Gen Z VS Millennials & How to Recruit Them

Every generation relates to their work differently. In some cases, young employees new to the workforce must adapt to longstanding workplace practices, while in others they can become the catalyst for organizational change. Currently, companies are in the midst of negotiating this push-and-pull dynamic with millennials, appealing to their specific wants and needs—like soft benefits and a more inclusive workplace — to attract the most qualified among them. But as the millennial generation begin to make up the majority of the workforce, it’s Generation Z that will soon be the new catalyst as companies incorporate new recruiting strategies to attract these emergent cohorts.

Before we go any further, we should probably make the technical distinction between millennials and Gen Zer’s (that is to say, a member of Generation Z).

Millennials were born roughly between 1980 and 1995. Generally speaking, they’re looking for personal fulfillment in their job, not just a paycheck, and thus tend to bounce around between jobs pretty frequently compared to their predecessors. Millennials are also known for being strong proponents of corporate social responsibility and have a deep desire to work for companies that have a positive effect on society.

Generation Z on the other hand was born between 1996 and 2015 and has just begun to enter the workforce. They still prioritize things like corporate social responsibility, but seem to be more financially motivated than millennials, seeking opportunities for growth and long-term security. Older generations have a tend to lump all Gen Z into the same pot with millennials but understanding where they differ is key to connecting with and recruiting both demographics.

The Similarities: Technology

Perhaps the obvious similarity between the two groups is their digital savviness. Like millennials, Gen Zer’s are digital natives, if not more so because most of them don’t remember a time prior to high speed internet— not to make you feel old or anything.

Staffing firms should make a concentrated effort to meet Gen Z where they are and use the latest recruiting strategies and approaches if they want to connect with them. 55% of Gen Zer’s will not pursue or even apply for a job if they perceive the recruiting methods to be outdated, compared to 51% of millennials. These numbers will only continue to go up over the next few years, so making sure young potential candidates can apply for a position quickly via mobile, as well as having a modernized website are critical. Additionally, it can’t hurt to have a few younger internal recruiters on staff. While it’s true the younger generations value mentorship, they also appreciate somebody who they feel can speak their language.

A Pathway for Career Development

Long term career development is incredibly important for Generation Z. In fact, a recent survey found that opportunities for growth ranked as the number 1 priority when considering job offers for nearly 65% of Gen Zer’s. This means recruiters can’t approach these potential candidates as a means to just fill their latest req, especially when it comes to highly skilled workers. Like millennials before them, Gen Zer’s don’t want to be just another cog in a machine; they want value from work, and the ability to move up within a company. Recruiters and hiring managers need to consider things like cultural fits and be upfront about the long-term opportunities within their organization.

However, if you are a recruiter just looking to fill a contract, you need to make a concerted effort to build a rapport with your younger candidates. This is where strategies for recruiting passive candidates come into play: You can’t just show up when you have an open req, you have to build trust that lets your candidates know that you’ll help them get the job tomorrow and will maintain that relationship throughout their career.

Corporate Social Responsibility

As we mentioned above, both Generation Z and millennials highly value corporate social responsibility. In fact, 3 out 4 millennials say that they would take a pay cut to work for a company that is more in line with their social values. Generation Z will likely continue to push companies in a more progressive, socially responsible direction, but the jury is still out as to whether they’ll be as drastic as millennials. Gen Zer’s came of age during the recession of 2008, and there’s evidence to support the idea that they may be more sensitive to financial insecurity than their immediate predecessors.

Regardless, organizations should start making efforts now to be more socially conscious if they want to attract young talent. This doesn’t mean your company has to go out and save the world. You can start small by trending toward a more “green” workplace, or making a push to hire a more diverse workforce. Gen Z is the most racially and ethnically diverse of any generation, and they like to see that reflected in their workplaces.

The Differences: Education & Training Opportunities

The issue of student debt has affected nearly every aspect of our economy, but the brunt of it is felt by millennials. The average student today graduates with around $30,000 in debt, while roughly a third of loan borrowers who graduated between 2006 – 2011 (primarily millennials) have defaulted on their loans.

Not wanting to meet the same fate as the preceding generation, Gen Z is looking for different ways to acquire the education and training they need to enter the workforce outside of the traditional 4-year college experience.

This isn’t to say Generation Z is forgoing higher education altogether.

In fact, they’re extremely educated; they’re just a bit more savvy (and cautious) about it, with nearly 90% of Gen Zer’s saying they’ll pursue grants & scholarships to pay for a higher education. This dynamic provides an opening for businesses of all stripes. If you want to get your foot in the door with this generation of workers, you need to prioritize benefits like tuition assistance and financial aid for boot camps and certifications. And while this may seem like a risky investment, it will ultimately pay off in the long run if implemented correctly. A 2019 report concluded that 64% of HR leaders believe there is a skills gap in the technology field, a 12% increase from the previous year. One of the ways to mitigate this growing talent shortage is for organizations to offer retraining and educational opportunities for a new generation.

While that may sound bleak, it is potentially a win/win scenario: Skeptical of traditional, 4-year bachelor’s degree, Gen Z is looking for alternative ways to learn the skills they need to participate in the workforce. Organizations need these workers if they want to remain competitive, so they’ll have to cough up some resources to ensure their employees get the training they need.

In Conclusion…

There’s significant overlap between these two groups, but there are also key differences that organizations need to consider if they want to connect with them in a meaningful way, particularly with the entry of Gen Z into the workforce. Of course, your company needs to implement a baseline of to up-to-date recruiting methods, like having a modernized website & a stress-free application process, that goes without saying. But on a more nuanced level, recruiters need to be aware that not all young employees are the same (and in some cases may even outright defy trends!). Building a genuine rapport, flexibility, and the willingness make concessions if need be, are all crucial to attracting the next generation of workers to your organization.


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