5 ways to refocus on recruiting Gen Z and millennial workers.

A group of colleagues in a work meeting.

Did you know that Gen Z and the millennials generation workers already make up almost half (46%) of the full-time workforce in the United States? Together these young workers will soon dominate the global workforce. Let’s take a closer look into five recent trends that are driving this more and more valuable talent segment—and how you can capitalize on these tendencies to better navigate the recruiting landscape.

When it comes to what they want out of work—and what they expect of employers—millennials and Gen Z have a lot in common. Finding an employer that supports workplace equity is a top priority. 13% of millennial women and 22% of Gen Z women ranked discrimination and inequality of opportunity as a top-three personal concern. A career path with upward mobility is essential for both segments, since they view it as being intertwined with equity. Flexibility is also important to both, with about half saying they’re likely to switch to a more flexible job, even if it means taking a pay cut.

Both generational groups want to work for organizations that support their mental wellbeing. Working for a company that they feel aligns with their personal values is also particularly significant. 80% of Gen Z workers are looking for an employer who aligns with their beliefs. If not, younger workers are also more willing to quit their roles when they’re unsatisfied with their work.

1. The importance of diversity, equity, and inclusion.

Younger workers care deeply about workplace equity. They also expect that their employers will make concerted efforts to improve diversity, equity, and inclusion. 44% of millennials and 49% of Gen Z said they’ve made choices about the type of work they’re prepared to do and the organizations for which they’re willing to work based on their personal ethics.

74% of millennials believe their organization is more innovative when it has a culture of inclusion. 83% of them feel empowered and engaged at work when they believe their company fosters an authentically inclusive culture. 56% of millennials view systemic racism as prevalent in society.

77% of Gen Z find it important to work for a company that cares about diversity, equity, and inclusion. Gen Z workers view workplace equity as non-negotiable. According to one study, 22% of graduating high school seniors said that their own personal experiences with racial inequalities and discrimination have influenced their career choices. Equitable treatment for all employees of different races and genders is of the utmost importance.

Now’s the time to enhance your diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) program for a real competitive advantage with younger workers. Take some broad steps to implement new initiatives that improve DEI—such as sponsorship programs, advocacy and employee resource groups, or an engagement strategy to attract talent from underrepresented groups.

2. Higher education and the career path.

Younger workers are more educated, but increasingly unconvinced that incurring student debt is worth it, or that pursuing a four-year degree will connect them to a lucrative career path.

39% of millennials aged 25 to 37 have a bachelor’s degree or higher, compared with just 15% of the Silent Generation, roughly 25% of Baby Boomers, and about 29% Gen Xers when they were the same age. But millennials are most likely to cite loans as a key part of paying for college, with only 29% saying they didn’t use loans to pay for school. Nearly half of indebted millennials think college wasn’t worth taking out student loans. Meanwhile, 59% of millennials worry about paying back their student loans.

Gen Z today are choosing shorter, more affordable, career-connected pathways over a four-year degree. Since the start of the pandemic, their likelihood of attending a four-year school sank from 71% to 51%. 42% of students polled said ideally, they wanted to attend three or fewer years of college. Another 31% are aiming for two years or less. A survey of high school students found that 73% think a direct path to a career is essential in postsecondary education.

Consider recruiting from pools of talent that you’ve previously omitted to now include people without traditional degrees. Rethink your legacy requirements for college degrees, extensive experience levels or employment histories.

3. Younger workers want more flexibility.

Whether it’s remote work, a four-day work week, or the ability to work a hybrid schedule, younger workers want flexibility. More than half (57%) of millennials and 49% of Gen Z say they’re likely to switch to a more flexible job—even if it means taking a pay cut.

Currently, 45% of millennials work remotely at least some of the time, and 75% of them say remote work would be their preferred mode of working. 74% of Gen Z workers would opt for either hybrid or totally remote work. According to a newly released Axios Harris 100 poll, 84% of millennials and 66% of Gen Z say remote work is important to them. Another study reports 33% of Gen Z that work full time in an office prefer that setup, but 46% wished they were hybrid, and 20% would rather be fully remote.

Find ways in your specific work environment that can allow younger workers more freedom to determine where, when, and how their work is done. A more proactive and creative outlook toward worker flexibility can increase productivity, engagement, and improve your access to talent.

4. Be sure to care for their mental health.

Younger workers are feeling burned out. They’re also more likely than older workers to expect employers to care about, and support, their mental wellbeing.

45% of millennials feel burned out due to the intensity or demands of their work environments. 43% of them say many people have recently left their organization due to workload pressure. 38% of millennials say they’re stressed all or most of the time. 31% said they’ve taken time off because of stress or anxiety caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. And 46% of millennials said concerns about their long-term financial future contributed to feelings of anxiety or stress.

Burnout and lack of work-life balance is the key reason for Gen Zers to quit their jobs, right after an unsatisfactory salary. 46% of Gen Z say they are stressed all or most of the time. 35% of them said they’ve taken time off because of stress or anxiety caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. More than 1 in 3 working Gen Zers find it difficult to cope with work pressure or stress, with 91% experiencing at least one symptom of stress. According to one survey, 82% of Gen Zers want mental health days.

Competitive salaries and wages are critical, but so are benefits tailored to the younger workforce. Try offering non-cash benefits that matter to them, like those focusing on wellness, personal growth, family support, and flexibility.

5. Willingness to switch jobs.

Younger workers are more willing to quit their roles if they’re unsatisfied with their work, or the organization overall.

Millennial turnover costs the U.S. economy an estimated $30.5 billion annually. About 21% of millennials report switching jobs within the last year, and 62% are open to a different opportunity. One study found that 77% of the Gen Zers surveyed were on the hunt for a new job. The main drivers for Gen Z saying they’d quit a job are unsatisfactory salary (54%), burnout and lack of work-life balance (42%), and not doing what they’re passionate about (37%). Experts say Gen Z workers are willing to work hard for the right employer, but note that they’re also the workers who are very much willing to leave a role and find other ways to make ends meet if their needs and demands aren’t met.

Younger workers are 59% more likely to leave their jobs than older workers. To attract and retain Gen Z and millennial talent, you’ll need to be more competitive and creative when it comes to compensation and benefits. Be sure to examine and address any pay equity issues.

Ready to take advantage of these new trends?

Take a closer look at when, where, and how your talent is sourced today. Effective recruiting and retention will require a multi-channel approach, so cast a wider net by using a mix of tactics. And ask a proven workforce leader like Kelly® for help. We’re the expert at hiring experts, so we constantly leverage the latest market research and trends like these to refine our strategies and find the qualified people you need.

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