This summer, nearly 4 million college graduates—predominantly Gen Zers in their early 20s—will enter the workforce, and they may be unlike any entry-level workforce we’ve seen. These freshly minted grads are entering an unprecedented remote and hybrid work world with blurry lines that employers are still struggling to bring into focus.
At a time when young adults naturally seek connections and community, how will they bond with new coworkers, meet mentors, and fall in love with their jobs when their colleagues and managers are all behind a screen? How long will they stay with a company if they feel disconnected and isolated?
Therein lies the challenge for today’s workplace leaders, and we must acknowledge and embrace these unparalleled challenges as we onboard young teams.
Gen Z embraces hybrid work
Gen Z workers (born between 1996 and 2012) will represent 27% of the global workforce by 2025, according to the World Economic Forum. These digital natives have clear desires for their future workplaces to provide social interaction and recognize their mental health.
This generation also desires the flexibility of hybrid work. Only 11% of 2,500 soon-to-be graduates surveyed want to work remote full-time, perhaps because of the networking and growth opportunities available to young people through in-person work. 60% prefer a hybrid schedule in the office two to three days per week. This means that teams need to provide a cohesive hybrid work experience with the right tools to inspire creativity and collaboration.
Gen Z prioritizes mental health, and they want the company they work for to prioritize it as well. According to LinkedIn research, 66% of Gen Z want a company culture that supports mental health and wellness. It makes sense that this generation also values work-life balance over career; 87% of Gen Z and millennial workers who began working remotely during the pandemic said work-life balance was one of their top work priorities, according to Citrix’s Born Digital report.
Rethink onboarding: It’s a connection and retention tool
I’ve spent my career helping people be happier together at work, and it’s at the core of helping companies build, retain, and engage highly effective teams. And I can attest that there’s never been a more challenging or important time to nurture workplace connection and joy.
Starting out on the first day is key. Your new hires’ first week is your chance to not only train them, but also engage and excite them. To welcome the Gen Z workforce, a group that values belonging and work-life balance, put connection at the center of your onboarding process.
Do this to provide a fulfilling onboarding experience:
Put yourself in their shoes. Joining a team feels different when there’s no office to arrive at, no desk set up, and no hallway hellos. Gen Z ranks “sense of belonging” in their top three concerns, according to staffing company LaSalle Network, about entering the workforce. Think about how you can create an exciting online experience that leaves nothing to question. A face-to-face video chat, for example, is more engaging than a pre-recorded intro. Ensure that your hires understand who to reach out to with questions, and tailor a series of group and 1:1 meetups to get to know their teammates.
More is more. You don’t want to overwhelm new hires with onboarding tasks, but you also don’t want them feeling disconnected or lost. Provide a thorough weekly agenda that explains every step of the onboarding process. Schedule virtual coffee or lunch meetups to fill any gaps in the new hires’ schedule. Also, provide resources like blog posts or company emails that explain your company culture and employee development or enrichment resources, which can include trainings and employee resource groups. 77% of Gen Zers want to work for a brand that prioritizes diversity, equity, and inclusion, so you should provide materials that convey your vision and actions in this space.
Immediately connect new employees with teammates. Expand the introductions beyond name and title; introduce people by their interests and attributes. At our company, we ask new hires to set up a profile on my company’s platform and then make an intro post. These connections are crucial to team morale and productivity—there’s a 56% increase in job performance when employees feel like they belong.
Introduce them to mentors. Peer mentorship offers instant insight into company culture and office know-how. Higher-level mentors can show new hires what growth looks like at your company—which is perfect for Gen Zers, who crave quick career progression.
After onboarding, your Gen Z wants room to socialize
Gen Z is entering the workforce at an unprecedented time, and companies must support their unique needs from Day One. It’s critical to make this younger generation feel like part of the team, and companies must meet them on their terms and offer ways for them to connect with their peers.
People are hardwired to be social and to want to belong. Teams that connect, share and build relationships are more engaged and higher performing. Give permission and create space for employees to socialize—on the clock. Investing in the success of your new Gen Z workers will help engage and retain this generation and set them up for future successes.
Not sure if your new hires are feeling connected? Schedule frequent check-ins and survey your team about employee engagement, job satisfaction, sense of belonging, intent to stay, and more.
Magic happens when we can connect beyond our job titles as humans with lives, stories, interests, and aspirations.
Jim Barnett is the cofounder and CEO of Wisq, a platform that enables colleagues to socially connect, share, and build relationships at work. Barnett previously was the cofounder and CEO of Glint, a platform helping organizations measure and improve employee engagement, and vice president of product at LinkedIn.