Retaining Gen Z Workforce: Focus on Social Responsibility, Mental Well-Being & More

By: Luz Mercurio, Chief People and Culture Officer, Monde Nissin Corporation | Wednesday, 10 July 2024

Luz Mercurio, a seasoned HR leader with over two decades of experience, has held senior roles at General Electric, Philips Electronics, and Kraft Foods. As a sought-after speaker, she specializes in succession planning, talent development and cultural transformation across the Asia Pacific.

The most admired companies in the world commit to align their business imperatives, employer brand and core business operations with social and environmental causes. These organizations attract, retain talents and develop employees who value making a positive impact through meaningful work. Gen Z are attracted and easily get engaged when they know they belong to a company with clear aspiration in taking care of the well-being of people and the planet and finding ways to demonstrate it.

Two global companies that have recognizable programs in reducing their environmental impact are Johnson and Johnson and Coca Cola. J&J uses renewable energy and provides clean water supply to communities world-wide. Coca-Cola committed to collect and recycle every bottle, and make packaging materials 100% recyclable. The goal set is to reduce its carbon footprint by 25% by 2030.

I work with Monde Nissin Corporation, a premier food manufacturing company in the Philippines. We have integrated sustainability into our core business processes and corporate culture. We see to it that sustainability and social responsibility are not mere initiatives or aspirations we declare in our social media platforms and other channels of communication. We have a whole department dedicated to drive, measure and ensure collaborative efforts are being done with the involvement of our employees to CSR efforts. This helps demonstrate our values, namely care with action and collaboration with empathy.

Our sustainability targets include: reducing gas emission and water intensity by 50% in manufacturing operations by 2025. We also involve the community by providing livelihood opportunities to 5,000 independent brand experts to start with.

Incorporating Social Responsibility into Talent Attraction & Engagement

Great companies exhibit institutionalized commitment to drive social and environmental causes. This genuine commitment is seen in their talent attraction and engagement strategies. At Monde Nissin, where 35% of our employees are Gen Z, we recognize their passion to create a positive impact on the society and the environment through their work. We strengthen our social commitment by communicating this aspiration through our career sites and invite our employees to share their stories as testimonials on our genuine concern in achieving a common goal of taking care of people, planet and products through outreach programs, tree planting activities, beach clean-up, feeding program and more. We have instituted simple and meaningful rewards and recognition programs to encourage positive behavior towards sustainability and social responsibility.

Our recent Employee Engagement Survey result showed that our efforts in involving our employees in social responsibility and sustainability initiatives are much appreciated. They rated social involvement as one of the strongest factors in making them stay and give discretionary effort in helping the company grow. Compared with other fast moving consumer goods companies, Monde Nissin has one of the lowest attrition rates which can be attributed to good compensation and benefits program plus strong involvement of everyone to sustain leadership and be a formidable global company.

Talent Attraction & Retention Strategies for Gen Z

For talent attraction, a company needs to develop a strong employer brand that distinguishes it as a great place to work in. Just like a product, a company needs to market itself to be a preferred employer. This is something we are committed to work on.

Key factors include a competitive total rewards system. In our recent employee engagement survey result in partnership with Willis Towers Watson, top favorable ratings given by our employees went to the salary and benefits we offer.

As workforce demographics change, we have to create recruitment strategies that effectively connect with potential employees particularly the gen Z. Social media and other tools can now be used to advertise job openings to a wider audience with less time and effort. Digital platforms like LinkedIn make recruitment more manageable. HR digital transformation has helped in sound hiring and retention decisions, Strategies in recruitment are more focused with the use of HR analytics.

Hosting creative recruitments events through academic hosted events can now be done face to face after the pandemic. This one is well received by our young target candidates. We have a more institutionalized internship program, exposing students to more meaningful tasks. We assign them to actual work projects and they get to present to the management. They also join our ESG initiatives. We provide them practical work exposure to prepare them for challenging and fruitful full- time work once they graduate. Hopefully because we engaged them earlier, they get to decide to choose us as their employer when the right time comes.

Based on a survey by Gartner, employees stay when the organization helps them satisfy their personal and professional aspirations. 31 percent of respondents clearly expressed the need for work life balance and will move to a company that satisfies this need. 3 out of 10 respondents said they want more time off from work. The pandemic is one big factor why employees, especially gen Z are more particular with work life integration. Our company recognizes this. That is why we implemented hybrid work arrangement. Each unit head is responsible for deciding what type of work arrangement can make our employees more productive. The factory folks go to work every day. Commercial group meets in the office three times a week while Finance and support group can work remotely a 100 percent.

Another study by Deloitte last year, revealed that Gen Z are not particular with job security and can easily leave within the first two years in the company. This is true in our company. Sometimes during exit interviews, we learn that they quit even if they do not have another company to work for and at times prefer to venture on a start- up business. We gathered that these are the reasons why gen Z workers tend not to stay long in their jobs. This generation witnessed how their parents or relatives lost their jobs due to recession and are now more aware that they cannot hold on to their jobs forever. They keep on exploring what other avenues to take to earn a living moving to jobs or doubling jobs to earn more. Some term it as side hustle.

Here are some strategies that we implemented in Monde Nissin:

- From our survey we learned that leveraging technology help retain Gen Z employees so we invest in it heavily

- Social responsibility is very important to Gen Z so we make sure we not only engage them but seek their insights on how to make ESG more impactful

- We design and communicate career opportunities for them within the company and invest in up-skilling them aside from of course giving them competitive compensation and attractive benefits

- We find ways to celebrate as one team for big and even small milestones

- Gen Z look for a positive work environment. We maintain a culture of open communication and train our leaders to be better coaches so we can bring out the best in our employees

On Mental Health

Mental health, especially during the pandemic has become a priority focus in maintaining a well engaged organization. Gen Z places high value on well-being and so do other generations. Here are some initiatives worth considering:

1. Foster an environment where employees can be more comfortable in expressing themselves, their goals, challenges and even frustrations without being judged. This is a very demanding task for managers who are more accustomed to just telling what people should be done and hardly have time to listen to their people because of work pressure. Empathy and emotional management are now important leadership capabilities.

2. Establish a strong support system. Our company invested in partnering with professional coaches, couselors and even psychiatrists to ensure we prioritize the metal well-being of our people. We provide training to our workers so they can even determine and give support to peers who are starting to exhibit unproductive behaviors due to stress or personal/professional challenges.

3. Promote work life integration by offering flexible work arrangements and encouraging employees to take breaks and vacation leaves.

Fostering a Culture of Lifelong Learning for Gen Z Employees

As the business landscape rapidly evolves, it is essential to embrace continuous learning and development for both individual growth and organizational success. Gen Z employees, based on studies, give bigger weight on skill development and advancement opportunities.

 Here are some key things leaders can consider to foster a culture of lifelong learning

1. Encourage a growth mindset

At Monde Nissin, continuous learning with a growth mindset is one of the three commitments of corporate values we uphold. Our CEO will openly declare that he does not have all the answers to the ever-evolving challenges coming our way and will need help from our expertise and dedication. Our leaders show personal commitment to support continuous learning by sharing the company goals and ambitions and how you will pull resources to help the team achieve them. We encourage open comfortable discussions about learning and growth; listen to disparate views even if some may challenge our own set of beliefs.

2. Be ready with learning tools & resources

Follow the 70/29/10 rule. Provide 70 percent opportunities for on-the-job training. Allow them to experiment, explore, make mistakes and really learn from the experience. Dedicate 20 percent in developing meaningful coaching and mentoring experiences as well. Then ten percent can be invested on formal and informal, training through on line courses or face to face workshops. Through the help of technology and a digital learning system, we give our employees autonomy to identify their own learning needs and pursue relevant development activities. We allocate budget for self-directed learning and post graduate courses.

3. Be open to Continuous Feedback

Encourage your employees to seek feedback, experiment with new approaches, and continuously challenge the way they do things. Regularly check in with your employees to discuss their progress, provide constructive feedback, and identify new learning opportunities. Our company deliberately link learning opportunities to performance and career advancement.

4. Recognize and Reward Learning

Celebrate your employees' learning efforts and achievements through simple group meal, bonuses, public recognition, promotion.  or other incentives that fit their preferred way to be recognized. This will reinforce the value placed on continuous development.

Nurture an environment where lifelong learning is the norm, not the exception - one that your Gen Z employees can strongly identify with. Encourage them to help you drive long-term organizational success through learning and development.

Work Life Integration

Organizations can take several steps to support the shift towards work-life integration while maintaining productivity:

1. Offer Flexible Work Arrangements

Our company has successfully embraced remote work and flexible schedules. This has empowered our employees to better integrate their professional and personal responsibilities. We trust our employees that they manage their workload and schedule in order to deliver expected results.

2. Role modeling

Leaders at companies such as LinkedIn and Salesforce show good models of work-life integration through their own behaviors to stress its value to the organization. At Monde Nissin, leaders are cognizant that their people look at them as examples on how they manage their time and the time of their team members in delivering results. They make sure they lead by example in maintaining work life integration

3. Provide Personalized Benefits

Personalized benefits can have a significant impact on employee engagement. When people feel understood and valued, they become more loyal and satisfied. It can also help the company gain a competitive edge in attracting top and retaining top talents.

Firms like Dolby and Asana offer a range of tailored perks - from generous parental leave to wellness stipends - that cater to diverse employee needs. This is something we are considering to implement effectively.

By offering flexibility, leadership modeling, and personalized benefits, organizations can maintain a culture where work-life integration flourishes, empowering employees to be more productive while attending to their personal well-being.