Recruiting Gen. Z, a Pragmatic, Dynamic, and Digital-First Generation

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Born between 1997 and 2001, the oldest members of Generation Z are now starting to enter the job market. The largest-ever generation in the US, Gen. Z constitutes roughly 5 percent of the nation’s workforce,  and that number will rapidly rise in the coming years.

While there are many similarities between Gen. Z-ers and their predecessors, there are also key differences recruiters and employers must be aware of as they begin hiring and managing this latest wave of workers:

The Realistic Generation

While millennials grew up largely during an economic surge, many Gen. Z-ers have vivid memories of watching their parents struggle to stay afloat during the Great Recession and its slow recovery. Such a formative experience may help explain why, in contrast to millennial optimism, Gen. Z-ers tend to take a far more pragmatic view of the economy and their place within it.

Gen. Z is ready for the changing nature of modern work. Nearly half  of Gen. Z-ers working today are freelancers, which suggests the flexible gig economy — and the technology enabling it — feels natural and normal to these workers.

Think Digital First

Gen. Z is the first generation of true digital natives and the first set of job seekers to have grown up fully immersed in the world of smartphones, mainstream artificial intelligence (AI) applications, virtual assistants, and bots. Much of their downtime is spent on social media, streaming videos, and online gaming.

recruitment process targeted toward this generation needs to take into account Gen. Z’s preferences for constant connection, mobile tech, social media, and remote work. Because so much of their world is instant, digital, and seamless, Gen. Z-ers expect the exact same experience when it comes to job searches and the hiring process. Here are some suggestions for creating a recruiting process that meets — and exceeds — Gen. Z’s technologically enhanced expectations:

  1. Ensure your careers page is mobile-friendly and make your content pop for young people with short attention spans. Quick, fun recruitment videos that offer Gen. Z job seekers a glimpse into your lively work culture can go a long way.
  2. Establish a presence on Instagram and Snapchat; Gen. Z-ers are more likely to be found on these social media platforms than on LinkedIn or Facebook.
  3. Gen. Z-ers prioritize speed and convenience in their online activities. Consider employing AI-empowered recruitment tools to enable more effective and authentic communications with Gen. Z candidates. All communication — including the presentation of a job offer — needs to happen at digital speed.
  4. As with candidates of any age, Gen. Z-ers will look to learn more about your company by turning to online resources. Be sure to actively manage your brand on sites that are popular with Generation Z. Review and respond to requests for information in a timely manner. Remember: Gen. Z expects things to happen fast, and they want to get instant feedback.
  5. As a means of enticing more Gen. Z job candidates, offer perks and benefits that align with their interests and habits. For example, alternative payment methods — like pay cards that allow employees to transfer money to others instantly and monitor account balances through their phones — might speak to the lifestyle of the average Gen. Z-er.
For more expert recruiting insights, check out the latest issue of Magazine:

Offer Work Fluidity and Strong Team Structure

With so many choosing to become freelancers in the growing gig economy, Gen. Z clearly views employment differently from prior generations. Job fluidity is vital to these emerging workers, even in the context of the traditional workplace: According to one survey, 75 percent of Gen. Z-ers are interested in working in a variety of different roles within a company.

This desire for fluidity must be balanced with a holistic approach to team management and employee development, two things Gen. Z-ers value greatly. Tips for managers of Gen. Z workers include:

  1. Make your teams more dynamic by offering career mosaics with lateral and vertical movement. Mentorship and shadowing programs can also have a powerful impact on Gen. Z workers.
  2. Offer innovative on-demand learning and development opportunities. Provide training in small, digestible units and activities delivered in a convenient and accessible manner.
  3. Enable remote work and supply the tools and tech Gen. Z workers need to support their autonomy.

Effectively Recruiting a New Generation

Today’s is a tight labor market characterized by historically low unemployment levels. To attract and retain Gen. Z talent under these conditions, organizations must approach the recruiting process on Gen. Z’s terms.

As companies set their sights on the newest and youngest crop of hopefuls arriving on the job market, they’ll need to ensure they are not just attracting this talent, but also giving Gen. Z-ers a reason to stay. To build workplace environments that give these up-and-coming workers what they want, organizations need the capability to measure and understand how key factors are impacting employee engagement, performance, and voluntary turnover. This will allow business leaders to identify any changes that need to be made to bring Gen. Z-ers through the door and keep them around for the long haul.

Dr. Susan Hanold is a vice president in ADP’s Strategic Advisory Services group.

By Susan Hanold