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Recruiting Tech Talent: What Gen Z Workers Really Want

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The competition for talent, especially tech talent, is more fierce than ever before as companies compete for top candidates to fill software and information technology roles – a need that’s being driven by the limitless pace of digitalisation.

Generation Z is the digitally savvy workforce of the future that’s expected to take the tech world by storm. But as this year’s graduates and school leavers move into the job market, they’ll be looking for more than just a salary.

Prepared to work hard for a business that shares their values, these new recruits are looking for employers that will support their physical health, mental wellbeing, and provide flexibility for a great work-life balance. But that’s not all.

To attract and retain the best talent, companies will need to revamp outdated workplace policies and rethink their recruitment and retention strategies. By looking beyond borders, companies can discover that perhaps the “war for talent” is a myth after all and engaging talent where you find them is the way forward to avoid getting left behind.

Closing the expectations gap

The traumas and disruptions in recent years have forced many people to think deeply about what they really want from life – including their careers. In 2021, an ONS Labour Force Survey revealed the highest ever recorded spike in people voluntarily quitting their jobs.

Dubbed the Great Resignation, this reshuffling of talent has forced employers to sit up, take notice, and respond to shifting employee expectations and needs.

Increasingly, employee retention now depends on accommodating the individual preferences of employees in terms of when and where they work, together with ease of access to skills and development training.

Any organisation demanding tech employees spend five days a week in the office will struggle to recruit Gen Z job candidates. For this cohort of workers, when, where, and how work gets done doesn’t matter as long as they deliver what is required of them to the deadline. Plus, they will expect full agency over how they undertake and complete tasks.

Firms that listen and respond to these intrinsic new workforce expectations will be well positioned to offer the workplace flexibility, hybrid working options, and personal development opportunities that Gen Z workers want and expect.

Making it personal and feeling valued

Gen Z expects employers to tear back decade-long policies that no longer resonate with their human-centric workplace expectations.

From gamification and interactive learning that’s instantly applicable to their day-to-day tasks to collaborative platforms, peer-to-peer networks and mentoring that enable them to address individual and team or project challenges, they’ll expect to be given the tools and capabilities that will enable them to be productive.

They’ll also expect to encounter a truly inclusive workplace culture where their contribution is noticed and valued. That includes having managers who are invested in them personally, will help steer them to their next career goal, and understand exactly who they are and how they are feeling professionally.

This last point on active listening is key. Managers need to have their finger on the pulse when it comes to workforce sentiment, because having their views heard and acted upon is increasingly important for today’s employees.

Last year, when Tim Cook, CEO of Apple, told his workforce they’d have to return to the office, several tech employees published an open letter stating “Over the last year, we often felt not just unheard but at times ignored” and many quit in response.

Don’t scrimp on perks and benefits

Tech talent is increasingly demanding more money – and getting it. But offering a competitive salary isn’t enough. Stock options and equity are a honey pot for top-tier tech talent and can be highly motivational for individuals who know the rewards will be significant if a company goes public.

Other incentives that can help companies create an employer brand that truly stands out include health insurance, company health and mental wellness programmes, and attractive professional development plans. Benefits like unlimited holiday or sabbatical options that enable employees to pursue other interests in the knowledge they can return, are also becoming popular offerings. Plus, access to the latest cutting edge tech tools will be a hot favourite for tech project managers, developers and analysts.

That said, a growing number of organisations are also coming to recognise that Gen Z staff and potential employees also regard a company’s actions and track record on equality, diversity, and broader societal issues such as ESG (environment, sustainability and governance) as being just as important as the terms that are on offer in relation to pay or flexible work practices.

Make work meaningful – rethinking business as usual

Organisations looking to recruit Gen Z tech talent are increasingly looking to showcase ways in which the work on offer is purposeful and meaningful. Whether that’s highlighting how candidates can apply their cybersecurity skills to make the world a safer place, or how they could use their AI skills to transform and drive innovation in the healthcare, transport, and energy sectors.

Undertaking meaningful work has a strong resonance with Gen Z candidates who want to feel that their work matters,  that it aligns with their social views and will make a difference. In other words, they want to work for companies that give them a sense of purpose and enable them to engage with projects that will be a catalyst for change.

One thing is for sure, we’re moving into a pivotal moment of time as companies rethink working practices and their corporate mission in order to help their organisations stand out. Those that are able to reframe the world of work in a way that truly connects with the next generation of tech talent will be well positioned to sustain their future ambitions when it comes to recruiting and retaining staff.

Nick AdamsAbout the author

Nick Adams, VP EMEA at G-P (Globalization Partners)

Nick is Vice President, Sales, EMEA region, at G-P. In this role he leads the company’s European expansion and the team that supports it. Prior to joining G-P, Nick held roles of increasing responsibility with global staffing, talent management and total rewards platforms. He has deep industry experience and expertise, with portfolios that have spanned the globe, and has been instrumental in helping businesses expand their European presence. Nick is a board member of The Global Tech Advocates Future of Work Group, a rapidly growing global think tank. He is incredibly passionate about the future of work, with an emphasis on creating a future where everyone can participate.