It’s Time to Start Recruiting, and Managing, Generation Z

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Jan 26, 2016

The Millennials are so yesterday.

Now it’s time to start thinking about recruiting Generation Z — defined as those born between the mid 1990s and 2010 and now representing over a quarter of the U.S. population. (What comes next? Generation “AA”?)

Call them the mature Millennials. They grew up in a world defined by 9/11 and the Great Recession.

More like their great-grandparents

Millennials grew up expecting great prosperity and boundless opportunities, but Gen Z has grown up in a time of greatly diminished expectations and insecurity — 1 in 4 lives in poverty. A majority of their parents believe that they will be financially worse off when they grow up.

They have rarely known a week without terrorism being in the news or the Pentagon releasing names of soldiers killed overseas. No wonder that the The Hunger Games is so popular with them.

In many ways, Gen Z is more like their great-grandparents than any others. The “Greatest Generation” grew up having known the Great Depression and global conflict. They were frugal and savers, with strong morals and a desire to build their country.

Unlike Millennials, who are typically disparaged as narcissistic brats and an entitled lot, Gen Z members are described as “conscientious, hard-working, somewhat anxious and mindful of the future.” They are eager to start working early — more than half report that feeling pressured to get a job while in high school. And they are more interested in giving back — 26 percent volunteer in some capacity. Social entrepreneurship is a desired career.

Connecting with mature Millennials

Many in Gen Z are still in high school, but they are starting to enter the workforce. It’s not too early to start thinking about how to recruit them.

Current approaches will need to be adapted. The ad and marketing firm Sparks & Honey has a fascinating report on Gen Z characteristics that has some very useful information for recruiters.

  • Working in the Age of Uber — Appealing to Gen Z starts with redefining the job, and 72 percent of Gen Z want to start a business rather than be an employee. Entrepreneurship is in their DNA. The fact that most businesses fail may eventually bring them back to accepting the value of being an employee, but in the age of Uber the traditional definition of an employee may not have much meaning for long. The need here is for flexibility — whether it means allowing for job sharing or setting their own hours.
  • The true Digital Nativs — Most Gen Z members have never known a time before smartphones or social networks. But the social networks of choice are Instagram, Snapchat, and Whisper — not Facebook. That is, sites where one needs to use a few words and a big picture. The popularity of these sites with Gen Z members also results from their desire not to be tracked and to limit what they post. They’ve seen the foolishness displayed by their predecessors who seem to have no boundaries for what they share.
  • Live streaming —  Sites like Twitch and Ustream are very popular with Gen Z. Live streaming, including through Skype, is the preferred means of communication. Meerkat — the streaming app from Twitter — is catching on as well. The popularity of these mechanisms stems from the desire for having deeper and more meaningful connections among members of Gen Z.

Recruiting Gen Z

Any strategy for recruiting Gen Z should incorporate the following:

  • Start with a message that talks about value and meaning. Why is this job important? What will it help accomplish? Remember, they don’t just want a job — they really want to make a difference.
  • Include a social cause that you support (assuming you do).
  • Tap their entrepreneurial spirit — even in entry-level jobs offer opportunities for listening to their ideas.
  • Keep your messages short — use emojis and pictures.
  • Spread your recruiting messages across multiple screens — Youtube, Snapchat, Tumblr. They’re used to working with all of them at the same time.
  • Offer live streaming. If you can’t make the time to connect with them through live streaming, then give them live streaming access.
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