Onboarding Gen Z Employees Successfully in a Post-pandemic Economy

While business leaders are busy figuring their company’s own future of work, new hires need their employers’ guidance now more than ever.

Training Magazine

Rather than having a team member sit down and teach them about their new role, entry-level employees have been largely thrown in the sink-or-swim trials of remote work. Previously recruits who would have been whisked away to training programs or had the convenience of a one-on-one trainer are now relying on various forms of chat communication mixed with training materials provided by the company to learn on their own.

While business leaders are busy figuring their company’s own future of work, new hires need their employers’ guidance now more than ever. This is especially true for those who have no previous expertise in either the industry or field, which would help keep them afloat. Even with advancements and improvements to virtual onboarding technology, the truth is there is a lot more to employee success than good technology and tools. The key is to create an environment where the employees feel comfortable enough to reach out when they need help and have enough structure to enable them to properly do their job.

Why pursue thoughtful onboarding

With a record number of job openings today, employees are less likely to stick around if an organization isn’t meeting their expectations. Furthermore, recent findings from The Work Institute, a research and consulting firm focused on employee engagement and retention, indicate an impending “turnover tsunami” as pandemic precautions lift. Whether you are onboarding remotely, hybrid, or in-person, it’s critical to create a positive employee experience from the beginning in order to pave the way for continued engagement and retention.

Compared to the traditional onboarding experience, Gen Z employees are facing very different obstacles at the start of their careers than previous generations. Gen Z employees not only require basic training but also an introduction to their industries because they’ve missed out on the in-person experiences that new grads typically take part in. For employers, this means placing a priority on being overly communicative, keeping instructions bite-sized, being intentional with priorities, and putting more structure into place than they may have pre-pandemic. The bottom line is that when Gen Z gets confused or stuck, they need to know they are supported by their management team and feel comfortable asking them questions.

Lasting engagement starts with approachability

Starting at a new job is filled with moving pieces, people, and data points. The most effective organizations will prioritize minimum viable content and be able to shut out the noise. This is the most important and universal piece for onboarding Gen Z employees. At Wisetail, for example, we have remote onboarding for employees that is paced out in a four-week timeline and broken out into two levels in order to decrease confusion.

Additionally, we provide a general Wisetail orientation along with a separate one that is specific to their team. All onboarding is designed to help employees feel involved and engaged without feeling overwhelmed by incorporating breaks and individual learning alongside training sessions.

Keeping communication straightforward is a critical component of building confidence and reliability for Gen Z. When onboarding new employees, it should be viewed as a trust-building exercise. Clarity is a necessity since communication looks different to all people and new employees need their leadership to give clear directions and expectations. Likewise, consistency builds trust through repetition.

Productivity is achieved through structure

If there’s one thing that helps new employees feel less stressed and work more productively, it’s predictability. With the last year and a half being anything but predictable, providing them with a set schedule and structured workday will help them stay engaged and productive throughout onboarding. This is especially important when onboarding is a remote process because it’s harder to gauge when employees are not understanding the materials provided in an all-digital environment.

When there is no accountability system in place, it’s much easier for employees to disengage from the training process. Without the ease of turning to a coworker to ask questions, it’s inevitable that a new employee will need to rely more heavily on processes. If those processes are weak or non-existent, employers are more likely to see a breakdown in culture or customer experience because the cohesiveness is lost.

Another tool to improve the onboarding experience for Gen Z is keeping things approachable and digestible. Information overload is a common hurdle for new hires to overcome, so breaking new information down into bite-size pieces is the best way to combat it. The most frequent request we see at Wisetail is how to create the most streamlined and simple user experience so employees can easily distinguish exactly where to begin and where to finish. By keeping things simple, it will maintain employee engagement and offer a payoff for employers in the long run.

With graduation in the rearview mirror and Gen Z focused on landing their first real job, the demand for remote training and onboarding will only increase. With employment market trends forecasting more job openings and fewer talented candidates as the world shifts to post-pandemic life, employers have no room to ignore the importance of a quality onboarding experience. Staying ahead of the curve means curating and maintaining a structured, approachable, and comfortable workspace for new hires.

Ali Knapp
Ali Knapp has spent her professional career building successful partnerships. She began her career at Baush & Lomb after graduating from Michigan State University with a degree in Packaging Engineering. She then moved into Hewlett-Packard’s OEM (Original Equipment Manufacturers) department coordinating projects for Fortune 500 clients such as GE Health, Siemens and Philips. She spent her last year at HP managing a team dedicated to the ongoing support of value-add manufacturing for a group of over 25 clients in technology, healthcare and engineering verticals. Since 2013, she has been instrumental in the creation and development of client support at Wisetail. She believes in providing seamless implementations based on each client’s individual needs and sustained, personal support to ensure their long-term success. When she’s not in the office, you can find her exploring the vast mountains of Montana on her skis or her bike. She believes strongly in working for a company that is as passionate for the work/life balance of it’s employees as it is for the delivering an authentic experience to it’s clients.