Gen Z – those born between 1998 and 2016 – are hitting the world of work and starting to make an impact. As a rule, I avoid “Generational Thinking”. It leads to stereotypes, cliches and insults made with incredibly broad-brush strokes. However, with the current skills shortage and an economy stagnating after Covid, recruitment teams need to figure out how to engage and onboard the latest generation, and quickly. Simply put; the future of UK business depends on successfully recruiting and retaining Gen Z.
On the face of it, Gen Z is a complex melting-pot of issues. The research and insights tend to contradict themselves and one is left thinking Gen Z want it all. There are though some key characteristics to be mindful of and here we give you our five top tips for recruiting and retaining Gen Z.
1. Money Talks
Gen Z grew-up in the 2008 financial crisis. They potentially saw parents lose jobs, and struggle to find work with then higher unemployment. Gen Z have been paying for their university education and are burdened with student debt. Free beers and donuts on Friday doesn’t cut-it. Gen Z are more mindful of the money than many generations before them.
They also have a vision of their worth. They understand there is a skills shortage, they have heard about the “Great Resignation” – they sense they have bargaining power and want to cash in. Simply put; your salary offering needs to be fit for purpose.
2. Organisational Brand, Reputation and Values
Gen Z care about the environment…social justice, social change, diversity, inclusivity, equality, mental health, politics and many other things I am scared to even try and define. Maybe a reflection that they are the best educated generation to date. More importantly they expect their employer to care about these things as well. We are not talking about a mission statement, a last-minute mention on the website or even a Twitter post. Actions are required.
They want to know about current (and past) employee experience and the company culture. Gen Z want to feel their employer of choice is contributing to a bigger picture.
So, what is your Glassdoor rating like, how are the google reviews looking? These are the platforms talking to the world and explain what your organisation is really all about.
Your organisation needs to be portrayed as a well-rounded and socially conscious entity. I guess it is like dating! Your online profile is not telling the world you have a history of disastrous relationships, some weird social hang-ups and do nothing but watch TV at the weekend. It says you are exciting, attractive, warm and interesting with a love of dogs and the great outdoors….I think you get what I mean!
It can feel a tough ask to address something this big. But in a sense, it is about getting your house in order and communicating it to the best of your ability. Gen Z is highly unlikely to engage with you when they see negativity and a lack of care surrounding your brand.
3. Speed and Technology
Gen Z reports it is difficult to go for more than 4 hours without the internet. Social media and mobile devices is an ever present in the lives of Gen Z. They are true “digital natives”. Applying for a job should be as quick as ordering an Uber and it should be utilizing technology.
- 60% of Gen Z believe a job application should take less than 15 minutes.
- 54% won’t complete an application if the recruitment methods are outdated.
- 80% prefer scheduling an interview via text than email or phone.
Therefore, ditch the dated application forms. Think about introducing text and chat tools and on-demand video interviews. And guess what…those on-demand interviews are probably not going to be held at normal office hours.
Think speed and flexibility in your recruitment approach. When they are onboard…Gen Z expect technology to be an everyday part of the job.
In short, those with the greatest success in engaging with Gen Z will be the ones who have the greatest success mastering and creating digital experiences.
4. Face-to-Face Interaction and Personal Connections
Despite being so tech savvy, face-to-face interactions are a must for Gen Z. They prefer in person communication to any other digital platform. This is possibly a throwback to their education. Gen Z are far better learning in a classroom than in any other forum. They want frequent feedback and not an annual appraisal. They want detailed feedback from their line-managers and they want their managers to show empathy and understanding.
Interestingly; the feedback from managers is that instilling “professional norms” was the greatest challenge in managing Gen Z. While simultaneously 54% of Gen Z report difficulty transitioning from education to work. Therefore frequent, swift and informal catch-ups could be of benefit to all parties trying to bridge that gap.
- 70% of Gen Z say access to a workplace mentor was an important consideration when considering an employer.
5. Development and Career Progression
Gen Z want career progression. In fact, 61% see career progression as the most important factor when considering a job offer. I don’t see this as a unique trait…but the speed they expect to progress is! You see Gen Z believe they are incredibly hard working. They expect that effort to be rewarded with a transparent career path that they can climb. Oh…and they also expect it to be a joint endeavour. They’ll work hard, but expect employers to contribute to personal and skill development opportunities at a frequent rate.
An open and frank discussion about where Gen Z could be in 5 years would potentially be mind-blowing for all parties. You are thinking about some kind of gentle succession plan….they are think how they will change things when they are leading this enterprise…
Once we understand the economic and technological background that has shaped Gen Z – they are maybe not as complicated as first perceived. They have different values and expectations to preceding generations. But, maybe the complicated bit is blending Gen Z with the other generations already in the workplace!
Every generation has something of value to contribute. Understanding and bridge-building the differences can hopefully create a harmonious and productive workforce. That is surely the ultimate aim when generational thinking happens in the workforce.
As a whole, we should always be evolving and modifying the recruitment pathway to appeal to the latest talent. The challenge of recruiting and retaining Gen Z in a skills shortage will only bring about wholesale change for those who have neglected their recruitment process for too long. For others, it will just focus the mind and bring about some tweaks.
I’m off to text some candidates…
About The Author
Simon Royston is the founder and Managing Director of The Recruitment Lab (A recruitment agency with offices in Aldershot and Brighton that offers employment services across Berkshire, Hampshire, Surrey, Sussex and beyond). Simon lives in Guildford and has worked in Recruitment for over a decade. He has a degree and a masters in psychology as well as a diploma in Human Resource Management. If you would like to know more about anything written in this blog or would simply like to express your own thoughts and opinions do not hesitate to contact Simon through The Recruitment Lab website.