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What does Gen Z want from employers? Venture for America’s leaders have ideas

CEO Eric Somerville and Pittsburgh director Megan Butler said Gen Z workers value social justice and work-life balance in their careers.

Venture for America CEO Eric Somerville. (Courtesy photo)

This editorial article is a part of How to Get a Tech Job Month of Technical.ly’s editorial calendar.

Technical.ly and XchangePgh share a mission of convening and informing technologists, entrepreneurs, and other startup stakeholders. Technical.ly is a media partner for the XchangePgh 2023 event series.

Pittsburgh needs to bring new blood into the city if it wants its tech hub to survive.

The RAND Corporation and CBRE’s 2022 Scoring Tech Talent report found that Pittsburgh’s population has been aging and declining, with not enough young people moving to the city. Researchers said that one factor involved recruiters struggling to retain workers of color — in part due to barriers people of color face while entering the tech workforce.

Next week, during the inaugural XchangeInnovation Week hosted by XchangePgh, a panel of experts will talk about strategies to keep Pittsburgh’s knowledge cup full.

“We are pulling together three stakeholders in Pittsburgh to provide contextual layers of information,” Venture for America CEO Eric Somerville told Technical.ly. “What we’re really looking to provide especially startups [with] is an understanding of Gen Z and what has impacted their lives, how they think about their careers and their relationship with work in general.”

Venture for America and InnovatePGH will cohost “Hiring and Retaining Gen Z Talent” on April 28. The panel will feature speakers from Honeycomb Credit, Project Olympus and the Pittsburgh Technology Council. Somerville said both organizations hope attendees will leave the panel with a better understanding of how the workforce has changed, the pandemic’s impact on how younger generations approach their careers and how to create office environments that appeal to the 18-to-25 crowd.

“We want to dive into the Pittsburgh [ecosystem] specifically and [highlight] some strategies that the region, in general, can begin to elevate, whether it be strategies or partnerships that can be implemented to retain talent,” Somerville said. “It’s an academic-rich environment; there has been a little bit of a decline of younger people leaving the region.”

As Venture for America participants tend to skew younger, he said, the organization felt it was in a good position to share the insights it has gained through the years on what young workers want. For starters, he’s found that Gen Z workers care about maintaining a work-life balance.

Megan Butler in pink blouse in front of green and brown trees

Venture for America Pittsburgh Director Megan Butler. (Courtesy photo)

Megan Butler, Venture for America’s Pittsburgh director, added that members of this age group also tend to want to work for organizations and companies that align with their ideals.

“I think that startup organizations oftentimes can be a really enticing career path for folks who are a part of that Gen Z workforce [because] they’re really creating innovative solutions to a lot of big social problems,” she said.

Another trend both Butler and Somerville noted is that Gen Z workers want the option to work remotely. Somerville attributes this preference to younger employees wanting the freedom to travel and spend time with loved ones. Additionally, Sommerville said, many Gen Z workers crave professional development opportunities.

“I think organizations need to be aware of how to manage objectives and overall provide clear timelines because this generation is using time differently — and we need to be aware of that,” Somerville said.

Between Steel City’s universities and startups, both Somerville and Butler felt the city’s tech ecosystem boasts tremendous assets. They’re hoping to help startup founders better position themselves to keep young workers after they hear from recruiters and hiring managers with experience doing just that.

“We’re definitely seeing folks who really want to be able to be valued in their organizations from day one, and also be able to make an impact from day one,” Butler said. “I would love to see one of the key takeaways for that group of folks from the panel be just a recognition of the importance of thinking through the changing priorities of the future of the workforce.”

Atiya Irvin-Mitchell is a 2022-2024 corps member for Report for America, an initiative of The Groundtruth Project that pairs young journalists with local newsrooms. This position is supported by the Heinz Endowments.
Companies: InnovatePGH / Venture for America
Series: How to Get a Tech Job Month 2023

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