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How to Compete for the Next Generation Workforce

While recruiting Millennials is still a warm topic in human resources, the first wave of the next generation is beginning to enter the workforce. Most millennials are now in their late 20s and 30s, and many are well past junior level roles. The Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) predicts that “millennial” has passed as the workplace buzzword, and instead employers will turn their attention to the recent college graduates of Generation Z.

Born beginning in 1995, Generation Z is on the cusp of entering the workforce and research has shown that they differ in surprising ways from their Millennial predecessors. Understanding this group’s attitudes toward work and life is a must for companies preparing to recruit the next generation. This group makes up the largest segment of the U.S. population (26 percent), and is characterized as being the most diverse U.S. generation in history, having the shortest attention span (8 seconds) and being the world’s first true digital natives.

Many of this generation would consider joining the workforce right out of high school, according to new research from Universum, which surveyed approximately 50,000 respondents across 46 countries born between 1996 and 2000. While only 15 percent said that they would welcome the idea outright, another 47 percent said they would consider it and 60 percent said they would be open to employers offering education in their field in lieu of a college degree.

When adapting your employer brand for recruiting to Gen Z, these are the top factors to consider:

Entrepreneurship. While college was a definitive destination for Gen X and Millennials, Gen Z grew up with parents likely to still be paying off their student loans when it comes time for them to consider college, in a national recession, and in an economic climate where entrepreneurship isn’t just lauded, but necessary. Employers must be able to capitalize on Gen Z’s desire to take their success into their own hands by offering competitive work environments and demonstrate how the individual roles filled by Gen Z contribute to the company’s overall success. Creating a culture of learning and development is something that we’ve talked about for Millennials, but it also applies to Gen Z. They don’t just want to know what you can do for them today, but what the company they choose to work for plans to invest in furthering their skills and career.

Visuals and social appeal. While Millennials are the “always on” generation, Gen Z is the first true generation of digital natives. They likely had Instagram and Snapchat accounts before they were teens, are not fans of Facebook, and are less likely to respond to recruiter interaction on social channels. However, they are a generation that is accustomed to being marketed to and are highly visual, so don’t throw your social strategy out with the bathwater. Consider adding more visual alternatives to traditional job ads, like YouTube videos, active Snapchat accounts, and Instagram stories that first give Gen Z a look into what it’s like to work for your company, then sell the specific position based on its contribution to your industry. Text messaging, whether through Whatsapp or other text-based programs, should be an integral part of your recruiting outreach strategy. Gen Z is more inclined to respond to SMS than a phone message.

Meaningful work. Additionally, in a near-zero unemployment economy, Gen Z has more options than previous generations. They’re less concerned about stability and more focused on opportunities for innovation, flexibility, and a meaningful impact on the world. They respect transparency, and want to work for companies that place a priority on making a positive impact on society. Other goals include autonomy, leadership opportunities, dedication to a cause and the chance to be creative. Focus on helping Gen Z align their personal drive, technology talents, brand awareness and desire for a purpose to the mission of the company, profitability, and operations.

Gen Z in Restaurant & Retail Roles

Two industries are recruiting Gen Z more than others: Retail and restaurants. These industries are evolving quickly and must adapt just as quickly in order to engage a generation that checks their smartphones the minute they wake up. Retail and restaurant employers must consider adopting digital channels for communication, task and performance management. Scheduling is at the heart of both retail and restaurant positions, and in order to fill open positions and reduce turnover, flexibility is key. If there isn’t a digital solution in place, your Gen Z employees will quickly move on.

Additionally, appealing to Gen Z’s expectation of individual support and recognition via employee engagement programs, restaurant and retail managers can reward employee efforts and successes through badges, points and direct feedback. Recognition for a job well done encourages future performance and provides a valuable source of intrinsic motivation for hourly employees.

The bottom line: When in doubt, go digital. The Gen Z workforce won’t wait for a phone call and they want to be able to access information 24/7. Your brand and culture must be able to support this “always on” mentality for recruiting Gen Z, before they move on to the next thing.