Preparing for the next wave of talent

What matters most when it comes to recruiting, retaining generation Z?

Preparing for the next wave of talent
Human resources plays a crucial role in identifying how to best incentivize gen Z, when to offer more support and what hiring strategies and retention methods will resonate with this group. Credit: DisobeyArt (Shutterstock)

For years, HR leaders have been trying to determine what millennials most want out of a job and how to best appeal to this generation. However, leaders are now setting their sights on the next cohort to enter the workforce: generation Z, comprised of those born between 1995 and 2010.

To prepare for the next wave of talent, which is estimated to account for 20 per cent of the workforce by next year, talent leaders need to recognize that these digital natives bring an unprecedented level of technological skills to the table.

But, simultaneously, they exhibit skills gaps in certain areas, particularly when it comes to soft skills.

As Canada continues to face a growing skills gap, it is more important than ever that human resources leaders are equipped with the insights needed to successfully attract and retain this generation.

Human resources plays a crucial role in identifying how to best incentivize gen Z, when to offer more support and what hiring strategies and retention methods will resonate with this group.

Here are three key considerations for HR and learning and development (L&D) leaders looking to navigate gen Z’s emergence into the world of work:

Soft skills are here to stay

As technology automates hard skills, there is a growing demand for this emerging generation to solve problems creatively, navigate change, and work well with others. In fact, 91 per cent of L&D leaders believe the skills necessary for today’s workforce are different from those of previous generations, according to a 2018 LinkedIn survey of 400 learning and HR professionals in the United States.

Strong soft skills are becoming vital for professionals and businesses alike as these are skills machines can’t replace. For example, while creativity is often associated with art or design, it’s also a skill that closely correlates with problem-solving and can be applied to almost any role.

Sixty-one per cent of HR leaders believe that relative to other generations, gen-Z employees will need extra support in the development of soft skills to navigate the changing world of work, according to the survey.

Talent professionals will therefore be key in identifying fresh ways to accurately assess and continually upskill this new generation’s soft skills.

Even with the growing importance of soft skills, it can be difficult for talent and hiring leaders to assess them compared to hard skills.

To equip gen Z with the right skills, talent professionals need to first identify the soft skills valued most at the company and define the skills needed for a specific role.

Human resources should consider assessing the skills shared by top performers and align with hiring managers and recruiters on the most important soft skills for a given job.

Establishing clear internal guidelines will help set a benchmark to assess prospective and current employees.

Financial incentives and career advancement

Unlike their millennial predecessors, gen-Z learners are motivated by financial incentives and career advancement. While millennials experienced challenging early years financially, gen Z will enter the workforce at a time of economic stability, making them more driven to see financial success.

This generation wants to make a difference while simultaneously ensuring they have the financial stability to have a secure life outside of work.

This drive is so strong that more than half (59 per cent) of gen Z would like to learn professional skills to make more money and 46 per cent would accept learning opportunities to get a promotion, according to a LinkedIn survey of more than 2,000 gen-Z members.

Knowing that financial incentives and career advancement matter, L&D leaders should provide a clear vision of career advancement and transparently share what they need to do to rise in the company.

To complement this growth, HR leaders should also instill a sense of purpose with a generation that seeks passion in their careers. By illustrating how their role affects company goals and reiterating that they are vital to helping the big picture become realized, gen-Z employees will work relentlessly to activate these goals.

Invest in micro-learning

The generation that grew up in a connected world prioritizes accessibility, and takes comfort in being able to digest information from anywhere, at any time.

More than half (58 per cent) of gen-Z workers would like to learn a new skill but feel they don’t have the time to do so, found the survey. Unlike previous generations, many gen Zs prefer a fully self-directed and independent approach to learning versus the traditional learning L&D programs tend to offer.

Gen Z is familiar with learning new skills on YouTube and other online platforms in short, digestible snippets of time, which means organizations need to break out of traditional learning methods to appease their appetite for on-demand learning.

It’s about leveraging different mediums and developing L&D programs that focus on providing these digital natives with mobile learning opportunities in varying forms that cater to their strengths — such as video tutorials for visual learners and podcasts for audio learners.

This training also needs to be provided in bite-sized chunks (micro-learning) so it can easily be inserted into everyday tasks — such as during a commute, while waiting in line, or during a  lunch break.

Investing in micro-learning enables L&D leaders to quickly close skill gaps and easily fits into the busy lives of gen Z.

Organizations that can successfully attract and retain gen-Z talent will have an unquestionable competitive advantage.

When managing the new influx of this up-and-coming generation, it is up to human resources and L&D leaders to consider how to harness their strengths and help them to fully integrate into the organization.

Chris Brown is director of talent solutions Canada at LinkedIn in Toronto. For more information, visit

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