Recruiting Gen Z

When a new generation enters the workplace, it can be the source of worry and skepticism, so it’s not surprising there is some watercooler discussion about the latest cohort on the cusp of earning a livelihood – Generation Z.

Already, in one recent poll, 36% of managers thought Gen Z would be harder to manage, and 20% of millennial managers polled thought Gen Z would have a detrimental effect on corporate culture, while another says they will be welcomed.

Born between 1993 and 2001 Generation Z totals 7.5 million Canadians, and will make up 20% of the workforce by 2020. They are beginning to seek entry-level jobs, so we need to start preparing for their arrival. What should employers be focused on from a recruitment and HR perspective with this group, and how are they different from or similar to the millennials?

Experts point to a few formative factors with Gen Z, and the first is that they are the first generation to have grown up with a smartphone (more on how this impacts them below.) The next is that they grew up or came of age after the 2008 recession, and finally, they are graduating at a time of great change and uncertainty, with increasing automation set to disrupt many industries.

In the past, entry-level jobs were basic, repetitive and usually didn’t require high-level skills. All that has changed, with many organizations requiring new employees to perform complex research, often involving data and technologies.

The good news about being digital natives is that this generation brings an unprecedented level of innate technological ability to the table; but it may also introduce some interesting challenges when it comes to working with and recruiting them.

For all their technological mastery, according to a survey and study by Deloitte, Gen Z members express apprehension about their interpersonal and soft skills. Experts say that technology may have even hampered some cognitive skills such as problem-solving, critical thinking, curiousity, and ability to communicate. We all know how misunderstood digital conversations can be, so professional communication may not be the strong suit of Gen Z, at least initially.

Other cohort characteristics include a strong entrepreneurial spirit and bottom-line focus to work. In fact, according to a study by Robert Half, their top priorities when it comes to jobs are opportunities for growth, generous pay, making a positive impact, job security, healthcare benefits, and flexible hours.

Gen Z differs from millennials in this more pragmatic approach to employment – it’s not that they don’t want to “make a difference,” but they are realists, not idealists. They’d be happy to climb the corporate ladder in one company, as long as they can do it at a pace that’s fast enough for their impatient personality.

Another notable difference is that Gen Z is less collaborative, more independent, and more competitive than millennials, so they are less likely to embrace all that open space in your office. The fact that they are also more private than millennials will also likely play into their work-space preferences, though both generations value flexible work arrangements.

Recruiting and Retaining Gen Z

Not surprisingly, Gen Z are sophisticated when it comes to digital networking and self-marketing, monitoring mobile apps, online job boards and career blogs. Larger companies like Goldman Sachs and McDonald’s are using Snapchat as part of their recruiting strategy. Gen Z also embraces visual platforms, so don’t overlook Youtube as a potential recruiting tool.

The real point here is that Canadian recruiters and HR professionals must adapt quickly to new and changing trends and since research shows that Gen Z has an even shorter attention span than millennials – at just eight seconds – you’ll need to grab them quickly. Those long, wordy job postings may be a thing of the past soon. Employers should also consider streamlining the onboarding process and ensuring the tracking system fits with their mobile lifestyle.

Interestingly, although social media dominates their communication, when it comes to interviewing, mentorship and training, Gen Z prefers face-to-face interaction.

By offering this generation a strong sense of purpose, the opportunity to learn and transparent, fair opportunities for advancement, you will have a good chance of taking advantage of the unique skills and ambition that they bring to the table.