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The professional era we are living in today has been coined ‘the great resignation’ by some, and the ‘great reshuffle’ by others, as many young people quit their jobs or move sectors in pursuit of a more fulfilling career.

With Gen Z and millennials switching jobs at higher rates than seen before, just what can businesses be doing to retain strong talent and to ensure their workforces appeal to diverse groups?

In partnership with Inpulse, the employee engagement experts, Imagen Insights spoke to Gen Z to get some real-time brutally honest feedback about how they view the workplace, how they feel about career prospects, and what employers should be doing to keep top talent.

More than three quarters, (76%) of Imagen Insights respondents reported feeling both anxious and enthusiastic about their future careers but just what is fuelling their uncertainty. We delved a little deeper into what workplaces can be doing to ensure they attract and retain this demographic, unearthing eight key themes:

What does Gen Z want from their workplace?

Gen Z wants a clear career trajectory mapped out from day 1

This was a common theme throughout our findings and so it is essential that employers recognise this to avoid junior staff moving on from their business too early on in pursuit of promotions. Gen Z has watched millennials, the generation of side hustles, burn out over the past few years and have placed an emphasis on working in and out of the day job to succeed – they do not want this for themselves. They want to work hard and be recognised for their efforts from the offset.

Employers must be transparent in all aspects

Many of those we spoke to wanted their employer to be transparent with them – whether that was surrounding business goals for the organisation or regarding internal communications and updates. We know Gen Z wants to feel a part of something bigger, more purpose-led, so ensuring they feel like part of your business is vital.

Variety of working within their role

Perhaps an obvious one, but this generation is keen to equip themselves with as many skills as possible to future-proof their careers. They are the first digitally native demographic and therefore likely to want roles that evolve as society does. Keeping a variety of tasks within their day job will help to ensure they maintain interest in your organisation.

Diversity must be front and centre

Gen Z doesn’t want to see formative, ticking-box exercises in their workplace. By nature, they are the most diverse generation we have seen and they want to see that reflected in the organisations they work for. A good tip here for convincing business leaders that they need diverse teams is using data. Show them, don’t tell them, about how performance, productivity, and staff satisfaction increase when the team they have is representative and embodies the diversity of thought.

What does Gen Z want from leadership?

Leaders must lead with purpose

Gen Z values transparency, they also want to know that they are working for someone or something that shares a common goal with them and mirrors their values. One of our respondents summed this up perfectly, ‘A good leader must straddle the line between authority and empathy, they’re someone that leads with the purpose of creating a positive impact and not for the pleasure of authority’.

They want leaders to be accessible and conscientious

They have grown up in a world where everyone is almost just a few connections away. Social media has made CEOs accessible and enabled this demographic access to those in leadership roles, whom they would not have been able to reach in previous times. A personable, relatable leader who will stop and chat in the corridor (or on a zoom call) is what Gen Z wants, not a CEO who locks themselves in a glass office with the door shut.

A hybrid of WFH & office work is preferred

The pandemic has proven that workforces can be equally, if not more, productive when working remotely as opposed to in the office. That being said, with Gen Z still wanting access to their leadership teams, fast progression routes and with the nature of their roles being more junior, a hybrid approach of working from home and office-based work was preferred.

Encourage employees to have hobbies

Gen Z talent is keen to have a life outside of work. As previously mentioned they have seen what happened to millennials with burnout and they also highly value their own physical and mental well-being. Having a leader who encourages them to pursue interests outside of the professional space was a key theme that arose in our findings.

Two separate projects were conducted to gain these insights, one in January 2021 and one in October 2021.