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A Guide to Gen Z in the Workplace, Part 1: Recruitment

As different generations in the workplace bring with them a diverse set of ideas, preferences and work styles, employers are turning to data to understand their workforces. For example, baby boomers are known for their idealism, Gen Xers for their competitiveness, millennials for their globalism.

Next up: Generation Z. What will the world say about them?

Born between 1995 and 2010 and having grown up immersed in technology, Gen Zers have been called “communaholics” and “digital natives.” For the most part, they’re the offspring of parents who lived in an era of big hair and 80s rock bands. And by now, with the eldest among them in their early 20s, they’re starting to enter the workforce.

But though Gen Zers are closer in age to millennials, they certainly aren’t the same. Research shows they have different belief systems, preferences and habits than their immediate predecessors — which means employers may need to adjust how they interact with them.

And that starts with recruitment.

What Gen Z Job Candidates Want

The tactics used to recruit millennial workers — collaborative teams, creative perks and high-tech office spaces — may not be as effective for candidates from Generation Z.

Instead, experts suggest a more refined and pragmatic approach to wooing younger workers. Gen Zers knows what they want, and some of the things that motivate them might not be what you’d expect:

1. Stability

Rather than hopping from gig to gig, as millennials tend to do, Gen Z workers are more likely to want workplace stability. That’s not to say they don’t want fulfillment and purpose, too — but because of the financial realities from their childhood (the Great Recession in particular), they’re perhaps a little more interested in a steady, sustainable paycheck.

As a result, jobs that largely pique their interest are stable ones: The top three job listings from an survey of Gen Z job seekers were all in growing STEM fields. To capitalize on those needs, focus on the brass tacks of the opportunity — money, raises, promotions and health benefits — rather than company yoga classes or pawternity leave.

2. Entrepreneurial Training

At some point, though, Gen Zers are willing to trade stability for self-employment and entrepreneurship — and employers who equip them to do so are more likely to win their W2s in the meantime.

Instead of meeting such goals with resistance, welcome (and even actively recruit) future business owners through specialty training programs that nurture their entrepreneurial spirit. After all, those interests may serve you well when an adept business mind brings its fresh perspectives and ideas to your business’s problems.

3. Face-to-Face Communication

Believe it or not, Gen Zers don’t necessarily prefer instant messaging. The folks who grew up with Snapchat and FaceTime want something a little more traditional: face-to-face conversations.

Maybe it’s because they matured in an always-on world of virtual tech, and in-person connections give them a welcome break. Or maybe it’s that they’ve seen how social media can bring out the worst in people at school, and they want no part of that at work.

Whatever the reason, it’s a valuable insight. Consider dialing back mentions of Slack or teleconferencing and emphasize how the team connects in more meaningful ways.

4. Autonomy

Of course, just because Gen Z workers want more in-person interactions doesn’t mean they want more teamwork. Whereas millennials thrive on collaboration, Gen Zers prefer to work solo. The top listings in Indeed’s survey were jobs generally performed individually.

As a result, recruiters who highlight opportunities for independence and autonomy at work may have more success than those who play up the collaborative workspace ethos meant for millennials. Give Gen Z employees the space and latitude to do their work on their terms; it will yield better outcomes for everyone.

Recruit People, Not Stereotypes

These data-derived labels may be helpful when targeting different generations in the workplace, but they’re still just that: labels. Many of them are sweeping generalizations that may — or may not — be true individually. You’re recruiting for unique talent, so don’t rush to put candidates in a cookie-cutter box.

Not every Gen Zer will prioritize stability or want an independent work style, nor does every millennial demand a collaborative workspace and free on-site massages. Invest time and effort into finding the right people for the job and the culture, and it’ll pay dividends once they’re actually on your payroll.

For more on how to adapt to a changing business landscape, read the next two installments of this series about communicating with Gen Z workers and finding the right balance of health benefits for Generation Z.