7 Effective Steps to Onboard and Engage Gen Z Employees in 2023

In this article, we'll explore 7 actionable strategies for onboarding Gen Z employees that can help boost retention and engagement.

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The older cohort of Gen Z is now graduating from schools and colleges and entering the workforce. This change prompts companies to shift their focus towards onboarding this new generation of employees. Gen Z brings with them a unique set of values, expectations, and preferences, and onboarding programmes need to adapt to meet these needs.

Effective onboarding is critical to boosting employee retention and engagement, and companies that invest in creating a positive onboarding experience for Gen Z employees are more likely to see long-term benefits. In this article, we'll explore 7 actionable strategies for onboarding Gen Z employees that can help boost retention and engagement.

What Makes Gen Z Employees Different 

Onboarding isn’t a new practice. It’s been around for decades, serving employees of different generations. So why bother refining your onboarding strategy to cater to Zoomer workers?

The thing is, Gen Z employees have a set of unique characteristics that make them stand out from the workforce crowd.

• They strive for job security. In today’s volatile global economy, Gen Zers want a workplace where they feel secure and confident in their future;
• Work-life balance is their priority. They won’t work overtime just to please their boss or get that pay raise faster. Gen Z knows that quality rest is as important as productive work;
• They are digital natives. After all, no other generation has grown up with a smartphone in their hand. They know tech and can use it for higher work productivity;
• They are independent and competitive. 72% of young employees state they are competitive in their professional roles;
• They prefer hybrid workflows. Gen Zers value workplace flexibility. Many of them want to have an opportunity to choose between in-office and remote work settings or combine the two;
• They want to work for employers with strong values. Gen Z employees and value- and philosophy-driven individuals. They want to be part of a company that shares their beliefs and values.

All these qualities make Gen Z a truly special generation of workers. And keeping these in mind will help you create a solid onboarding strategy that caters to young employees’ needs.

How to Onboard Gen Z To Boost Employee Retention and Engagement

Without further ado, let’s take a closer look at 7 onboarding tactics that will help you engage Gen Z hires and encourage them to stay with your company long-term.

1. Constantly Stay in Touch

Gen Z employees seek guidance and encouragement when they first start out at a new workplace. And onboarding is a crucial time for providing these if you want your new employee to succeed and fulfil their professional role with confidence.

Stand beside your new Gen Z hire throughout the whole onboarding process:

• Organise daily face-to-face/Zoom meetups to ask them how they’re doing;
• Have a dedicated workplace chat where they can communicate with colleagues and management and ask their questions;
• Introduce the new hire to the team and encourage them to address fellow employees whenever they need help;
• Be clear on the onboarding schedule;
• Ask your Gen Z employee for feedback on the hiring and onboarding process.

These simple steps will ensure you’re providing the Gen Z employee with constant support – a key element of successful onboarding.

Neal Taparia, co-founder of Cribbage-Online, uses feedback as a way to stay in touch. “We ask new hires for feedback on their onboarding after three weeks. Not only do we get good insights on how we can improve, we set the tone with new employees that we are here to listen to them.”

2. Optimise and Customise Your Onboarding Materials

Remember that Gen Z is the generation of digital natives? They are not used to dealing with bulky employee handbooks and going over piles of printed pages to get familiar with company policies.

To make this onboarding phase seamless and efficient, you might need to rethink your approach to onboarding documentation. Make all the essential onboarding materials easily accessible and digitalised. This is especially important for your remote Gen Z hires who might not have the possibility to come and look through everything in-office.

Gather all the onboarding materials and digitalise them (a simple scanning procedure will work for older, paper-only docs);
Upload and keep the materials in cloud-based storage;
Illustrate company guides and create video introductions where possible. Gen Z loves good visual aids. They would much rather watch a short YouTube video than sit through a PPT presentation.

Renewing your onboarding information bundle is a great way to engage new Gen Z employees and help them navigate essential company paperwork.

Pro-tip: personalise the onboarding content. Gen Z employees want to feel valued as individuals. Customise your onboarding materials to reflect their unique interests and learning styles. Provide opportunities for them to ask questions and offer feedback throughout the onboarding process.

3. Provide Dynamic, Block-based “E-training”

Forget about dull training sessions that resemble university lectures if you want to engage and retain new Gen Z hires. Making e-learning part of your onboarding process is the way to go! It provides a customisable and engaging experience that fits with their learning preferences and helps young employees feel confident and prepared in their new roles.

E-learning for employee training is the perfect choice for onboarding and engaging Gen Z because:

It is suitable both for in-office and remote Gen Z employees;
It allows for continuous enrollment and individually paced learning;
You can create module-based, interactive, dynamic learning programmes to give your new Gen Z employees essential knowledge they will easily absorb and use right away;
You can gamify learning experiences to boost employee engagement.

Take advantage of modern technology and implement a good learning management system (LMS) as part of the onboarding process. An LMS makes it easy to build engaging digital educational courses Gen Z hires will respond to with enthusiasm.

Pro-tip: use e-learning platforms to track new employees’ progress and assess their understanding of the material. LMSs provide valuable insights into which areas may need further support or clarification, allowing employers to address any knowledge gaps or issues before they become bigger problems.

4. Give Clear Instructions

Gen Z employees are very purpose-driven individuals, and they strive to be 100% useful in the workplace. This is especially the case with the onboarding stage – they haven’t settled into the working routine yet and might feel less efficient than they’d like.

To maximise productivity and engage your Gen Z employees during the onboarding period, make sure to give them a well-defined set of instructions and objectives:

• Create a personalised onboarding calendar. Fill each day with clear, actionable tasks the new Gen Z employee can hop on right away. It will give your hire a good idea of the scope of their professional responsibilities;
• Have a goal-setting session together with the new hire. Outline both short-term and long-term career goals your Gen Z employee can focus on in the process of assimilating to their role in your company;
• Determine the list of key employee KPIs. How will your Gen Z hire know they’re achieving their goals and performing well? Let them know what performance indicators you will use to assess their work. It will help the new employee to deliver the right results and concentrate on the right areas of professional growth.

5. Showcase Your Workplace Community and Culture

Gen Z employees value the sense of belonging and thrive in vibrant communities. Let your workplace become one of such communities for your new young hire. Use the onboarding period to boost your company culture and foster the feeling of being welcomed and included in the new employee.

What aspects of company culture do Gen Z workers appreciate the most? You can focus on several important points:

• Promote and prioritise inclusivity and equality. Make sure you don’t allow ageism, racism, sexism, or other forms of discrimination in the workplace;
• Democratise your management style. Gen Z workers are not very fond of authoritarian managers (who is, right?). Make sure you approach young employees with respect, listen to what they have to say, and include them in the decision-making processes, even if these are just small-scale things. Less control, more collaboration;
• Run team-building initiatives. Gen Z workers enjoy diverse communicative experiences, and it’s your primary responsibility to ensure they socialise with their colleagues in a welcoming and productive setting. Organise knowledge transfer sessions, team-building days, and other events during the onboarding period to make it easier for the new Gen Z employee to fit in with the team. In addition to that, build an employee referral program and choose rewards that Gen Z employees prefer. And after that, start doing referral tracking to improve your program’s efficiency;
• Support a bigger cause. Remember we said that Gen Zers choose companies with strong values? Act on yours and engage your young employees in the process! Donate to charity, take part in social initiatives, etc. It’s not only a great way to help out those in need. You’ll also bring your employees together and facilitate a smooth onboarding process for new Gen Z workers.

6. Invest in Long-term Employee Mentorship Strategies

Mentoring is one of the best workplace practices you can implement to accelerate and improve onboarding. Mentorship is essential for new young hires because it promotes productivity, engagement, and career advancement.

To boost the efficiency of the mentorship practice for Gen Z, you can take these simple steps:

1. Identify the skills and knowledge your new Gen Z employees need to acquire. It will help you design the mentoring programme to suit young hires’ needs.
2. Assign the mentors. Single out potential mentors within your company who have the experience and knowledge to provide guidance and support to Gen Z employees. They should be approachable, have excellent communication skills, and be committed to supporting young employees.
3. Match mentors with mentees. Once you have assigned mentors, match them with Gen Z employees based on their skills, interests, and career goals. This will help ensure that each mentee ends up with a mentor who can provide relevant guidance and support.
4. Provide relevant training and resources. Help mentors feel comfortable in their role to support Gen Z employees by providing training and resources. This could include tips on effective communication, coaching techniques, and strategies for helping Gen Z employees grow and develop their skills.

Remember to constantly refine your onboarding mentorship programme. Diversify mentoring activities, collect mentor and mentee feedback, and expand training efforts.

Pro-tip: in-person mentoring is especially important for Gen Z hires. 84% of Gen Z workers want to connect face-to-face with a boss, and 78% prefer face-to-face communication with colleagues.

7. Provide Mental Health Support

Gen Z is one of the most distressed generations we’ve seen. A staggering 55% Of Gen Zers have either been diagnosed or received treatment for mental illness. This is 20% more than the figures among Baby Boomers.

What does it mean for employers? It means that companies should pay extra attention to the emotional well-being of their employees to make sure productivity and workplace climate remain optimal. Here’s what you can do:

• Be approachable and understanding. Make sure that your company culture encourages employees to approach management with their concerns about mental health. Listen without judgement and let your employees know that their mental health is important to you. Encourage them to speak with HR or a mental health professional if needed.
• Provide mental health resources. Do your employees have access to mental health resources? If not, it’s time to start providing them. Consider counselling, online resources, and mental health apps. You can also provide mental health days or flexible schedules for those workers who need time to prioritise their mental health.
• Involve employees in mental health initiatives. Consider forming a mental health committee or organising events that raise awareness about mental health. You can gather ideas and feedback from Gen Z hires to come up with the best solutions. By involving employees in mental health initiatives, you can create a sense of engagement in improving the mental health culture of your workplace.

Wrapping Up

Creating an effective onboarding experience for Gen Z employees is all about taking a fresh approach and customising the experience to meet their needs. By following the 7 steps outlined in this article, you can make sure your onboarding program is engaging, supportive, and tailored to your new hires.

But don't stop there! To truly excel at onboarding and engaging Gen Z employees, keep exploring creative tactics and technologies. Stay up-to-date on the latest trends and be willing to experiment and adapt. The most important thing is to create a welcoming and inclusive workplace culture where all employees feel supported and valued.

By taking the time to onboard and engage your Gen Z hires effectively, you can set them up for success and build a strong, loyal workforce. Try out some of these strategies and see what works best for your company!

Author Bio

David Morneau is the co-founder and CEO of inBeat Agency that helps brands scale their marketing efforts. He has helped over 200 DTC brands to date.

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