Social Impact

How to use social impact to attract and retain the best Gen Z talent

The sustainability boom has impacted all areas of life, particularly the current labour market. Ildiko Almasi Simsic, social development specialist and author, sheds light on the social impact tools available to help attract employees and achieve social sustainability in the workplace.

As per the UN Global Compact, social sustainability is about identifying and managing business impacts, both positive and negative, on people. As people have started to pay more attention to environmental and social sustainability, they have also become more conscious, not only as consumers but also as employees. Prospective employees, across generations, pay increased attention to company values, priorities, culture and contributions to corporate responsibility. This is especially true for Gen Z, the demographic born from the mid-1990s up to the early 2010s, following the millennials. Attracting and retaining the best Gen Z talent involves more than just offering competitive salaries and benefits. Gen Z is known for valuing purpose, social impact, and sustainability. According to estimates, by next year Gen Z will make up almost a third of the labour market globally, so figuring out how to attract and retain them is a good idea for every employer.

Ildiko Almasi Simsic, Social development specialist and author

Using social impact tools is a great option to address sustainability concerns of Gen Z talent. Social impact tools include addressing issues that are internal to the company (primarily labour and working conditions) and issues that are external such as supporting communities or corporate citizenship. Let’s see how employers can use these tools to attract Gen Z talent:

Provide flexible working and professional development

Gen Z entered the labour market in the era of flexible working – which was further changed by the pandemic. They understand that productivity is not measured by physical presence in an office, and being raised by technology makes them very comfortable to connect with colleagues online. Flexible working doesn’t only refer to working from home, but also deviating from core office hours.

Providing opportunities for professional development is a must in 2024. Every employer should think about ways to invest in their workforce and make sure that people keep up with innovation in their area of expertise. Gen Z are especially open to the millennial equivalent of lifelong learning. The difference is that Gen Z are no longer relying on formal education to provide this learning, they use technology to access, process and dissect the new knowledge they want to acquire.

Accept boundaries and encourage work-life balance

Gen Z is the first generation to proactively protect its work-life balance by setting boundaries between their work commitments and leisure time. While they are flexible with where and when to work, they acknowledge the need for recreation, rest and self-care. Gen Z are more likely to suffer from mental health issues and anxiety than previous generations and they don’t put up with corporate expectations that risk making these issues worse. Think of excessive overtime, impossible deadlines and work calls whilst on holiday. Employers must understand these boundaries and ensure that their resourcing is fostering a work culture that allows for time off.

Celebrate diversity, equity and inclusion

Where the focus for millennials was on creating opportunities for women, for Gen Z the focus is on DEI more widely. They will take a hard look at your management team, CEO, board and verify your public claims for diversity and inclusion. Millennials pioneered a more inclusive and diverse workplace that celebrates differences, but Gen Z are actually pushing to include more aspects of diversity and equity. I remember doing labour audits and assessing the number of women as part of the diversity agenda. Now, we are looking at more indicators around ethnicity, religion, gender identity, sexual orientation and self-identity as well. Remember, your inclusion agenda should be backed up by infrastructure accommodating diverse needs!

Invest in employee wellbeing

Employee wellbeing is an important indicator in the ESG rating world. How companies engage with employees and respond to feedback (whether positive or negative) has a significant impact on attracting and retaining talent. When I work with clients, my primary focus is how this engagement process is set up – whether it is inclusive, accessible, free from retaliation – and how the company responds. We can’t keep everyone happy, but we can exchange perspectives, make employees feel heard and understood. Gen Z values open and honest communication, an open-door policy and constructive feedback to improve performance and cooperation.

Communicate your sustainability priorities

Prospective Gen Z employees want to know what matters to you and what activities you are already undertaking as part of your sustainability strategy. They will not be fooled by buzzwords and inflated impact claims, you’ll need clear communication on social priorities and mission. Indeed, Gen Z accesses technology and information differently and they verify initiatives and impact claims on social media. Using different platforms to showcase your programmes and projects will reach this demographic faster than traditional online disclosures on company websites.

Ildiko Almasi Simsic is a social development specialist and author of What Is A Social Impact?

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