Born between 1995 and 2018, the eldest segment of Gen Z is roughly 23 years old. As such, only a fraction of Gen Z has entered the workforce — roughly 17 million of the 67 million by digital publication Advisory’s measure.
As more of Generation Z enters the workforce, statistics about their professional preferences will continue to develop. But, from the information we currently have, there are a handful of distinct patterns that can help human resources recruit and retain this generation of young employees.
A Brief Introduction To Generation Z
Experts like Janet Adamy of the Wall Street Journal look at factors that shape individual generations to try and better understand, define, and predict how the segment of people will behave. Adamy believes that Generation Z may actually have some resemblance to the Silent Generation — those born between 1928 and 1945 — when it comes to workplace habits.
The key similarities are that both generations grew up during or after major economic downturns and entered into the workforce during or after an economic boom, which shapes:
- Work ethic
- Money management
- Outlook on security
It should come as no surprise then that the Silent Generation is known for their work ethic and loyalty within the workplace. These characteristics might stem from a fear of losing their job, as what happened to their parents during the Great Depression. Additionally, the Silent Generation is known for their resourcefulness and conservatism when it comes to finances, again as a byproduct of growing up during the Great Depression with little money to go around.
Gen Z may share many of these same characteristics, because of the historical events that parallel these two generations. Many Gen Zers grew up in families that felt strain during the Great Recession.
Furthermore, Generation Z is often defined as a group of digital natives, who only know the post-911 world which brought changes to:
- Political policies
- The landscape of technology
These components also play a role in Gen Z’s career trajectory.
Gen Z’s Workplace Needs
As a culmination of their upbringing and today’s technological capabilities, Gen Z’s workplace needs are different from the current working generations.
Gen Z is known as a screen-obsessed generation. Specifically, research shows that 31% of Gen Zers feel uncomfortable if they are without their phones for 30 minutes or less. With that said, it’s only natural to assume that this generation will prefer chat, email, and text-based communication in the workplace.
However, research by staffing agency Robert Half indicates Gen Z may actually crave more face-to-face communication in the workplace that we expected.
The theory behind this is that Generation Z doesn’t want to be viewed as “children” by their older colleagues. They are aware that their digital slang, filled with hashtags and abbreviations, may appear weak to an older generation. To eliminate misconceptions or miscommunication, Gen Z looks for face-to-face communication to prove themselves, professionally.
Generation Z didn’t just grow up with technology, they grew up with technology that is customized and transparent. The ability to easily, and thoroughly, research a brand before making a transaction is commonplace.
For example, before Gen Z makes a purchase, they likely have:
- Been served an ad targeting their specific buying patterns and preferences
- Vetted the brand to see how it meshes with their personal values
- Followed the brand on social media to get a sense of its purpose
- Researched the brand’s reviews for quality and user feedback
- 68% of Gen Z read three or more reviews before making a purchasing decision
- 73% of Gen Z follows at least one brand on social media (52% follow three or more).
(Stats from recent GenHQ study of Gen Z.)
The routine of researching and vetting companies isn’t reserved for purchasing decisions.
Gen Z wants the company they work for to have a purpose aligned with their personal goals. And they have the skill and technology to aid their research. That means Gen Z will research their potential employer just as they would go through a purchasing decision: thoroughly.
High-frequency feedback and connections
Similar to millennials, Gen Z also seeks frequent feedback and reassurance from their managers. In one study about Gen Z and millennials, researchers found that:
- 28% want feedback from their manager after every project, assignment or task
- 26% expect weekly feedback
- 20% would like daily feedback
- Only 1% are OK with an annual performance review
Another study conducted by GenHQ corroborates the data showing that 66% of Gen Z needs feedback from their supervisor every few weeks or more often in order to stay at their job.
5 Ways To Recruit And Retain Generation Z
Given the changing workplace dynamics, and specific needs of Gen Z, what must employers do to attract and retain up-and-coming talent?
1.) Leverage technology and branding
As we touched on earlier, hiring Gen Z will take a unique marketing effort in order to stand out in a tight labor market. To start, companies should focus on their online brand to attract a new wave of employees:
- Work to improve online reviews like those on Glassdoor
- Focus on social media branding
- Clearly promote their company’s vision and mission
Additionally, when recruiting this new pool of employees, it’s important to communicate with them on the channels they use most often:
For example, Ernst & Young accepts video submissions of interviews when considering their applicants. Intuit recruiters post job openings via Slack to cut out email correspondence and communicate instantly.
By concentrating on technology and branding as part of a recruiting process, you can gain an upper-hand on Gen Z prospecting.
2.) Provide security
As a byproduct of growing up during or after the great recession, Gen Z is hyper-sensitive to job security and benefits. In a recent interview with online magazine Advisory, CEO of Ruby Tuesday, Ray Blanchette, said entry-level employers are increasingly concerned about what benefits the restaurant is able to offer them.
"They're not even going to access these benefits that we offer, because they're staying on their parents’ plan, but they want to know it's there," said Blanchette.
Recruiters can help Gen Z ward off concerns about stability by offering a wide spectrum of benefits that make employees feel secure and confident in their employer, for example:
- Mentorship or learning and development programs
- Comprehensive benefits
- Financial wellness programs
- Continuous feedback
Strategy tip: Employers who hire for summer or seasonal jobs can leverage Gen Z’s need for security by presenting new hires the opportunity to return during the next hiring frenzy. This allows you to close staffing gaps during the next busy seasonal hiring and simultaneously caters to Gen Z’s desire for job security.
3.) Reshape resume expectations
For many Gen Zers, there is a profound fear of student loan debt. The average student loan debt for the class of 2017 was $39,400, which is up 6% from the previous year. That translates into:
- Average monthly student loan payment of $351
- Median monthly student loan payment of $203
These payments can be unbearable if not impossible. Whether they know someone burdened by the debt, or have just followed the endless news coverage, Gen Z understands the costs associated with higher education. And the implications of debt if the economy declines.
As such, half (50%) of Gen Zers say they will only take on $10k or less in student loan debt, and 27% say they aren’t willing to take on any debt at all. Further, 70% of Gen Z believes formal education isn’t the only option for professional development.
Other options for advanced education are growing more common, which provides an advantage to companies looking to hire top talent in a tight labor market. Consider offering the following options:
- Apprenticeships: Employers can take the reins on training by offering on-the-job training programs or apprenticeships to guide young employees toward success. The construction industry currently makes up two-thirds of apprenticeship programs in the U.S. Further, big-box retailers have joined forces to create the RISE UP program for apprenticeships in the retail industry.
- Targeted programs: Programs like RightSkill, Lynda, or other employer-sponsored options can help job seekers and employees gain or fine-tune skills through non-degree learning courses.
By re-examining resume requirements and offering targeted on-the-job training, you can attract the Gen Z audience who isn’t looking to incur student loan debt but still desires professional success.
4.) Gamify professional development
A whopping 66% of Generation Z list gaming as their primary hobby. That nugget of information is gold for companies who need to update their current training protocols to cater to a new workforce that is:
By combining the idea of online learning and gamification, it opens the doors to new ways of training in the workplace. Gamification and video-based training could be a way to attract the attention of new recruits, ramp them up effectively, and also keep them engaged in the workplace.
5.) Push job-hoppers to role-hoppers
Job hopping has been one of the most frustrating challenges for organizations dealing with a millennial workforce. And while Gen Z shares the need for change, due to their need for a plan and security, Gen Z may be more interested in role-hopping than company hopping.
Seventy-five percent (75% )of Generation Z said they would be interested in a situation in which they could have multiple roles within one place of employment.
By focusing on career advancement and continuing education, Gen Z may be more inclined to change jobs internally, rather than jumping ship completely, which can decrease the impact of turnover expenses.
6.) Pay attention to their financial well-being
The Center for Generational Kinetics recently ran a study to learn about the financial patterns of Gen Z. The study showed that 35% of those surveyed said they plan to start saving for retirement in their 20s and 12% have already started saving. More than a third of the study's participants are still in their teens, which makes the results all the more fascinating.
This financial aptitude provides the opportunity for employers to show they are forward-thinking when it comes to financial well-being. Many employers are beginning to offer daily payment benefits as a way to give their employees more control over their finances.
By offering DailyPay, your Gen Z employees can access their earned but unpaid wages at the click of the button or text emoji, which means if an event that’s outside of their ‘plan’ arises, their payment flexibility can help them cover the unexpected expense or bills that are due between payroll cycles.