Buck Bond Group
How to attract and develop diverse young talent

How to attract and develop diverse young talent

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Gen Z, born after 1996, is expected to account for 27% of the U.S. workforce by 2025.[1] According to the U.S. Census Bureau, this generation will also be majority non-white by 2026,[2] making it the most ethnically and racially diverse generation ever.

For employers, knowing how to compete for this talent and engage this demographic is imperative to the current and future success of organizations. It will be important to reach these young employees early in their professional development to help them build career competencies, explore different professions, and grow a network of support.

Here are some ideas. 

Make your recruitment strategy more inclusive

Recruit broadly. A recent survey suggests that 83% of Gen Z candidates consider a company’s diversity an important factor when choosing an employer. [3]  To proactively seek out talent from underrepresented groups, consider partnering with, or participating in career fairs at historically Black colleges and universities, women’s colleges, and other minority-serving institutions. Your recruiting materials should also highlight how your company is embracing diversity. This may include employee video testimonials, awards and public recognition, a diversity statement, and information about employee resource groups.

Restructure your hiring process. To be more effective reaching young talent from marginalized groups, you may want to rethink hiring practices. Don’t assume that talent only comes from elite institutions, or that certain accolades, titles, or experiences can serve as a proxy for success. Additionally, having a diverse panel of interviewers can help to identify the diverse strengths that would make a candidate a strong employee.

Remove barriers to entry for underrepresented groups. To create a more equitable system that meets the needs of early, diverse talent, organizations need to be intentional about removing barriers to entry for underrepresented groups. For example, unpaid internships may be untenable for young talent that needs to pay-off student loans or contribute to household income. Paid internships by contrast create equity for underrepresented groups, and companies, in turn, receive better engagement, better brand awareness, and an opportunity to give hands-on, substantive work to eager young employees. To ensure your internship program is inclusive and is not inadvertently creating barriers to entry, it’s important to audit talent and hiring decisions.

Retain young diverse talent

Retention starts as early as the first interaction that a new hire has with your organization, and creating an inclusive employee onboarding experience, establishing career jobs, and supporting wellbeing are all crucial for building a long-term, productive relationship.

Bolster an inclusive onboarding experience. Many employees of color experience bias in the workplace and feel a heightened sense of being different from their peers. This can have a detrimental effect on their health, wellbeing, and ability to engage at work. Companies should underscore the importance of DE&I, and share what initiatives are being taken to create a more inclusive work environment in their organization. In addition, new hires should be assigned a mentor to help them navigate their career and the company culture. For employees of color and first-generation talent, building a network of support can provide insights and connections that set them up for success.

Support underrepresented colleagues in their career progression. Clearly articulated career paths are especially important for employees of color and underrepresented employees who often feel isolated and uncertain at work compared to their white peers. One study found that among employees who recently changed jobs, 48% of women reported wanting more opportunities to advance.[4] Outlining specific career paths and skills needed to advance can also avoid personal attributes such as gender, race, or disability from informing promotion and talent decisions. Providing these pathways and resources for professional development can increase job satisfaction and build the necessary processes to support and retain young talent.

Support employee wellbeing. For students of color, COVID-19 exacerbated pre-existing educational inequities. In higher education, nearly twice as many Latino (50%) and Black (42%) students reported having their education disrupted as compared to white students (26%).[5] For other underserved groups, COVID-19 presented other challenges, with LGBTQ+ students disproportionately reporting struggles with mental health and feelings of isolation. Similarly, students with disabilities lacked support on-campus, and were more likely to experience lost income from off-campus jobs (47%) as compared to students without disabilities (26%). This generation expects employers to approach wellbeing holistically with supportive benefits and an inclusive organizational culture.

Offer meaningful benefits. Underrepresented employees often face healthcare disparities, and one study shows that 30% or more of Black, Hispanic, LGBTQ+ and younger employees said that they had considered switching employers due to their health benefits.[6] Increasing accessibility to benefits can include destigmatizing receiving care with an emphasis on total wellbeing, translating benefits into other languages, and hosting informational sessions with benefit vendors. Benefits must resonate with all employees and meet their basic needs including housing, food, transportation, and healthcare. It’s important to remember that younger employees may have different priorities compared to older generations and value non-traditional benefits such as flexible work schedules, mental health benefits, wellness programs and discounts, student loan assistance, or pet insurance.

Create an inclusive workplace culture of belonging. Instead of taking a broad stroke approach to diversity it is important to acknowledge specific issues or challenges facing certain demographics. Here, managers can play an important role in supporting and advocating for marginalized employees. Having respectful relationships with supervisors and building positive relationships can help signal to employees that they belong and that they are valued. In addition, employee resource groups serve as an avenue for employees to find support, help in personal and career development, and a safe space where they can be their authentic selves.

Start now

Gen Z employees are starting to shape the future of work and they expect companies to establish and uphold DE&I values. Embracing strategies to help you support young, underrepresented talent can help fuel not only the success of your company but also of the lives of this young diverse talent ready to make its mark in the world.


[1] https://www.pewresearch.org/social-trends/2020/05/14/on-the-cusp-of-adulthood-and-facing-an-uncertain-future-what-we-know-about-gen-z-so-far-2/

[2] https://www.census.gov/programs-surveys/popproj/data/datasets.html

[3] https://hiring.monster.com/resources/workforce-management/diversity-in-the-workplace/workforce-diversity-for-millennials/

[4] https://leanin.org/women-in-the-workplace

[5] https://www2.ed.gov/about/offices/list/ocr/docs/20210608-impacts-of-covid19.pdf

[6] https://www.mckinsey.com/industries/healthcare/our-insights/income-alone-may-be-insufficient-how-employers-can-help-advance-health-equity-in-the-workplace