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Gen Z Makes Its Labor Force Debut – Is Your Company Ready?

Many organizations are still getting acclimated to the changes millennials brought to the workplace. Now, members of Gen Z are on their way. Born between 1995 and 2015, the first wave is graduating from high school or college and ready to make career decisions. ough members of Gen Z share many of the defining characteristics of millennials before them, such as a lifetime of access to internet and mobile technology, they sharply contrast with their predecessors in several key areas. A solid understanding of these di erences— and how they impact Gen Z’s expectations of prospective employers—is critical to your recruiting strategy.

Stepping Away from Traditional Learning

The staggering burden of student debt that defines Gen X and millennial lifestyles has made an impression on Gen Z. These students are weighing their next steps carefully, examining the pros and cons of going on to college. On the pro-college side, some students want a traditional college experience, complete with keg parties, fraternities, and all-night study sessions. Others believe they will have the best opportunity to learn the technical skills they need to pursue their preferred careers if they learn in a guided classroom settings.

However, many Gen Z high school graduates are opting out of traditional higher education in favor of alternative learning opportunities because the prospect of leaving college with overwhelming debt
is simply not appealing. A lifetime of instant access to unlimited information has given them confidence that they can get a solid education outside of the traditional college setting. For example, some are choosing to take targeted courses and tutorials offered through Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) systems, which feature free instruction from professors at the best universities in the world.

The impact to recruiting is significant on several levels. One of the most pressing is the additional care that must be taken with initial applicant screening processes. Securing top talent is more complex than checking resumes for college graduation information. Some of the most skilled Gen Z workers are self- taught, having spent years independently pursuing passion projects. Job descriptions, applications, and selection criteria must be re-defined to take this change into consideration. Otherwise, you risk losing high-quality candidates to your competitors.

Benefit plans must be reconsidered as well. Some of the programs employers consider integral to base compensation packages are less important to Gen Z than they were to previous generations. Instead, Gen Z workers who have elected to enter the labor force right after high school are particularly interested in employer-sponsored education programs, and their acceptance of job o ers is contingent upon the organization offering better-than-average tuition assistance benefits.

Greater Entrepreneurial Spirit

Millennials are certainly known for job-hopping, but when it comes to striking out on their own, they don’t tend to be risk-takers—perhaps because of their student loan obligations. While they are an innovative bunch, they tend to pursue their passions from within established organizations. is has resulted in changes to when and where work gets done because millennials have insisted on expanded remote work capabilities and better work/life blend.

Gen Z, on the other hand, doesn’t seem to have the same craving for a stable job if there is an opportunity to be self-employed. As a group, members of Gen Z indicate stronger interest in starting their own businesses and pursuing freelance and contract work. is bodes well for the “gig economy” because millennials are likely to embrace self-directed work, like driving for Uber or hosting an Airbnb. However, recruiters have good reason to be concerned about building a pipeline of qualified talent.

Expansion of the policies and practices that were rolled out to appeal to millennials is a good first step when it comes to bringing Gen Z workers on board. ese individuals will be even less inclined to sit in a cube from 9:00 a.m.-5:00 p.m. Instead, explore virtual and remote work options, flexible scheduling, and use of advanced technology that supports collaboration and teamwork. Bear in mind that the most sought-a er employers among Gen Z applicants include those that offer some form of personal time for independent pursuits. Examples include Google and AT&T, which both encourage employees in certain positions to spend 20 percent of their time on passion projects.

Changing Communication Styles

Avoiding in-person meetings is almost a requirement for millennials, who have indicated an extreme preference for text and instant messaging. However, with Gen Z, the pendulum appears to be swinging back to middle ground. While these individuals have used smartphones since the day they were born, they typically choose texting for quick communication and face-to-face for longer conversations.

For recruiters, this means finding the right blend between frequent connections and in-person encounters. Research shows that 65 percent of these workers are open to online communication with employers, so setting up meetings through messaging apps is one, but Gen Z candidates are likely to want traditional interviews rather than online chats when it comes to more in-depth discussions about the position. Though millennials make up the largest working generation, there simply aren’t enough to fill all of the openings left by retiring baby boomers. Recruiters must tap into Gen Z to keep production on track. is requires rethinking the recruiting strategies that were developed with millennials in mind because Gen Z brings a whole new set of priorities to the table.