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Every generation has its own characteristics, desires and priorities. This holds true now for Generation Z — a population that is very diverse, digitally savvy and pragmatic.

At a time of constant turnover in the workforce due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Great Resignation and inflation, appealing to potential Gen Z employees is critical to the sustained growth of your organization.

In fact, Chloe Berger of Fortune magazine said Gen Z would inhabit over 30% of the workforce by 2030. So, what does this population really care about, and what strategies can your community rec center take to win them over?

Glen Gunderson, the president of the YMCA of the North in St. Paul, Minnesota, shared what he believes this huge collection of young people are looking for and how to best attract them.


Thanks mostly in part to the COVID-19 pandemic, Gen Z is witnessing the benefits of working from home. Among those benefits is a more flexible work-life balance, and Gunderson said this is something to take advantage of while there is still a need to serve customers in-person.

“I believe more flexible and hybrid work schedules are here to stay,” he said. “The next generations will not respond as well to top down, traditional management structures. They are looking for servant-leadership philosophies and the opportunity to have an equitable relationship with a boss.”

That request is also echoed in a recent LinkedIn survey that said 72% of Gen Z employees claim to have left or consider leaving their job due to an inflexible work policy.

This tectonic shift in working environments could be difficult for some positions and organizations to achieve. However, if possible, leaders in the industry should go out of their way to create malleable work schedules that will foster healthier relationships with employees.


Gunderson stressed the Gen Z population wants to know what their prospective employer stands for and if their values align with the company’s.

If an organization is not inclusive or does not have an environmental social governance stance and practice, then this generation will most likely will look elsewhere for a job.

“Values matter more than ever,” said Gunderson. “Young leaders see, feel and repel from inauthenticity. When stated organizational values don’t match team members’ experience, they (Gen Z) will call out management or leave for a more congruent opportunity.”

The good news is, many community rec centers by nature are known for being accepting, up-standing environments where everyone is comfortable. But actually convincing a new generation of workers you have strong values can be tricky — it’s not something you can fake.

Take time to ensure your programs and current staff clearly show what you stand for. Simply talking about your values greatly fails in comparison to having clear evidence for potential hires to see.

Future Growth

Lastly, Gunderson said Gen Z is full of individuals who are restless and more than ready to progress quickly in their careers. He said this aspect, while important and understandable, needs to be handled carefully.

“We need to recognize that in reality, behavioral science tells us there are rock stars and superstars,” said Gunderson. “Rock stars elevate to a certain level and wish to operate in place, becoming an expert in an area with a lesser desire to advance. They form the stable foundation for an organization. The superstars are hungry to advance and learn new things. They tend to drive innovation, new product and program ideas.”

There needs to be balance between these types or employees. First, ensure it’s clear there is potential for growth in your organization. Then, hire staff members who not only can lead, but be led as well. A solid blend of both will drive success and help retain employees.

“We also need to think non-traditionally,” Gunderson added. “Team members can evolve cross-functionally. We need to stop developing them in a linear way. Rather, look to provide a breadth of experiences to keep the day job fresh, and help migrate team members to become transformational leaders on a mission.”


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John Reecer

John Reecer is an assistant editor at Peake Media.

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