First (day) impressions – how to make sure day one counts for Gen Z

first day onboarding

“Two things remain irretrievable: Time and a first impression.”

– Cynthia Ozick, American novelist

No doubt about it. 

But you know what? These things aren’t mutually exclusive. In fact, dedicating the time to making a good first impression on new starters will do wonders for your organisation in the long run.

Especially for first-time jobbers. 

That’s because research from Owl Labs suggests Gen Z workers are most likely to change jobs in the UK, with 53% switching companies in the past two years.

So what’s going on here? 

Well, dig a little deeper into the figures and the picture becomes clearer:

  • Nearly 1 in 3 (31%) Gen Z workers cite burnout as the reason for switching jobs
  • Over three quarters (79%) of 18-24-year-olds would take a pay cut for a four-day workweek
  • More than half (53%) of Gen Z employees believe proximity bias exists in the workplace; this is a tendency for leaders to show favouritism towards employees that are close to them physically

But when there’s such a disconnect between Gen Z’s need for flexibility and their fear of being thought of as ‘shirking from home’, what can you do?  

Well, forget the cliches around new starter packs and ‘warm welcomes’. Here’s how to make a first impression that will last much longer than day one.

Making sure day one matches the description

OK, we’re not saying you should throw your new starter into their role immediately. That in itself could be a surefire way to make them run for the hills. Instead, it’s about making sure the job description they signed up for aligns with what’s on the cards for them going forwards.

It just makes sense that if new starters know exactly what they’re in for – and are capable of managing – they’re less likely to feel burned out down the line.

But what if it’s a new role and you don’t know the ins and outs of those day-to-day duties just yet? 

No problem. Just be transparent about it. 

Being honest from day one is the only way to build trust in the long run. Yeah, authenticity does go a long way for Gen Z – and rightfully so.

The good thing is that job ads don’t have to be chapter and verse to work. In fact, research conducted and collated by LinkedIn Talent Blog suggests:-

  • Most candidates spend just 14 seconds deciding whether or not to apply for a role
  • The ideal length for job posts is 300 words and under
  • These shorter posts receive 8.4% more applications per view than average

So keep it simple to ensure expectations meet reality.

There’s one thing first-time jobbers do expect to see, though. And you can hit the ground running with it from day one.

Every (first) day’s a school day

We’ve talked at length about why training Gen Z is actually an investment in you before. But, essentially, it’s because the majority of Gen Zers that were asked believe learning is the key to a successful career. Add to that the fact that over half (61%) of Gen Zers can see themselves staying loyal to one place of employment for ten years or longer and the ROI of L&D clearly blows the cost of training out of the water. 

But why wait to get started?

Learning the ropes can be much more valuable if it goes beyond internal processes and systems. That’s according to the experts, anyway.

“Gen Z professionals will be more engaged in learning if new skills are directly related to career growth,” argues Andrea M. Pampaloni, PhD in ‘What Skills Will Be Needed for Generation Z Workers?‘ for CGS. 

Figures when 76% of Gen Z employees connect learning to career progress – more than any other generation. So look beyond what talent needs to know today and start helping them flourish for tomorrow. 

And one way you can do that is by putting the power in their hands from the start. 

Flexibility and freedom from the first day

Despite the appetite for it, you might not be in a position to offer a four-day week just yet. However, that doesn’t mean you can’t give new starters freedom in how they’d like to fulfil their roles. 

Digital legal services company, Amiqus, are doing just that. The company gets its new starters to complete and share a user manual as part of the onboarding process, asking them things like:

  • How do you like to work?
  • What do you not like?
  • How do you like to be contacted?
  • What hours do you work?

“…not everyone works the same, some people are morning people, some people aren’t. We want people to do their best work,” said Amiqus’ Head of People to the Scottish Government

Just adds up, in theory. Especially for neurodivergent workers. 

But what was the result?

“…what we find is that in giving people that freedom, people are productive, and certainly, from what I’ve seen, probably more productive here than a number of places I’ve worked previously where they had very set parameters about what they could and couldn’t do,” they continued.

Contrary to popular belief, though, flexible working isn’t just about where you toil away the hours; it’s having the freedom to choose how you get the job done too.

So provide genuine flexibility from day one and you’ll get plenty in return for many months to come. 

But this isn’t the only way you can think ‘outside of the box’ in order to keep Gen Z happy..

Tech can keep new starters engaged

There’s been a lot of talk about how ‘tech-savvy’ Gen Z is over the past few years – for some good reasons too. For example, this is a generation that currently makes up around 60% of users in the metaverse – and that’s before it’s even gone mainstream.

Consequently, this type of insight can lead organisations to gamify the onboarding experience in order to keep new starters engaged. Deloitte did just that by developing a zombie apocalypse game for new hires; one that required them to complete a series of challenges based on basic consulting skills. Ultimately, these would lead to finding a cure and saving humanity – all whilst learning about their role and the organisation as a whole, of course.

And there is evidence to suggest that employees do value a gamified experience on the job. Research from Zippia indicates that:

  • 95% of employees prefer a gamified work experience
  • Gamification results in a 60% increase in engagement
  • It also leads to a 40% increase in skills retention

However, it isn’t necessarily such a black-and-white picture for Gen Z. Especially when it’s recently been revealed that millennials spend more time playing video games than Gen Z and even teens.

In fact, if you’re looking for a more cost-effective way to keep Zoomers hooked from the first day on the job, you might be better off investing in video. It doesn’t have to be something with high production values like Google would cook up, either; although this does do a great job of helping new starters visualise what life at the tech company is like. For Gen Z, you can afford to be much more guerilla with your approach. 

After all, 59% of Gen Z use short-form video apps to discover content and 60% of TikTok’s users are aged 24 and under. So why not use a format they’re actually paying attention to? 

But however you choose to make that vital first impression, just keep it real and be yourself. 

That’s what they signed up for.

If you need any help hiring gen-z or even just fancy a search to see what’s out there, head on over to our grad recruitment app and check out today’s burgeoning talent.