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Lessons From the Generation You’re Trying to Hire

November 29, 2022

Headshot for Jordan Hart

Jordan Hart

Associate Editor

It’s everyone’s favorite buzzword generation: Gen Z. With a mixed reputation in the public eye, this generation is no stranger to attention. And now we’re getting attention from a new group: recruiters. There are countless articles floating around about how to hire and retain Gen Z talent. Yet for as many articles as there are, remarkably few are written by, or even directly consulted, actual Gen-Zers. Instead, we get lots of articles where senior execs attempt to share insights on their youngest employees.

Let’s break that cycle, and get into what Gen Z really wants with lessons from Gen Z, written by a member of Gen Z.

The Stats

In the United States, Gen Z comprises over 20% of the population; globally, Gen Z has become the largest generation, comprising over 32% of the population. We are too big to ignore, socially, politically, and certainly in hiring and business practices. So here’s the skinny on Gen Z.

According to data from Great Place to Work (which polled over 30,000 Gen Z employees from over 350 companies in the US), Gen Z is set to be the most diverse generation the US has ever seen, with “47% of Gen Z employees identifying as BIPOC.” Contrast that with Baby Boomers in the US, of which over 70% are white, and it’s clear there has been a huge shift in population demographics.

And we’re a generation on the move. Personal Capital reports that over 90% of Gen Z is interested in changing jobs. Similarly, LinkedIn found that this generation’s job transitions have increased by 80% year over year. Some of this can be attributed to the early transitions and growing pains of starting a career, as many of Gen Z are at the beginning of their working years. However, these statistics also point to a larger reality: if Gen Z isn’t happy at work, we aren’t afraid to see if the grass is greener elsewhere.


So how can businesses attract and retain young talent? For many businesses, it may be time to make some changes. Rather than see this as pandering, it’s better viewed as an opportunity to revitalize outdated business practices and replace them with new structures that benefit employees of all ages.

Starting with culture: Microsoft found that a positive culture was the №1 benefit Gen Z wanted from employers. Similarly Cognizant found that “93% of Gen Zs globally believe that feeling like they belong at work is important.” With those kinds of statistics, making sure Gen Z feels welcome at work should rank as a high priority for businesses.

To test out some of the trends we’re seeing, Codeword asked around and anonymously surveyed a small sample of our community — primarily Gen Z and Millennials — to see what they had to say about Gen Z in the workplace. We received about 50 responses and the results were clear.

When we asked what employees look for when job searching and what would make them stay at their current job, a good workplace culture ranked highly in both answers. In fact, 98% of respondents said that workplace culture affects their decision to join and remain at a workplace.

As one respondent said, “Genuine work culture matters. It’s not about office perks like having access to a ping pong table, it’s about being cued in on the things that matter to your employees. (Generous PTO, work-life balance, and solid pay).” As another respondent said, “Fair compensation can only cover so many issues. At the heart of the matter, if company culture is not good, no amount of pay will make me want to stay.”

If businesses want to attract and retain young talent, they need to put in the effort to create a culture Gen Z wants to be a part of: inclusive, communicative, collaborative, and equitable.


Hand in hand with good culture in the workplace is good representation in the workplace. Because this generation is so diverse, we will be looking to see diversity and inclusion at all levels in terms of ethnicity, sexuality, age, and more. A boardroom of straight white men isn’t going to hold much sway over the rising workforce, and any outdated comments or microaggressions will not be tolerated.

Our survey found that diversity and inclusion was top of mind for many people. Well over 90% of respondents stated that diversity in the workplace was important to them, with 78% ranking it as “very important.” And when asked “what’s something you wish your current job had,” frequent answers included “more inclusive leadership,” “more women in leadership,” “more racial diversity,” and just overall “more diversity.”

But don’t take our word for it; let’s look at the larger data. Hiring specialist Monster found that “83% of Gen Z candidates said that a company’s commitment to diversity and inclusion is important when choosing an employer.”

This is becoming a widely held value; across all age demographics, Glassdoor found that 76% of employees and job seekers “report a diverse workforce is an important factor when evaluating companies and job offers.” That number jumps to 80% for Black and Hispanic individuals, and 79% for LGBTQ individuals.

As the population becomes more and more diverse, businesses need to be prepared to reflect that diversity in their workforce if they hope to hire Gen Z.


Infographic showing that 83% of Gen Z candidates said that a company's commitment to diversity and inclusion is important when choosing an employer.


It’s no secret that work changed drastically for everyone as a result of the pandemic. But for Gen Z, this was an opportunity to negotiate what we want from employers. Hybrid work, generous PTO, parental leave, and good insurance are no longer draws — they’re table stakes. For older generations, these are huge shifts to the workplace; for Gen Z, they’re expectations.

Employers need to keep this in mind when it comes to attracting younger talent. Microsoft’s research found that “Gen Z is 77% more likely to interact with a job posting on LinkedIn if it includes the word ‘flexibility.’” Whether that is flexible hours, hybrid or remote work, or all of the above, younger generations are not going to deal with a stuffy 9–5 in an old office building.

Codeword’s data supports this, with 74% of respondents saying they would not accept a fully in-office position. Similarly, ADP Research Institute found that over 70% of Gen Z would think about looking for a new job if their company insisted employees return to the office full-time.

One respondent put it quite bluntly, “I’d definitely find another job if I had to go back to the office every day.” And, yeah, of course they would. The tides are changing on what “work” looks like and where it takes place.

This is a generation that is viewing life as a full-time job, and working full-time as a part-time job. A study by Randstad found that nearly half of Gen Z “would leave their job if it interfered with their personal lives.” As one respondent to Codeword’s survey said, “a job is a job, it’s not a life.” More than ever, younger workers are looking for a job that supports their life, instead of infringing upon it.

Ultimately, this is a generation that works to live, not lives to work, and that won’t be changing any time soon.

What works

Clearly businesses need to have a good culture, a diverse workforce, and a flexible working environment to hire and retain Gen Z, but what else adds to the secret sauce of happy and engaged employees? From Codeword’s experience, transparency and communication are invaluable tools.

For us, that looks like pay scale transparency, open-door policies with leadership, giving employees platforms to make their voices heard, and empowering younger employees through mentorship and access to decision making teams. In addition to being remote-first and flexible with working hours/locations, these measures help ensure all employees — not just Gen Z — are heard, respected, and engaged.

Above all: Listen

If, despite a good culture and flexible work environment, businesses are struggling to hire and retain employees, then it’s time to have some candid conversations with employees about what they think needs to change. As Codeword saw in the survey for this article, and in our yearly anonymous employee survey, employees know what they want. If a business is willing to ask, then employees are willing to answer. There are plenty of resources available to make this an easy — and anonymous — process. So open the conversation and let the progress begin.

Further reading:

Want to learn more about Gen Z and the future of work? Check out the latest edition of Codeword’s zine, Volume, for more insights on the future of the workplace.

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