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These three onboarding strategies will unlock gen Z engagement

Tailored onboarding strategies are crucial to retain gen Z employees and foster long-term loyalty. The key is to link roles with purpose, clarify career paths and foster community.

As performer and actor Will Rogers wisely stated, “You never get a second chance to make a first impression.”

This includes your new employees, particularly gen Z, who are projected to constitute 30 percent of the workforce by 2030, heightening employers’ concerns about this cohort’s propensity for high turnover and quiet quitting.

Most gen Z employees exhibit low engagement or ambivalence at work, surpassing all other generations. Moreover, a staggering 77 percent of gen Z workers, according to McKinsey, are actively seeking new job opportunities and perceive job-hopping as the means to increase their salary and develop their professional skills, eschewing the traditional length of tenure expectations with a given employer.

The new hire onboarding process has emerged as a critical moment to establish a strong connection to the company and reaffirm working norms discussed during the hiring process.


Most gen Z employees exhibit low engagement or ambivalence at work, surpassing all other generations.

In fact, terms like ‘the employee honeymoon’ have been used to describe the first six months of employment when employees exhibit the highest level of engagement with their work and hold their company in high regard.

One of our clients, Maria, is Chief Human Resource Officer of a tech company, known for innovation, long-term thinking and continuous learning. Her company experienced significant growth over the last five years, hiring early career professionals in entry-level technical and non-technical roles.

While recruiting gen Z professionals has not been an issue, retention has been onerous. According to Maria, many gen Z workers resigned voluntarily in less than 18 months with the company, especially top performers.

Not only was this turnover financially taxing to the company, but the burden compounded on the frontline with managers and their teams voicing frustrations about the disruption to their team’s productivity and culture.

In our work with Maria, we identified three strategies to help organizations and their leaders enhance the onboarding process for gen Z professionals.

1. Link roles with purpose and impact

Almost two-thirds of gen Z employees report that working for an employer that shares their values is very important or essential to their job satisfaction.

Moreover, creating a clear understanding of the shared goals between the company and employee has become increasingly crucial as many gen Z professionals entered the workforce in the last four years, at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic and amid remote/hybrid ways of working.


Helping a new employee understand how their work contributes to the collective success and its impact should be considered an essential part of an onboarding process.

Thus, clearly connecting the dots, or helping a new employee understand how their work contributes to the collective success and its impact should be considered an essential part of an onboarding process.

Maria and her team believed there was an opportunity to ladder down their company’s mission and values to each new hire’s remit more effectively. The following framework was developed to evaluate and improve the onboarding experience:

Assess the present state

This process starts with thoroughly evaluating the existing onboarding materials and activities to gauge how well the company’s mission and values are integrated with the employee’s role.

This could include focus groups and surveys with gen Z employees who have completed a year of service in the company. Some questions you may want to consider include:

• What role does your job play in furthering the company’s mission?

• What impact does your role have on your key stakeholders’ success?

• How could the company improve the connection between a new employee and the organization?

2. Determine the gap

It’s essential to pinpoint where improvements can be made to align the company’s mission and values with each employee’s onboarding experience. This step involves prioritizing opportunities based on ease of implementation and expected impact.

Improve and iterate

Improving and iterating the onboarding process is crucial. This could involve developing interactive modules that showcase the company’s values, incorporating storytelling sessions, testimonials  and real-life examples. In Maria’s case, the values included their passion for innovation, long-term thinking and commitment to continuous learning and collaboration.

Creating immersive experiences during orientation, such as escape room challenges or hackathon competitions, can also help new hires experience the company culture firsthand. Companies like Culture Amp are leveraging technology to deliver personalized messages and resources to reinforce the company’s values, fostering a sense of accountability and ownership among new hires.


Training is pivotal in empowering new hire managers to create roles and responsibilities that reflect the company’s mission and values. Many organizations may default back to ‘learning by doing’, but onboarding is such an essential part of the employee experience that it requires expert input and best practice guidance.

Encouraging managers to personalize onboarding experiences for each new hire reinforces these values meaningfully, ensuring alignment with the organization’s culture and objectives.

Clarify career development pathways

When retaining gen Z employees, it is essential to emphasize opportunities for professional development from day one of the onboarding process.

Having grown up with ready access to information at their fingertips, gen Z are deeply curious, and over half report that ‘opportunities for growth’ are their top motivator in the workplace, according to a Deloitte survey.

Recognizing the importance of this, Maria’s company developed a ‘Month-One Onboarding’ plan to formalize the goal alignment and professional development of workers in her company. In the first week of onboarding, the primary focus is on introducing new employees to the company’s culture, values and mission.

Led by the HR Business Partner or Department Leader, this week involves welcoming newcomers, providing an overview of the company’s purpose, and facilitating meetings with the hiring manager and team members.

Additionally, collaboration tools, communication channels and digital and in-person communication norms, such as meeting etiquette, are introduced, setting the groundwork for effective interaction within the team.

During the second week, the emphasis shifts toward skill development and aligning performance expectations. Direct managers take charge here, clarifying performance expectations and key performance indicators (KPIs), setting goals and discussing individual career aspirations.


When retaining gen Z employees, it is essential to emphasize opportunities for professional development from day one of the onboarding process.

Furthermore, tailored workshops and mentorship sessions enhance technical and soft skills, ensuring alignment with company objectives. The HR Business Partner steps in to facilitate this process, offering guidance on the performance evaluation process and promotion requirements.

As the onboarding progresses into the third week, the focus shifts toward team integration. The direct manager leads new employees to engage in team-building activities, get to know their colleagues individually, and understand team roles and responsibilities.

They also begin to develop a sense of belonging and connection. Additionally, they delve into current projects, gaining insights through shadowing opportunities and familiarizing themselves with project management tools and methodologies.

In the final week, the spotlight is on feedback and adjustment. Direct managers collect feedback from the new employees and the team regarding the onboarding process and address any concerns or questions about the role, expectations, resources and support for their work.

Adjustments to the onboarding plan are made based on initial experiences, ensuring a smooth transition into regular work. Furthermore, plans for 30 and 60-day check-ins are developed to provide ongoing support and guidance.

3. Create a new hire community

Onboarding provides a shared new-hire experience where employees forge professional relationships with others while integrating into the company, regardless of their roles and experience levels. This camaraderie can extend beyond the onboarding period if meaningful connections are established early on.

This is an excellent opportunity for the new professionals to support each other by sharing informal resources, information and experience after completing the formal onboarding process. To facilitate this, team-building activities, social events (virtual or in person), and one-on-one interactions in a more relaxed setting can be organized during the onboarding process.

In Maria’s case, her team scheduled follow-up meetings after the onboarding period to ensure they had structured opportunities for new hires to continue to build relationships.

Broadening networking and coaching opportunities is crucial for all new employees, particularly gen Z hires who may have missed out on traditional in-person work experiences.

While connecting with other newly hired professionals has the distinct advantage of providing ‘social’ and ‘relational’ support during the stressful time of transition, a Harvard Business Review study has found the importance of establishing a broader network of relationships with experienced professionals in the company who can help the new professionals to learn the roles, gaining skills and learning about the company’s climate and culture.


Investing in a comprehensive and thoughtful onboarding process lays the foundation for long-term success.

The primary focus is creating an inclusive and supportive work environment where gen Z employees feel empowered to connect with their colleagues beyond superficial introductions. By implementing these strategies, Maria and her team aimed to prepare and empower gen Z hires with the tools to establish meaningful connections and foster professional growth beyond onboarding.

As Henry Ford stated: “Coming together is a beginning, staying together is progress, and working together is success.”

As we navigate the evolving workforce, particularly with the rise of gen Z professionals, it becomes increasingly evident that establishing strong connections and fostering loyalty during onboarding is essential.

Thus, the overall talent management strategy will be critical to evaluating and reimagining the onboarding process for gen Z professionals to create a sense of connection, loyalty and buy-in. These efforts reduce turnover and help build a culture of loyalty and commitment within the organization.

Investing in a comprehensive and thoughtful onboarding process lays the foundation for long-term success, ensuring that gen Z employees feel represented in their mission and are motivated to contribute their best efforts.

By prioritizing connection and loyalty during onboarding, organizations can position themselves as employers of choice and foster an engaged and resilient workforce in the face of change.

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