As 2021 comes to an end, businesses continue to struggle to fill open positions caused by "The Great Resignation," and this trend is likely to continue well into the New Year.
It has been particularly difficult to hire and retain Gen Z employees, the newest generation in the workforce, as we navigate the expectations of these employees, as compared to past generations.
Fortunately, businesses can bounce back from "The Great Resignation" or protect themselves before they experience a similar mass exodus by taking the time to understand employees' preferences and motivations, and make a few small changes accordingly.
Prioritize DEI&B, mental health and provide purpose:
Today's world is much different than the world many CEOs and hiring managers grew up in, and a shift is required to successfully recruit, retain, challenge and excite the newest generation. Gen Z is one of the most diverse populations to enter the workforce, and not only do they seek out companies that value diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging in the workplace, they want to see that their diverse ideas, backgrounds and creative approaches are recognized and celebrated.
Additionally, Gen Z places a major focus on being purposeful in their actions. This generation, especially after living through COVID-19, has begun prioritizing their mental health and overall well-being in their job positions. It's important for these young professionals to make sure that they have a good work/life balance, and that they work in an environment that is healthy for their mental stability.
New professionals ask two main questions when it comes to accepting a job: "What tasks am I doing?" and "How do they relate to my overall life and career goals?" Today's blossoming workforce will readily decline a higher paying role for one where they feel they're positively contributing to society and fulfilling their own purpose. According to NACE's 2021 Student Survey Report, 75 percent of recent college graduates rated finding a job where the "organization helps improve my community/country/world" as being a higher attribute while on the job hunt, in comparison to a higher starting pay.
Explore and offer non-traditional benefits:
As COVID-19 transformed the workplace, Gen Z'ers entered the workforce with the ability to work from home. The benefits of saving time commuting to and from work and constant flexibility are all they know in their careers up to this point. As these professionals grow into managers, executives at all levels will be forced to shift their mindset about working from home (or working from anywhere, for that matter!) as the younger generation has already adapted and grown accustomed to this benefit.
While giving up this level of control feels daunting to many business owners, myself included, it is no different than millennials' demands 10+ years ago for working on teams versus in silos, digital communications and expectations for transparency from employers, which we all became accustomed to and are now norms in the workplace.
Other non-traditional benefits, such as paid volunteer hours, continuing education stipends, DEI&B committees, paid mental health days and donation matching can go a long way with younger talent. This generation equally values professional development, self-care and the community at-large, so these work perks are of high interest to them.
Competitive pay is still a top priority:
At Ampersand, we shifted our business model to provide interns with paid internship opportunities in the companies we match them with for many reasons (mostly it was the right thing to do), and the shift dramatically increased the interns' commitment to the work, the accountability and the ability to recruit higher quality talent. By offering a paid internship to aspiring young professionals, we are appreciating their worth while concurrently closing the equity gap created by unpaid internships.
Simultaneously, our business partners are able to keep professionals engaged in day-to-day work, and allow them to earn a living with a fair wage. While most internships force young professionals to choose between getting the experience and getting paid, we provide young professionals with both!
Don’t overlook the power of interns:
Interns can be a powerful tool to propel a business forward. Many young professionals are brimming with new ideas and can make a significant impact within a business. Furthermore, National Association of Colleges and Employers' research shows that 32 percent of interns initially hired by a company for an internship are likely to stay more than a year in an entry level role than new hires. Additionally, hiring interns could be the perfect solution to offset employee turnover during "The Great Resignation," since they are able to take the load off of other employees who may be feeling burnt out or overwhelmed.
While interns can be valuable additions to help reduce the workload of full-time employees, we also understand the work and time commitment it takes to train interns, which is why Ampersand was created. Ampersand's curriculum teaches young professionals solid work practices, such as how to actively participate in a business meeting, presentation skills, communicating with managers and managing their workload. Overall, Ampersand's curriculum increases a young professional's contribution to businesses while providing a solid foundation for the young professional to launch their career.
Ampersand has had over 250 young professionals graduate the program, and their experience with us has only propelled them further to thrive in their places of work. We encourage our professional alumni to show up to the workplace with their own unique personalities and requests, but we have taught them to do so in a respectful and professional manner. With that, we hope that employers will see the benefits to bringing on skilled interns who can contribute in a meaningful way to the organization, regardless of background or previous experience. And in doing so, we're confident employers can buffer the impacts of—or even avoid—this recent wave of mass turnovers.
Allie Danziger is the co-founder and CEO of Houston-based Ampersand Professionals.