What can you do to attract and retain Generation Z? Are you prepared?

By Jacquelyn Kung

Last week, I was at a Publix supermarket in South Carolina. It was my first time at a Publix, and my cashier was amazing. Full of smiles and spunk. My guesstimate put her in her mid-20s.

I knew Publix is publicly recognized as a great place to work, so I asked my amazing cashier some questions. Here is what this randomly-discovered Millennial shared:

What’s it like working here?  [In a charming southern accent] Oh it’s wonderful. I come to work, and we all really care about our customers.

How does that actually work?   A pause followed by a big sweet smile: Well, I think of you as my Queen and him (pointed to my husband) as my King. I care that you are happy.

You learn that here?  Oh yes, from the very beginning. I’ve been here five years.

What makes this a great place to work?  Oh my gosh. So many things, we have wonderful benefits. They encourage us to grow a career here . . . If you want to work in another department, that’s available to you.

[Sidenote: Everyone always starts with perks, but the research shows it’s mostly because it’s the easiest thing to name first. Also: notice the “they” verb for management . . . trust in management is key to being a great workplace culture.]

You get the point: this is what an engaged Millennial who has stayed at Publix for FIVE YEARS sounds like.


Here are the main takeaways for senior living:

  • She has PRIDE in her work.

  • She TRUSTS her management.

  • She has CAMARADERIE with others across her store.

Gen Z is Here

We are still working on figuring out the Millennial generation and Generation Z (born on or after 2000) that are starting to apply for work at our communities.

Population experts project this will be an even BIGGER generation than Millennials. It’s a generation that grew up with terrorist and school shooter threats. They see their older siblings and cousins leaving school with mountains of debt.

Three things about Generation Z:

  1. Like Millennials, they want a meaningful career. But they want stability.

  2. They are more financially conservative than Millennials. Having stability in pay is better.

  3. Unlike Millennials who remember dial-up internet, Gen Z grew up on wifi and all manner of technology.

Attract and Retain Generation Z

We will write more on this topic over time, but here are three takeaways about attracting and retaining those from Generation Z (ages 16 and 17 today) to our communities:

  1. Even if you hire them on as junior servers, make it a career-focused discussion during your 90-day, 3 months, and one-year check-ins. Make sure they know that you’d love to mentor them to take a meaningful role in admin, accounting, general services, nursing, and other departments. 

  1. Make your roles more entrepreneurial/innovation oriented. Do you have a project that requires implementing technology? Offer it to a promising Gen Z-er as a side project. 

  1. When you discuss career pathing with a Gen Z employee, make sure to highlight the financial stability of being with your organization. Senior care is one of the fastest growing industries in the U.S., and closures outside SNFs are rare: they will gain a lot of stability with a career in our industry.

Any other thoughts? Please leave your comments below!