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3 Key Solutions to Recruit, Retain and Engage Gen Z

4 minute read

By Alex Atherton, Leadership Coach and Gen Z speaker

It has become increasingly difficult for organisations to attract and keep hold of their younger members of staff. The job market is weighed in favour of the buyers right now and there is no shortage of options for those coming in.

By Gen Z, I am referring to those whose years of birth are between 1995 and 2009. The younger end is still at school, but the older half are not only in the workplace but are increasingly in management positions.


Gen Zs have many good reasons to be suspicious. They include inheriting a very poor set of financial circumstances, alongside responsibility for resolving enormously expensive issues around an ageing population and climate change. Like everyone else, they are bombarded by content of all forms, and filtering out what is not useful, truthful or interesting absorbs a lot of energy.

If you want to recruit (and retain and motivate) the best, you need to be ultra-clear. You also need to ensure that all the detail anyone may ever wish to see is available. Collectively, clarity and detail generate transparency and that is the starting point for trust.

Gen Zs are looking for ambitious organisations who know what they are about and seek high-calibre candidates. All those coming out of university with first-class degrees did not put in the work to achieve them only to end up with an employer happy to get what they could.

Flexibility may be important, but you do not have to be flexible to the extent it harms the organisation. You may not need to be more flexible than you feel truly comfortable with either.

You do need to be clear about exactly the level of flexibility on offer and how you came to that decision. Employees still expect employers to make decisions, but they also expect some consultation along the way.


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

Authenticity counts for everything. Gen Z employees would rather see you for what you are, rather than what you want them to see.

If you want to recruit high quality members of this generation in the first place you also need to think hard about who does the describing and in what format. Gen Z has spent their lives surrounded by clickbait. It takes longer to convince them that what you are saying may be true.

You need to go further than you might feel reasonable in terms of being open and transparent, ideally to the point of feeling vulnerable. There is nothing wrong with saying ‘these are our weaknesses and this is how you can help’. You may find this piques interest, in that the role is something more than coming in at the bottom of an organisation.


We live in an age of perennial, endless feedback. Comments are invited on every article and social media post (half a million per minute on Facebook alone). Your input is ‘invited’ on every online purchase, printed on restaurant receipts, and requested in one email after another.

Generation Z has grown up with this culture. Like everyone else they may turn down the vast majority of opportunities to give their viewpoint, but when they do want to give it they expect to be able to do so. This also applies to the workplace.

Leaders and their organisations are going to receive feedback from their youngest employees whether they ask for it or not. Given this, they need to ensure those channels are open and well-advertised.

You have to make it clear that you welcome their input, no matter how much of it there might be and how often it might arrive. Without a sense of ‘you-said-we-did’ a lot of your potential future leaders will wander off very quickly, and often to a rival.

When you are clear in this way, and authentic about how you express it, not only will you receive the feedback your employees want to be able to provide but you will also get the ideas you really need.

Gen Z’s propensity and desire to participate is only part of the story. The brands, influencers and organisations which matter to them have reached their level partly through the engagement of others. A company which does not value contributions or collaboration will neither be seen as one they should want to join nor one which is likely to thrive.


Gen Z is the most significant generational change so far. There are significant opportunities for organisations who see past the ‘snowflake’ trope and understand how their propensity for hard work and stellar academic outcomes can combine to best effect.


About the author

Alex Atherton is a leadership coach and Gen Z speaker. He is a former secondary school headteacher who heard the word ‘snowflake’ too often and decided his own generation needed to hear a different message. He speaks at conferences and events about Gen Z and consults with organisations who have problems to solve on the topic. Alex’s coaching programmes are designed for senior leaders who struggle to see the wood for the trees and in transforming leadership team performance.

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