Generation Z: Understanding your Youngest Hires

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1Rivet Managing Partner and VP of Business Development

As the father of a 2-year-old, I was slightly freaked out to read that my child belongs to a cohort called Generation Z that includes kids old enough to be entering the workplace. But, knowing how Gen Z’s differ from millennials can help us understand not only our own kids but the kids we’ll recruit and hire in the next decade.

Gen Z’s were born starting in the mid-90s, so the oldest are graduating from college this spring. Only about a third of young people earn a four-year degree these days, so chances are you’re already recruiting Gen Z’s, especially if your workforce includes employees with high school degrees.

Here’s a quick look at what makes Gen Z different from prior generations. You can exploit these differences to recruit and retain employees in your organization. FYI, my observations are based on two sources worth checking out if you want to read more about Gen Z:

  • The book Gen Z @ Work, which father-and-Gen Z-son duo David Stillman and Jonah Stillman wrote after surveying 6,000 Gen Z’s and talking to CEOs and academic experts.
  • Universum’s New Generations series, which surveyed 18,000 students and professionals from 19 countries.

Who is Generation Z?

Generation Z came of age during the Great Recession and grew up in a post-9/11 world. Lucie Greene from the Innovation Group at J. Walter Thompson calls them “millennials on steroids,” and says Alex Dunphy from “Modern Family” is a typical Gen Z.

They differ from millennials in key ways:

  1. They’re more likely to use Snapchat and YouTube than Facebook or email. This could eventually be an issue if you’re recruiting primarily via Facebook and contacting job seekers via email alone.
  2. Despite their obsession with social media, they like talking to people face-to-face. That comes as a relief to Gen Xers (like me) who appreciate personal interaction.
  3. They’re the most competitive generation since the baby boomers (no participation trophies here!). Don’t expect them to write posts revealing how great it is to work for you — they don’t want friends competing against them for promotions.

What Can I Do to Recruit Gen Z?

As I was reading about Gen Z, I discovered three interesting statistics. Apply them together to get the inside track on recruiting this cohort.

  1. 60% of high schoolers would be willing to go straight into the workforce if their employer offered to educate them, according to the Universum data.
  2. 75% of Gen Z would be interested in multiple roles within one place of employment, according to the Stillman data.
  3. 55% of high school students feel pressured by parents to gain early professional experience, according to the Stillman data.

You can leverage all three stats in two ways:

  • Tailor job postings to Gen Z concerns.
  • Create a high school internship program to get a step ahead of competitors.

How to Write Job Posts for Generation Z

Many high schools now offer independent study, intern-mentor programs or early dismissal for students who work. If you set up a program where high seniors work part time for your organization, you’ll have a recruiting head start on your competitors.

An internship program that includes career path education would also address some of the additional worries high schoolers cited in the Universum survey:

  1. 37% were concerned their personalities wouldn’t match their job.
  2. 36% feared not getting career development.
  3. 28% worried about not reaching career goals.
  4. 41% of girls worried their gender would limit their career chances.

The Catch With Generation Z

Like all great ideas, my ideas for recruiting Gen Z come with a catch. When asked what the most important factor was in choosing a job, Gen Z had a one-word answer: salary.

That’s not surprising given that Gen Z grew up during the recession in households headed by skeptical Gen X parents. (Although it might make you long for those millennials who placed the highest priority on meaningful work.)

The most successful Gen Z internship programs will include pay, even if it’s just minimum wage. If an internship program feeds your recruiting pipeline, you might save money in the long run, especially if you’re recruiting high schoolers who haven’t experienced competitive pay or many internships yet.

The good news is Gen Z’s willingness to work sooner rather than later. You’ll have a more flexible timeline to develop budgets and programs that incorporate this new cohort, without tailoring your recruitment to a specific university-aged group.

Now that you know what’s on the horizon with Gen Z’s coming into your company, plan accordingly.

For help targeting your recruiting to Gen Z or any other generation, contact me at