As employers navigate new working models in the wake of COVID-19 — such as remote-first, fully on-site, or hybrid — showcasing company culture to prospective employees has been more challenging than ever. Recent research from RippleMatch’s What Gen Z Wants report shows that company culture remains a key factor in the Gen Z job search, indicated by the value that these candidates place on work-life balance, a sense of community at work, and how companies have supported employees’ well-being during the pandemic. Our data further illustrates that company culture is not only helpful for recruiting new talent, but also for retaining interns for full-time positions after graduation.
Gen Z candidates are prioritizing work-life balance
To understand how students are approaching their job search over time, RippleMatch sends a series of pulse surveys throughout the year to determine which factors were top-of-mind for candidates seeking a full-time role. In Spring 2019, company culture was the second-most selected factor. After COVID hit, company culture dropped to third place in Fall 2020 and Fall 2021, and fifth place in Spring 2021. At the same time, work-life balance rose up the ranks to the second-most important factor for Gen Z during their job search in Fall 2020 and Fall 2021.
Work-life balance and company culture are closely connected. Both take into account features like flexible work environments, expectations around email and Slack responsiveness during the evenings and weekends, and manageable workloads for employees. Company culture also includes factors such as how employees are able to connect and build camaraderie, as well as abstract ideas like the mission and values guiding an organization.
Women were more likely than men to prioritize company culture
Taking a closer look at the survey responses, we found that the importance of company culture varied by gender. In our survey, 46% of all respondents selected company culture and community as an important factor when searching for a full-time role. However, female respondents were slightly more likely than male respondents to view company culture as important during their job search (49% of women and 44% of men).
As part of your recruitment strategy focused on diversifying gender at your company, consider highlighting key aspects of your company culture. This may include listing out some of your organization’s shared values, showcasing benefits related to work-life balance, or talking about how your organization fosters a sense of community through volunteer opportunities and team-building events.
Employer pandemic response is still a factor in students’ job search
Candidates want employers who “walk the walk” when it comes to company culture, and understanding a company’s COVID-19 response is one way that they are assessing that. In Fall 2020, 73% of Gen Z job-seekers planned to consider how a company supported the well-being of its employees during COVID-19. In Spring and Fall 2021, that percentage was 55%. Furthermore, Gen Z job-seekers were likely to consider other pandemic-related factors, such as how a company supported remote work, (80% of respondents in Fall 2020, and 52 of respondents in Spring and Fall 2021,) in addition to its growth and financial security.
These findings suggest that throughout the recruitment process, you may wish to share how you’ve supported employees during the pandemic. Some potential highlights could be flexible work arrangements, safety protocols, or new benefits related to physical and mental health, as well as how you anticipate supporting employees in the future.
Company culture was the strongest retention tool for returning interns
Company culture isn’t only a way to attract candidates — it’s a strong motivator for keeping them too. Among surveyed students who accepted a full-time role with a company where they were previously an intern, 46% cited company culture as a strong factor influencing their decision to return. When asked what would cause them to renege on an offer after accepting, only 23% of returning candidates cited a better company culture, suggesting that most respondents were happy with the culture at their current employer.
Company culture encompasses many things, and your company culture may have evolved throughout the pandemic. Regardless, it’s clear that it remains an important factor for Gen Z as they begin their job search and take a closer look at your policies centered around creating a healthy work-life balance, instilling a sense of belonging at work, and ensuring employees are supported as they continue to navigate life changes due to COVID. Plus, it might just be the thing that inspires the interns that you already invested so much time into to seek full-time roles at your company. For more ideas on developing a company culture and a recruitment strategy to attract Gen Z job seekers, download the full report.