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The changing Face of the UK Workforce

Gen-Z employees make up a growing portion of the workforce. So, it’s vital employers engage with this pool of talent to help address the skills shortage facing so many industries. Employee engagement expert Tobin Murphy-Coles, CEO of HR consultancy Amba, offers his insights into how employers can attract and retain modern workers in 2023.

Gen-Z employees make up a growing portion of the workforce. So, it’s vital employers engage with this pool of talent to help address the skills shortage facing so many industries. Here are some insights into how employers can attract and retain modern workers in 2023.

The changing priorities of today’s workforce cannot be ignored by employers. A swarm of unusual circumstances we’ve faced in recent years has prompted all of us to reflect on the world of work and what we want from it.

Coupled with this, the emergence of a new generation of workers – Gen Zs – has led to a seismic shift in the modern workforce.

There is no doubt that Gen Zs differ from those generations that came before them. They have had to grow up in an entirely different landscape and are now entering the world of work for the first time following a global pandemic and in the midst of a severe skills shortage. With Gen-Z employees now making up over 20% of the workforce in the UK, understanding these differences and the unique demand of this younger demographic is crucial if employers are to stand out in the fight for talent.

What are Gen-Z workers looking for in an employer?

1. A commitment to social issues
Although environmental and social causes are becoming more important to us all, younger generations are likely to be even more committed than older workers and often hold stronger values.

In fact, this is an influential factor for many when judging the suitability of an employer. Our own research at Amba shows that over one in 10 18-24-year-olds left their previous role as a result of inaction over sustainability. With so much information about a workplace’s culture and ethics readily available at the fingertips of prospective employees, a further 71% of young people say they would research a potential employer’s values and ethics ahead of their employment decision. So, businesses must have a strong commitment to CSR and demonstrate that they are genuinely acting in a responsible and sustainable way if they wish to attract fresh Gen-Z talent to their workforce and keep them.

2. Hybrid working opportunities
Alongside a commitment to CSR, we have also seen a rise in the number of workers, particularly early talent, looking for roles that offer a split of office and home working. Whilst in the immediate aftermath of the pandemic it felt as though the entire workforce wanted to remain working remotely full time, there are now more and more people searching for businesses that allow them to blend the social advantages of office time with the flexibility that remote working allows for.

For many Gen-Z workers that studied and graduated during a pandemic there is a strong desire to regain the missed human connection and organic, natural learning that can only be achieved in-person. Plus, with a large proportion of under 25s still living with their parents, remote working is often less appealing than for older employers who have a more appropriate working-from-home set up.

3. Mentoring programmes
Also linked to this desire for human connection and learning opportunities, we are seeing increased demand for roles that offer mentoring programmes. Mentorship can offer huge benefits to both the mentor and the mentee and offers employers an immediate competitive edge when it comes to attracting employees. Mentorship can also aid talent retention, with retention rates for mentees found to be 23% higher than those who don’t participate in a mentorship programme.

How can employers retain modern workers?
Attracting talent is only the beginning. Once these individuals are in the business, it’s crucial to keep these employees engaged, especially during a time when they are likely to be receiving attractive offers from competitors who are also on the hunt for staff.

1. Don’t overpromise and underdeliver
Regardless of demographic, the most powerful thing employers can do to retain talent is to remain true to their word. This means it’s vital that you don’t over-promise during the recruitment stage. Although this can be tempting when you’re short-staffed, setting unrealistic expectations during an interview and underdelivering once an employee has started a role offers no long-term benefits and can lead to an expensive hiring cycle.

2. Offer lifestyle-enhancing perks
Whilst salary remains important, particularly during the ongoing cost of living crisis, lifestyle-enhancing extras like benefits packages that are truly valued and utilised by an employee offer one effective way to set you apart from competitors who might be approaching your staff. CSR-focused employee benefits packages, like Amba’s Lumina technology, are particularly powerful as they align with employees’ own values and can go a long way in giving you a competitive edge if you’re unable to compete on salary.

Employers managing a multi-generational workforce should consider adjusting their offerings and benefits depending on the individual’s needs as priorities can vary significantly depending on an employee’s demographic. For example, our research shows that Gen Zs are least likely to be concerned by salary, and are motivated instead by work/life balance, flexibility, and other workplace perks. By contrast, the older generation are more likely to prioritise job security and earnings.

3. Be flexible
Alongside meaningful employee benefits employers need to create a working environment that’s so compelling that staff don’t want to move away from it. Fundamentally, this comes down to recognising and respecting all employees as individuals with lives outside of the workplace and accommodating their specific needs where possible. Take an employee who is a parent, and has been able to do the school run because of flexible working – that’s a huge benefit that may be valued more than a slightly higher salary from a competitor.

4. Know when it’s time to walk away
Whilst it’s essential to put systems in place that make your employees want to stay, it’s also important to acknowledge when it’s time to let valued members of the team or job applicants go. In a cost-of-living crisis, there will be a point when a competitor’s salary offer is just too attractive for talent to ignore. Employers can’t afford to reach a breaking point by attempting to improve on offers with overinflated salaries or promises which are impossible to replicate amongst the whole team.

In addition to the budgetary challenges this can lead to, inequality across the business also has a huge impact on culture. You do something out of the norm for one person, keep it quiet from your other employees, and you’ve just broken your values. This can take years to fix and it may never be the same again.

Final Thoughts
The face of the modern workforce is changing and so are demands on employers. In a tough talent market, it’s those businesses that work to create a compelling culture and stick to their values wholeheartedly, even when they’re facing stiff opposition, that will thrive.

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