How employers can become Talent Magnets for Gen Z employees. Greater autonomy, clear sense of purpose and equity, and direct line of sight to growth and development are crucial priorities for Gen Z that great employers will recognise and deliver on. The 4G Manager framework demystifies how to lead this generation to bring out the best in them.
Gen Z marks a generational shift in what employees value in their organisations, so it has become more crucial now than ever for employers to embrace these shifting priorities to hire, engage and retain the best talent.
What Gen Zers want from their employers is shaped by the unique challenges of their generation. Many of them grew up during the 2008 global recession and most recently, the COVID-19 pandemic, which means they saw their parents lose jobs, struggle to stay afloat, or run out of savings. Understandably, this has made fair compensation, benefits, and the flexibility to pursue additional income streams through side gigs important to them.
This generation also began exploring alternate education, often stepping away from traditional degrees, which means they look to their workplaces to grow and develop skills. The spotlight on equity and justice movements over the last decade has also made this generation more prone to choosing workplaces with strong diversity and inclusion practices. And because competition is fierce in this generation, these employees tend to be highly competitive and love being noticed and rewarded for their unique contributions.
Finally, as the first almost fully digital generation where social media and devices are increasingly contributing to disconnection, Gen Zers are deeply attuned to the value of social connection and team bonds.
To become talent magnets i.e. workplaces that can effortlessly attract, engage and retain top Gen Z talent, employers need one thing above all else: great managers.
In this article, I lay out my 4G framework – Glow, Grow, Get Things Done and Go (Your Own Way) – which is a simple paradigm for how managers can bring out the best in Gen Z Talent on their teams.
The first G, Glow, includes amplifying and appreciating an employee’s strengths, creating psychological safety on their teams and showing genuine care and support for employees. For Gen Z, in particular, psychological safety can feel like the key to an equitable workplace where everybody, including underrepresented groups, can express opinions without fear of retribution.
Supportive managers who also foster deep connections within teams are seen as an antidote to the increasing social disconnection these employees encounter. And while tangible appreciation for their contributions is important, this generation wants to see employers ‘put their money where their mouth is’ through robust and fair compensation packages.
The second G, Grow, entails providing clear constructive feedback, creating productive stretch, and having regular career conversations to help employees develop new skills. Gen Z particularly values managers that provide actionable and timely feedback and are willing to push them outside their comfort zone so they can meaningfully develop new skills. Regular career conversations are crucial to help them feel like their long term career trajectory is as important to their organisation as their contributions to the bottom-line.
The third G, Get Things Done, is where a manager unlocks barriers, strikes a balance between coaching, teaching and executing alongside their people, and most importantly sees and rewards invisible work. With their hunger to make a tangible impact, Gen Z employees really thrive when their manager unlocks barriers to help them succeed and are willing to roll up their sleeves and execute alongside them as equals. They also love it when their invisible work (looking at you, female and URG employees) is noticed and rewarded.
And the final G, Go Their Own Way, is about a manager’s ability to create autonomy, support flexible work conditions and encourage career mobility. Gen Z workers often have side gigs and alternate careers, so they value a manager’s ability to trust them with their time. And when a Gen Z employee has clearly outgrown their role, managers who support them in finding their next role will earn ‘Talent magnet’ status.
Very simply, managers can make or break the employee experience, and more so for Gen Z who are coming into workplaces expecting so much more from their employers.
Employing and nurturing Gen Z talent is critical to employers small and big, especially as almost every industry I know is leaning into AI. That makes attracting, engaging, and retaining Gen Z in the workplace both urgent and crucial. If managers can master the 4G framework to help this talent pool Glow, Grow, Get things done and Go their own way, we can nurture a generation of fulfilled and successful workers.