Australia is facing a massive skills shortage. Here's why you need to urgently invest in Gen Z 

Generation Z at Work

What’s your strategy for attracting Gen Z’s?

Generation Z are the new kids on the block. As the youngest employees in the organisation, they are also full of energy and ambition to solve the world’s most pressing problems. They are eager to do a great job and work with organisations that want to make a positive difference and impact. 

The question is — how engaged are you with attracting and employing Gen Z’s into your organisation? If you haven’t given this much thought — you should because they are the future leaders that will create the change we want to see in this world. Gen Z has unique values, priorities, and work outlooks compared to Millennials. They are estimated to represent 75% of the workforce by 2030, which is also a solution to many organisations’ aging workforce challenges.

More than a year of being in a pandemic, the world witnessed how it has wreaked havoc on the economy and its consequences. With the pandemic still looming and a halt on skilled migration, could Gen Z be the key to unlocking Australia’s current diversity and skill challenges? 

As Australia is facing a massive skills gap, here’s how you can attract Gen Z and advance gender equality.

How to engage and support Gen Z

There are many ways employers can help them manage their Gen Z employees and attract them to their organisation. These five main areas are a good start for: skill development, stress management, building emotional intelligence, commitment to social issues and developing a culture of entrepreneurship.

Let’s look at skill learning and development

Undoubtedly, an overhaul of Gen Z’s learning occurred in a manner that left schools unprepared. Teachers and professors had to teach on platforms that they, too, had to learn from scratch. Others had to lessen direct instruction and encouraged the students (or their parents depending on age) to rely on independent projects and digital resources instead.

And because most are stuck at home, they are forced to accomplish these things while in the presence of their other family members. Not what you’d call an ideal environment that is helpful for learning.

People who belong to Gen Z are already suffering from a challenging cultural transition between university and the working world, thereby leaving them feeling lost and confused. It will require tremendous patience from the employers when dealing with Gen Z’s adjustment to the professional world. Employers also need to provide greater intergenerational mentoring and support, and this is what Gen Z’s will be seeking out.

How can employers achieve this?

Employers can utilise thoughtfully designed programs, readjusted to address their new employees’ needs.

For instance, consider replacing short-term orientation and induction programs, which consist of manuals and basics of the workplace, with a more comprehensive approach spanning the first year of work experience. 

Employers can offer strategic career support that will allow employees to recognise where they fit and why they matter.  

Additionally, employers can use mentoring so that new professionals can develop their skills faster. Offer ways to encourage managers and their young mentees to view this arrangement as beneficial for both. Senior workers can guide their mentees on the skills required for the job. On the other hand, the mentees can help improve their seniors’ technology and social media skills. 

These mutually supportive relationships can strengthen the company’s multigenerational culture.

As for the most critical adjustment made during the pandemic, companies had to turn to remote working arrangements. Though the change was sudden and swift, it forced employers to consider building new transition and learning opportunities into the culture of flexibility.

Learning and Development  

 Stress management and mental health support systems

Researchers discovered that Gen Z had shown higher levels of anxiety and depression for more than a decade compared to other generations.

Imagine if their generation’s baseline already shows this level of stress. What kind of impact will this pandemic bring to Gen Z’s work and careers? 

Failure to address employee stress and anxiety can lead to absenteeism, turnover and diminished productivity.

Rather than directing interventions solely to a particular individual, studies have shown that stress management policies implemented at the employee, workplace, and organisational levels are more effective.

Employers can consider modifying existing best practices and tailor them for the young workers, including having early-career affinity groups that will provide a supportive environment for Gen Z employees.

With all of this in mind, it’s worth understanding that Gen Z are drawn to employers that offer strong mental and wellbeing support services. Initiatives such as subsidised gym membership, health insurance, yoga classes or access to Employee Assistance Programs and subscriptions to wellbeing apps such as Headspace can make a huge difference. Apps are very effective in catering to the mobile-savvy Gen Z demographics. 

Emotional intelligence goes a long way

Emotional intelligence is composed of self-awareness, self-regulation, motivation, empathy and social skills. It is a critical element of effective leadership, which can be taught and learned.

Having employees who acquire emotional intelligence can create a foundation for a respectful work environment, plus be a source of future managers.

Because of covid, people from Gen Z went through an immense interruption in their ability to uncover what motivates and fulfils them. As such, they will need more time during their young adult years for self-exploration.

Employers can address this by extending programs that will help these young employees develop emotional intelligence at the beginning of their careers. Employing Gen Z people in the workplace is beneficial for companies. Their increased level of empathy and adaptability are qualities that are significant components of emotional intelligence.

Feeling the pain and hardships endured by their friends and loved ones during the pandemic has made Gen Z people more aware and sensitive to the emotions of others at work.

Gen Z are committed to social causes

Gen Z cares deeply about social justice and our planet. They want to put their stamp on things and make our society a better place to live. A survey found that 94% of Gen Z believes companies have a responsibility to address social and environmental issues, and 30% of Gen Z are willing to take a 10-20% pay cut if it means they can work towards a cause they care about.

To attract Gen Z, companies must emphasise corporate social responsibility (CSR). Many companies such as IBM, Google, Johnson & Johnson, and Netflix have already invested heavily in their CSR programs because they know how important it is. Google, for example, allows its employees up to 20 hours of volunteer leave efforts each year and provides $50 grants to nonprofit organisations for every five hours that a Google employee spends volunteering for a particular organisation.

Gen Z are passionate about social causes

And lastly, develop a culture of entrepreneurship 

Research from HBR says Gen Z is much more creative and entrepreneurial-minded than past generations. There are many reasons why Gen Z’s love entrepreneurship. They have realised the thrill of exploring the untapped territory and acquiring skills to help them pursue their passions.  

Gen Z have grown up being exposed to entrepreneurial role models.

If organisations hope to be competitive in terms of attracting Gen Z talent, they must create environments that make possible the channelling of the entrepreneurial spirit within the confines of an organisation they didn’t create. It’s no small task. A report from Deloitte revealed that while 75% of large companies consider themselves to be entrepreneurial, 75% of entrepreneurs leave employers because they don’t feel they have the opportunity to be entrepreneurial. This trend is looking to get much worse with the rise of Gen Z in the workplace.

There is hope. Many companies like Dreamworks and others are encouraging entrepreneurship. Dreamworks allows it’s employees to set aside a percentage of on-the-job time to pursue innovative ideas and endeavours unrelated to their primary jobs. Even company-wide “Hackathons” can move the dial significantly. 

Entrepreneurship for Gen Z









Are you prepared for Gen Z?

Organisations should welcome the opportunity to help members of Gen Z evolve into the next generation of great leaders, and let’s face it; they will soon be the dominant workforce. With so much they had to go through at such a young age, Gen Z will usher in a unique blend of resiliency and humanity in the workplace. Employers should hone these abilities by providing systematic support that will guarantee their position as valued workforce members. However, the first-mover advantage will be the prerequisite for success in attracting this future talent. 

Need help in engaging with the next generation of leaders? Get in touch with Girls of Impact to see how your organisation can close the skills and gender gap and attract your future talent.