How Social Capital Can Attract and Retain Generation Z

Here's how one company is using social capital to attract, engage, and retain Generation Z employees.

How Social Capital Can Attract and Retain Generation Z

In this article, I wrote about how General Motors (GM) is using social capital to disrupt how they work

Social capital, how well people are positioned to leverage what they know inside an organization, has been instrumental for GM to unleash potential, positively disrupt, and remain agile

Social capital also benefits organizations by attracting, engaging, and retaining Generation Z employees. 

Attracting Generation Z Employees with Social Capital 

In my recent interview with Michael J. Arena, GM's Chief Talent Officer and author of Adaptive Space: How GM and Other Companies are Positively Disrupting Themselves and Transforming into Agile Companies, said, "If you want to attract people to the organization, you have to get their networks talking about the company differently." 

To attract Generation Z college students, organizations should engage and enable their network of interns. "If you want to keep your network talking, create boundaries around it so that it echoes," says Arena. 

A good example of this is Facebook. Starting out Facebook exclusively targeted universities. Facebook created energy inside of the bounded university network to unleash the power of connections which created an avalanche of diffusion. 

Arena strives to create a similar effect with GM's talent acquisition of Generation Z college students. 

Arena adds, "But none of this matters if [Generation Z] step into the organization and the experience isn't as advertised." Organizations must focus on creating an extraordinary candidate experience and an exceptional employee experience. (Read this to understand the rising importance of the employee experience and read this for eight onboarding tips.) 

Engaging Generation Z Employees with Social Capital

Where past generations viewed leadership as highly authoritative and hierarchical, Generation Z approaches leadership much differently.  

As Generation Z grew up in a connected world, they did not view parents or teachers (and now managers) as the authority, but rather they looked to their network for the right answers. Their network provided the opportunity to crowdsource for the right information or to directly connect to subject matter experts to receive the best advice or instruction. 

Social capital frees Generation Z from the stifling top-down organizational approach of the past and engages them to find, share, and contribute the right and most relevant information. 

Retaining Generation Z Employees with Social Capital

In an effort to prepare for Generation Z's entrance into the workplace, Arena asked himself, "How do you take a traditional and conventional organization and loosen it up just enough that an emerging generation can step in and feel like they can contribute in a big way." 

This lead GM to launch an initiative to uncover what Generation Z wants at work. According to Arena, the emerging generation wants four things at work: 

  • Connectivity: A connected (not complex) workplace
  • Purpose: To be part of something bigger than themselves
  • New-ness: fresh thinking and relevant talent
  • Innovation: To be part of an innovative environment 

Social capital enables Generation Z to be highly connected at work, contribute big ideas, inject new thinking and collaborate with different talent, and do it in an innovative way. 

Deliver the elements Generation Z want at work and retention will follow. 

Listen to my full interview with Michael Arena here.

As a Millennial and Generation Z keynote speaker and trainer, I help companies lead, engage, and sell to the emerging generations. If you'd like help solving tough generational challenges inside your organization, click here.


Ryan Jenkins



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