Companies thinking through their recruiting strategy for the next few years are likely setting their sights on the wave of new talent coming in from college grads and Generation Z—those born between 1995 and 2009. That word “wave” is especially apt, as Gen Z currently accounts for about 2 billion of the world’s population and is expected to compose 27% of the workforce by 2025. 

In the coming years, competition will be fierce for the top entry-level hires. For the best chance of securing these promising candidates, companies will need to take a step back and gain a greater understanding of this next generation of workers—including what makes them tick and how to keep them happy and engaged on the job. That’s where we come in: helping you to tap into the preferences of Gen Z with creative recruitment and retention strategies. Let’s dive in!


What do 2024 graduates expect from the workplace?

College graduates stepping into the workforce have different goals and priorities for their careers from those who came before them. If businesses want to capitalize on Gen Z’s skills, work ethic, and potential, then they need to know how to speak to their unique generational preferences and highlight why their company is best positioned to meet a potential hire’s expectations.

As fresh college grads, members of Gen Z aren't looking for just a paycheck; they want to grow and develop their skills to create the kind of solid foundation that sets them up for long-term success later in their careers. So at the top of Gen Z’s career wishlist is career growth and learning, with many searching for employers who offer plenty of opportunities for professional development and advancement in their first job. A recent survey of 1,148 students found that almost 50% of respondents were more likely to apply to a company that provides employer-sponsored training and upskilling resources.

Second, today's college grads are intentionally seeking out employers whose values align with their own. They want to work for companies that prioritize making a positive impact on society, embracing diversity in all its forms, and supporting employees in achieving a healthy work-life balance. In particular, that commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) is non-negotiable for many Gen Z grads. In fact, another recent survey found that 83% of Gen Z workers cite workplace diversity as being especially important, and around 33% wouldn’t apply for any job at a company where DEI is not considered.

Third, compensation and benefits remain critical considerations for college graduates, many of whom are saddled with debt from hefty student loans. As of 2023, the average Gen Z borrower had an outstanding student loan balance of $24,473, which could put employers who offer student loan repayment benefits at an advantage over their competitors when it comes to hiring. Beyond this, robust compensation and benefits packages—with competitive salaries, comprehensive health benefits, and retirement plans—remain an essential part of attracting and retaining top talent. 

In addition to some of these more tangible factors, Gen Z is also looking for certain intangibles. As young hires, Gen Z is looking for opportunities to express their creativity, experiment, and grow both personally and professionally. One frequently cited desire is for a collaborative work environment with open communication and a respect for healthy work-life boundaries. They want to feel valued and supported by their colleagues and managers, with opportunities to contribute their ideas and perspectives. Similarly, recent grads are also drawn to company cultures and work environments that are innovative, dynamic, and empowering for enthusiastic self-starters. 

Young woman graduate holding a diploma

Making your company stand out from the pack when it comes time to hire new grads

Your company won’t be the only one trying to draw in new talent, so what can you do to give yourself the edge and put your best foot forward? To appeal to Gen Z candidates, we suggest taking a multifaceted approach that helps you connect with potential new hires while showcasing your brand, values, and opportunities for growth. 

Actively promote your brand and company mission on college campuses

College students on the hunt for a job come graduation rely on their college's career services offerings to learn about career paths and area employers. Make it a point to reach out to students through on-campus career fairs, networking events, and information sessions to raise awareness of your organization and its values—and hopefully attract Gen Z candidates looking for companies that align with their beliefs. 

Offer internship and entry-level rotational programs

Introducing programs like these gives students and recent graduates hands-on experience, mentorship, and networking opportunities, and it helps them to form a connection with your company. By investing in these programs, you not only nurture future talent pipelines but also demonstrate your commitment to supporting the growth and development of the young professionals on your team—a win-win.

Lean on social media and video content to show off workplace culture

College students and recent grads turn to platforms like TikTok, Instagram, and YouTube throughout their days, making these channels the perfect spot to share stories and behind-the-scenes glimpses of life at your company. This kind of window into your company's culture, values, and day-to-day operations can pique the interest of Gen Z candidates and set you apart from competitors.

Make the interview process more interactive and engaging

Interviewing is usually pretty dry and a standardized experience, which means any deviation from the norm will make interviewing with your company more memorable. Try out some tactics like incorporating group activities or virtual tours in the interview process to give candidates a firsthand experience of what it's like to work at your organization. 

Based on our research and our hiring experience with Gen Z, we know that strategies like these can make all the difference when it comes to making your company a top pick for Gen Z job seekers and giving yourself a leg up in the talent game.


How to hire Gen Z—and retain them for the long term

Attracting and hiring Gen Z talent is just the first step; retaining them for the long term is something else entirely. Let’s take a minute and revisit some of those priorities and values we talked about earlier. Keeping your Gen Z hires happy and engaged means rethinking parts of your offering to align with some of their unique preferences. 

Compensation and benefits

We’ve seen how important compensation and benefits are, considering that many recent graduates enter the workforce with substantial student loan debt. Offering competitive salaries and benefits can make all the difference, helping to lessen some of their financial stress and demonstrate your commitment to supporting their financial well-being. A student loan repayment benefit may also be a smart choice to retain Gen Z employees for years to come.

Career growth and learning opportunities

New grads crave opportunities for growth and development, so having clear career paths and formalized mentorship programs can be a gamechanger for retaining Gen Z employees. Providing a roadmap for advancement and access to mentorship and coaching can help keep them engaged and motivated throughout their tenure at your company—and you’ll simultaneously benefit by cultivating high-performing future leaders within your organization. 

Walk the walk on company values 

Your company values likely played a huge role in hiring, and they’ll continue to be a major consideration for full-time Gen Z employees. Work-life balance is one of the most cited desires for new employees, so introducing options like flexible schedules, remote work, and generous paid time off is a great way to show that you support their well-being. This flexibility is highly valued by Gen Z employees and can contribute to higher job satisfaction and retention rates.

Fostering a collaborative work environment

New college grads want a collaborative work environment where everyone is encouraged to share ideas. For retaining recent grads, try implementing regular check-ins, surveys, and feedback mechanisms to gather insights into their experiences and adjust workplace policies and practices as needed. 

Investing in company culture

An engaging company culture is also critical for retaining Gen Z talent. Create opportunities for team building, social events, and volunteer activities to foster camaraderie and a sense of belonging among employees. An engaging workplace culture that values collaboration, innovation, and inclusivity can help create a positive and supportive environment where Gen Z employees can see themselves thriving for years.

Reach out to industry experts for more

Finally, leveraging the expertise of workforce partners like Spherion can be invaluable for hiring and retaining Gen Z talent. As experts in workforce solutions, these agencies can offer valuable insights, resources, and support to help companies attract, hire, and retain a high-performing workforce of Gen Z employees.

Stay ahead of the curve when hiring new talent

Attracting college graduate talent is a top priority for today’s businesses, and keeping Gen Z happy is particularly key, as they’re about to make up a significant portion of the workforce. To find, hire, and retain the right people, you need to align your offering with their expectations while promoting your brand, offering clear career paths, and prioritizing work-life balance and a quality culture. 

If you’re looking for expert help in recruiting and retaining college grads, why not team up with Spherion's recruiting pros? We've got the tools and expertise to help you find and keep the best talent out there.