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Recruiting & Retaining Gen Z - The Youngest Generation In The Workplace

There are significant challenges in attracting young employees. It is still possible to recruit the best, but only with a new approach. Gen Z consultant Alex Atherton explains how.

Recruitment and retention are key issues for businesses as indicated by the results of the 2022 Family Business United survey. The issues of attracting and keeping young staff are particularly acute.

Key Challenges Facing UK Family Firms:

  1. The Economic Climate (82%)

  2. Rising Costs of Labour & Raw Materials (60%)

  3. Recruiting, Retaining & Motivating Staff (59%)

  4. Mental Health & Wellbeing (35%)

  5. Environmental Issues (32%)

  6. Regulation, Red Tape & Legislation (31%)

  7. Staff Shortages/Vacancies (30%) Source: Family Business United 2022 annual survey: 'Determining the Family Business Agenda'

Gen Z includes those in their mid teens to late twenties. By 2025 they will represent a quarter of the UK workforce, and be larger than the Boomers (the youngest of whom turn 60 this year).

What can family businesses do about this problem?

Two key areas are identified below.

1 - Be Clear, Be Thorough

If you want to recruit, retain and motivate the best you need to be ultra-clear.

Young staff expect to see the detail about all aspects of the job. You likely need to have more information available than you think is reasonable. Collectively clarity and detail generate transparency, and that is the starting point for trust.

Gen Z is too young to remember a time when they were not bombarded by content. Filtering out what is not useful or truthful absorbs energy. They can be deeply suspicious of anything that looks too polished, or incomplete. Video has a further advantage, in that it conveys a greater degree of authenticity.

The most able Gen Zs are looking for organisations who get this right and seek the best in doing so. It may be more difficult to cut through these days, but there is no need to compromise on quality. Gen Zs are looking for ambitious organisations who seek high-calibre candidates.

Demonstrating the detail through has one other major advantage. It gives the impression you are more likely to survive whenever the next economic crisis or pandemic hits. Gen Zs value those who think ahead.

2 - Be Who You Say You Are

The battle for retention should start as soon as your Gen Z employees arrive and not let up. The key is that they need to find what was described on appointment.

A high proportion of Gen Z expect to change their job in the next two years. It varies significantly between industries and averages between 40-50%. This is usually taken as either restlessness, or always seeking a better offer. Both of these can be true.

It is also true that when the pandemic hit there was a lot of ‘last in, first out’, and Gen Z was hit the hardest. An expectation that they will leave does not mean it came through their choice.

Young staff also need to see that you are interested in their initial experience and where expectation did not meet reality.

If they find one unpleasant surprise after another, then word will spread quickly including to your next set of potential recruits. Websites such as Glassdoor, which describe employees’ experiences in their organisation, are key sources of information.

Gen Z needs to see that you take and act upon feedback from your employees, not least because they assume you want to improve as an organisation. And if you don’t, why would they stay?

Every organisation has vulnerabilities in times of rapid change. Sharing them not only generates trust, but can also provide opportunities for your youngest employees to collaborate in dealing with them. This is a generation that expects to contribute.

Family businesses have wonderful stories to tell. Those who tell them well, and are clear and genuine about both their values and what their future holds, will be in a strong position.

About the Author: Alex Atherton is a former secondary school headteacher. He talks, writes and consults about the generation who attended the schools he led - his Gen Z series is at

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