The Great Resignation isn’t a myth, particularly among young professionals. YPulse recently found that 27% of 18- to 39-year-olds have quit or resigned from a job in the last year. The situation is even more dire among tech workers: Gartner found that only 29% of this group have “high intent” to stay at their current job.
In the past two years, people re-evaluated how their jobs contribute to their happiness, and many found that the traditional workplace and job roles often fell short. This workforce shift is motivating businesses to adopt a hybrid workplace model. Expectations around employee experience and the nature of work have changed and companies must adapt, particularly if they want to attract and retain young talent.
GEN Z HITS THE WORKPLACE DIFFERENT
It’s a time-honored tradition for older generations to heap criticism on the younger ones. Most recently, Millennials and Gen Z have been lambasted for not staying at a single organization for their entire career. Rather than sticking it out at Ma Bell for 40 years, they take a more proactive approach to their jobs and move to new opportunities based on their personal needs and aspirations.
There is nothing wrong with either option. These are personal decisions made by people acting in their own best interest, and businesses adapted their HR practices to accommodate them. Now there are new considerations as the latest generation enters the workforce.
First and foremost, Gen Z is hyper aware of their employer’s role in the world. Young professionals now expect their organizations to deploy diversity and sustainability initiatives. Older generations weren’t as concerned about their organization’s mission and vision, but that is no longer the case. However, that’s the end of most people’s analysis, so they come away with erroneous lessons like “Gen Z is entitled and wants to change businesses” instead of the proper insight: young professionals want transparency.
SWEAT THE DETAILS
In a traditional office, it’s not uncommon to see the company’s values prominently displayed throughout the space and in every department. What you don’t typically see, however, is how those values translate into each department’s day-to-day function.
What is marketing’s role in supporting the company’s mission? Sales? HR? Gen Z sweats the details, and workplace leaders must help these young professionals understand how their hard work contributes to their success. What feels mundane in the moment serves a higher function that elevates themselves and their colleagues.
This same philosophy should be reflected in employee performance reviews, product launches, and executive communications. Workplace leaders must gain buy-in by sharing the logic and reasoning behind their decisions more frequently. Businesses must connect the individual to their organization’s mission. Innovative companies are already creating inter-departmental KPIs to motivate and engage their team members. For instance, rewarding marketing and customer support departments if sales exceeds its goals. These three functions typically operate in silos, but their success relies on each other. Creating transparency and connectivity between them helps people better understand the business, how it positively impacts culture, and how it can help with retention.
HELP EMPLOYEES’ PROFESSIONAL JOURNEYS…EVEN IF IT ISN’T AT YOUR COMPANY
The hand-wringing around The Great Resignation often overlooks a critical facet of the conversation: many people don’t like their jobs because they’re ill-suited to their tasks. In the U.S., we ask 18-year olds to make decisions on the career they’ll pursue for the next 40-50 years. Doesn’t it stand to reason that a large percentage of people may choose incorrectly?
Life changes, socio-economic changes, work experience, personal growth, or other external factors bring people to new and unusual places in their careers. I thought I was destined for a career in politics, but I took a hard left when I found my calling in sales roles. At the onset of their careers, Gen Z has proven to have no compunction about bailing on a job role they either don’t like or that doesn’t suit them. Rather than chalking it up as a lost cause (and generation), businesses should have direct conversations with employees and offer them new roles within the organization.
Companies often offer leaders access to executive coaches, but we rarely, if ever, see a company offer a career coach to its employees. Competent employees who provide significant value to an organization often leave because their current role doesn’t fit their needs. But that doesn’t mean they are a lost cause. Instead, managers should regularly connect with their junior staff and move them to another open position in the organization before letting them walk out the door. If you remove the stigma of employees leaving their current situation, you unlock a treasure trove of proven talent the HR department has already approved.
Workforce fluctuations will happen. That’s the nature of modern work. Businesses that aren’t willing to commit resources to support their employees’ career journeys have a finite window to engage them. Proactively facilitating the conversation helps companies avoid losing valuable talent, and it helps people find work that may bring their performance to a new level. Very few business departments require unique skill sets; most often, someone who works on the communications team could thrive in sales, HR, or customer support roles. Understanding what skills and tasks truly delight a person will make a move to a new department seem like a no-brainer.
Gen Z isn’t a group of dynamic transients. Far from it. They’re holding their organizations and managers accountable for guiding their careers. Executives who understand their critical role in their employees’ careers are best positioned to retain them. To me, that is a welcome evolution in our thinking. The kids may be all right after all.
Carl Oliveri is the CRO of Robin, the first workplace platform that puts people before places.