Tips for Onboarding Your Gen Z Employees

ITA Group
ITA Group

generation z employee meeting with HR on first day

Beginnings matter.

How the next generation of employees begins their career at your company really matters.

A major milestone in a person’s life is starting a career, especially if it's your first. The combination of new work, new people and new places creates an opportunity for companies to build a lasting and impactful moment for new employees

Although companies today recognize that onboarding is a critical element of the new-hire experience, it is not always adequately prioritized in organizational or HR strategic objectives. Only 12% of people say their company does a good job of onboarding.

Unfortunately, a common, fatal flaw organizations tend to make is to treat onboarding as a "new employee orientation class" or "the first 30 days," rather than a year-long process that helps employees get up to speed in their job and integrated into their new team and organization.

Too often the first-day experience for new hires starts like this: The new hire arrives without clear direction of where to park or whom to meet, they finally connect with someone at the front desk who vaguely remembers hearing that someone was starting today, that person makes a call while you sit in a poorly-lit welcome area and then they’re ushered to a random empty desk and instructed to "get settled in." 

For the employer, this is a huge opportunity wasted.

The First Day of Work Is So Important to Securing Gen Z Loyalty

For Generation Z, their first day at work might be their first day of full-time work ever. And firsts are memorable.

Research shows people's most vivid memories are drawn more from late adolescence and early adulthood than from any other stage of our lives—roughly between age 10 and age 30 (with a particular concentration of memories in the early 20s). Psychologists call this phenomenon the reminiscence bump. The reason we remember our youth so well is because it's a time of firsts: a first crush, a first pet, the first time traveling without parents, first paycheck, etc.

Employers have a unique opportunity to be etched into Gen Z's memory and play a critical role (good or bad) in their career story.

Deliver Memorable Moments Throughout the Employee Journey

First-day experiences and onboarding should be filled with remarkable moments, not bureaucratic activities on a checklist.

Not only does creating a memorable experience create a lasting impression and instill employee loyalty, but it also encourages employees to recommend their employer far and wide, online and offline.

study of hotel reviews on TripAdvisor found that, when guests reported experiencing a "delightful surprise," an astonishing 94% of them expressed an unconditional willingness to recommend the hotel, compared with only 60% of guests who were "very satisfied."

How do you know if the experiences are memorable? If Gen Z feels the need to pull out their camera to capture the moment, it's memorable.

After their first day, Gen Z employees should leave thinking “I belong here and the work I do, as well as me as a person, matters to the organization.”

Regardless of generation, building a strong onboarding program is like an early insurance policy on the investment you made in recruiting. Gone are the days of onboarding by handing a new hire a sticky note with the extension for IT support. Effective employee onboarding can improve employee retention by 82% and productivity by over 70%. Despite these findings, Gallup found only 1 in 10 employees felt their organization did a great job with onboarding.

It can take nine months or more for an employee to truly hit their stride, so think about this time as an extended courting period. In addition to the more administrative onboarding activities (choosing benefits, getting a computer set up, etc.), go the extra mile to really remind new recruits why they are important and remind them of some of the reasons they took the job. Don’t just teach them job tasks, but provide soft skills support as well.

Beyond the first day and onboarding, it's a good practice to deliver memorable moments throughout the employee journey.

Leadership Should Evolved With the Changing Workforce

It's time for leaders to learn a new management style. Again. As Gen Z fills the workforce, there's a new set of personality traits and work styles to learn. Leaders need to get to know them and understand their values and relationship patterns in the workplace. They also need to recognize that they need to lead them differently than previous generations to foster a cohesive workplace.

Keeping Gen Zers happy is different from other generations. Gartner research shows 33% of the Gen Z workforce ranked manager quality as a top reason to leave their current job versus only 22% of millennials 21–24 in 2013. Once on the job, Gen Z team members seek managers who can assess their skills, needs and interests and connect them to mentors that can help develop their capabilities. 

The Gen Z candidate understands that innovation and change are the new orders of the day. They are less impressed with compensation and are more interested in employers offering flexibility, as well as learning and development opportunities that will get them ahead in the workplace.

This is a generation that has done a lot to train themselves. Gen Zers, with vast amounts of information at their disposal, are more pragmatic and analytical about their decisions than members of previous generations were. Sixty-five percent of Gen Zers surveyed said that they particularly value knowing what is going on around them and being in control. This generation of self-learners is also more comfortable absorbing knowledge online than in traditional institutions of learning—they cannot remember a time when answers were not at their fingertips and this will likely impact the way they go about their work. We already see a trend toward making high volumes of content available, on-demand, rather than prescribing a one-size-fits-all learning path. Support managers as they rethink setting job expectations, focusing more on outcomes and expectations and less on step-by-step tasks.

With access to so much information and the availability of DIY-instruction at their fingertips, these students are more likely to find a solution to the root cause of hunger in their area than volunteer a few hours in the soup kitchen . As you continue to build a winning culture, keep Gen Z motivated with opportunities to make a difference. This kind of “build-it/fix-it” mindset is also likely to have a huge impact on productivity and innovation in our organizations, but also our world.

Create a Community Within Your Workplace

Making a community of your workplace is crucial to attracting and retaining members of Generation Z. Distinctive in their apprehension to committing and their thirst for opportunity, organizations will have to make strides to understand and act on Generation Z's expectations to be successful with this generation.

To draw Gen Zers, companies should try to understand their employees and target talent segments to understand their needs, interests, aspirations and communication preferences. This might include:

  • Going lighter on more traditional command-and-control tactics and heavier on understanding individual motivations (e.g. desires for flexibility, recognitionmeaning, etc.)
  • Tailoring your employer branding around the attributes that matter most to Gen Z 
  • Providing a multitude of experiences that will provide valuable inputs to their decision making about their careers—and satisfy their ambition to progress quickly 

Gaining a better understanding of what Generation Z wants in a workplace can help you get a leg up on your competition. The job market is hot. Your company has likely invested heavily to compete for this year’s top grads and you’re about to welcome a whole lot of Gen Z into your organization over the next few months. But the war for talent doesn’t end once your new recruits walk through the door.

Keep reading about how you can create lasting sustainable engagement throughout the employee journey when you download our white paper, Why Good Employees Leave: The Unintended Consequence of Great Onboarding.

Employee Retention White Paper