had to change up their game plan in order to save face.
  • Be transparent about perks and benefits. If you are adding or taking away services, changing up the fee structure, or otherwise making any swaps, let your employees know the rationale behind the reason. Even better, plan to interview employees about how they use their benefits and what they would like to see moving forward so that you can best meet their needs. 
  • With regards to compensation, be transparent about your company’s pay structure and how salaries escalate as you move up the company. Let them know if you reimburse at a higher rate for certain skills or certifications so that employees can best weigh their options. 

Plan for career planning: 
At their heart, Millennials don’t really want to job hop. Instead, they’d rather lay down roots, but only if they know that your business offers opportunities to grow. To achieve this goal, you can: 

  • Establish a structured system and programs to help employees to understand their progress within the company. This may include helping your Millennial employees to understand what skills, training and experiences they will need to climb the next rung on the corporate ladder and connect them with the training and opportunities available to meet those needs.   
  • As we touched on above, you’ll want to invest in training and certification opportunities for your workers. Some businesses will be able to host their own classes, while others will want to establish relationships with local colleges or skill programs so that their workers can attend with ease. 
  • Establish a program for delivering both formal and informal feedback. Millennials prefer frequent feedback, even if it’s negative, as it gives them time to right the ship and return to success. 

Alter your approach: 
Millennials have been picked on in the past for thinking that they are all special and unique. What this really translates to, in the workplace, is that they gravitate towards more tailored approaches to their careers. Specifically, companies can attract Millennials by: 

  • Encouraging one-on-one conversations between managers and workers so that they can have an ongoing dialog about their unique needs, questions, and concerns about their role in the workplace.
  • Organize small group forums where employees can discuss their roles within the company and reflect and provide input on changes that may be coming down the pike for your business. In this way, your Millennial employees will feel that their unique opinions and viewpoints are being heard. 
  • If you offer a recognition program, Millennials will gravitate more to those that include multiple options so that workers can pick the reward that makes them feel most appreciated. Some companies, for example, sign up for online programs that give points for a job well done and allow employees to “shop” for gifts or other tokens of appreciation.

To prepare for Generation Z to enter the workforce, companies should: 

Focus on authenticity:

Gen Z will be searching for jobs that they feel align with their personal values. This search typically means finding companies that are vocal about their passion projects and other meaningful ways in which they give back. To exemplify this culture, you can: 

  • Make sure that your company has a clear set of values — these values should reflect the overall mission of your company, and should be embodied by your employees throughout the company.
  • Make sure that you are integrating these values into every facet of your business. To attract talent, make sure that your values are prominently displayed on your website, included in your recruiting materials, and discussed during all subsequent candidate interviews. 
  • In discussing your values, make sure that you play up how it differentiates your company from other businesses in the same sector. This is particularly important when you discuss your charitable contributions and passion projects. 

Find your flexibility
As the first generation to always have cell phones, Gen Z is acutely aware of how difficult it can be to unplug. To preserve their work-life balance, Gen Z will value companies that: 

  • Are flexible with when and where employees work. Gen Z will value companies that offer in-person, hybrid, or fully remote options, as well as flexibility on start and end times for the office day. As such, your business should invest in systems and tools that allow employees to work comfortably and seamlessly from their location. 
  • These workers will also value flexible vacation time and paid time off (PTO) opportunities and companies that encourage workers to recharge, so in the hiring process make sure it is part of your narrative to share how vacation time is organized and covered in your organization. 
  • Offer benefits that support a healthy work-life balance, such as mental health services, child care offerings, and other perks that aim to best support a healthy, balanced lifestyle. 

Showcase your diversity: 
As a cohort, Gen Z is more diverse than any other generation and places value on working in an environment that reflects a rich tapestry of racial, ethnic, and cultural diversity. To create a diverse and inclusive workforce, companies should 

  • Invest in Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) training and be sure that you are building a comprehensive program that integrates these values at every level of your company. 
  • Be sure that your actual employees reflect the DEI values by making sure to hire workers from a diverse array of racial, ethnic, cultural, socioeconomic, and even skills-based backgrounds. Further, make sure this diversity is reflected across teams and seniority levels. 
  • Form employee resource groups (ERGs) to review existing DEI policies and identify and address any gaps to continue to evolve and improve your company’s commitment to diversity.