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Hiring Gen Z: Takeaways for Today’s Talent Wars

When it comes to hiring, there’s a lot of advice out there about how to attract the best young talent. Make sure they have access to technology, pair them with a workplace friend, offer flexibility – these solutions make sense on the surface, but they aren’t necessarily specific enough for employers to know which steps to take for their particular business.

‘Make sure they have access to technology’
Many will be quick to point out that Gen Z is the first generation of ‘true digital natives,’ that is, they grew up in a world where the internet and smart technologies were already ubiquitous. Unlike generations before them, Gen Z didn’t have to adapt to a new world of highly-interconnected online personas. Learning, communicating, and creating via social media is the norm for Gen Z, and so it would make sense that they would want to utilize those familiar resources in their work.

But employers would be wise to consider two things:
1. Gen Zers value the human element in a job, even more than flexibility, and
2. The culture of your organization will mean different technology solutions make more sense than others

Don’t assume that just because Gen Zers are digital natives that they inherently prefer text to face-to-face interactions. In our study of 4,093 members of Gen Z, respondents ranked ‘supportive leadership’ as the most important factor in a job, with ‘positive relationships with coworkers’ following close behind. Supportive leaders are highly-engaged leaders, and in our more than 20 years working with organizations of every size in every industry, we have found there is no better way to build highly-engaged leaders than to implement consistent, one-on-one, in-person meetings between managers and their direct reports.

While workplace chat services such as Slack allow remote teams to collaborate in real time, reducing the likelihood of confusing email chains or frequent phone interruptions, that doesn’t mean that these services are a good replacement for in-person meetings. No matter the immediacy of online communication, nothing beats being able to spell out expectations, discuss concerns, or get feedback in-person. And think about it: do you really want to encourage an “always on” culture in your organization, where employees feel tied to their devices, even when they aren’t in the office?

‘Pair them with a workplace friend’
Helping your employees find a “best friend” at work is based in good research, but is ultimately misguided advice. While it’s true that people who have a friend at work are more engaged, the majority of your employees likely have enough friends outside of work already – they’re not interested in you making more for them. What you can do is build a culture where collaboration, teamwork, and support is encouraged among employees and made possible by leaders and managers.

And the one type of work relationship your employees (especially your newest, least experienced employees) will genuinely appreciate is with a mentor. There are many types of mentor-mentee dynamics and it may take some experimenting to find the one that works best in your organization, whether employees are paired with more experienced colleagues or receive mentorship from their direct supervisor.

‘Offer flexibility’
Flexibility is the new buzzword when it comes to attraction and retention in today’s talent wars. But it isn’t always clear to employers what this really means. Should you offer remote work arrangements? Flexible schedules for each individual employee? Or simply better accommodation for one-time, special requests for time off?

The key here is to ask what your employees want and need from you. The flexibility offered at Google is likely not the same type of flexibility that can be offered to hospital nurses. It’s probably safe to assume that new young employees at least know enough about the type of work they’re pursuing to understand what is and isn’t reasonable to request. If it isn’t, then make that explicitly clear at every step of the hiring process, from job listings to the interview to the job offer itself.

But again, ask your employees, new and old, what they need from you. It may be that requesting time off is so frowned upon in your organization that your people are missing out on major life events, or unable to care for their families in times of need. This isn’t the type of employer anyone would want to work for.

If you do find that you’re able to provide remote work options or flexible schedules, don’t forget the importance and power of the human element. Make sure that those remote employees are connected with robust technology (an example of when technology access is truly important!) that doesn’t leave them feeling disengaged and unimportant. This may mean video conferencing or chat apps, or anything in-between, but I can’t stress enough how critical it is that you find the solution that truly makes sense for your employees in your organization.

That type of time, effort, and care won’t go unnoticed. Your reputation as an employer will spread, both internally and externally. And that may mean that hiring the best of Generation Z is a natural benefit of improving your workplace culture for everyone.


Want to learn more? Check out our white papers:
The Voice of Generation Z
Winning the Talent Wars