Recruiting & Managing Your Gen Z Talent

Generation Z has taken over as the largest living generation. This group, ages 13-24 today, is starting to enter the workforce, and as they do they will be shifting the dynamics forever.

Over 60 Million people in this generation are going to be actively looking for jobs within the next year alone. That means if you’re at a company that’s recruiting and managing young talent, you may need to shift your approach.  

So today’s blog is going to talk through the big shifts that have happened in this generation, and what YOU as a company need to do to make sure your recruiting and management strategies evolves with this changing workforce.

What’s their attitude like?

First, let’s talk about the attitude of a new Gen Z employee.

Unlike Millennials who were raised in a boom, Gen Z was raised in a time of war and recession. They have seen their parents lose jobs and take pay cuts and they are hungry for work. In addition, they’ve witnessed old siblings emerge from colleges buried in debt and don’t want this to be them.

Financial stability is key driver for Gen Z, and they are risk averse when it comes to money. While they see the value in traditional education through colleges and universities, they are skipping the Shakespeare classes and focusing on STEM courses that are going to land them high-paying positions.

They do expect to get paid a lot, but they’re willing to work for it. They are entrepreneurial, go-getters, and once they’ve decided they’re interested in something, they can hyper-focus and block out all distractions. Before they’re invested, they are quick to drop off though. When recruiting, make sure you have a seamless application experience that doesn’t require them to enter the same info again and again. Anything tech blip from an outdated recruiting system can make them drop off your site.


How will they interact with others?

Ok, here’s the tough one. Let’s talk social skills.

A lot of people wonder what this generation is going to be like when they have to interact with older co-workers and managers. These kids have had their noses in a phone their entire lives. And while this generation may be more “connected” than ever before, but they’re disconnected when it comes to other people.  

People need human connection—it’s the way we’re wired. This generation has been praised in many ways during their brief time on this earth, but they also share a less laudable distinction: they are the first generation to have a shorter life expectancy than their parents.  And much of this may be due to the fact that they are not able to form strong bonds with others.

It’s summer right now, and since they’re not in school, most teens spend more time alone with their phones than they do with actual people. Between 2000 and 2015, the number of teens who get together with friends on a daily basis dropped by 40%. High school seniors in 2015 went out less than 8th graders in 2009.

If you’re like me, you likely remember being so excited to get your license at 16 because it meant you could be independent of your parents and drive your friends around! Driving, once a symbol of adolescent freedom, is no longer a big deal. More than 1 in 4 teens today still lack their driver’s license by the time they finish high school.

Dating has dropped significantly too. Even the vocabulary around dating has shifted. You’re no longer “dating”, you’re just “talking.” They find out if someone likes them based on engagement rates on Instagram.

This generation is nearly twice as likely to report their mental health as “fair” or “poor”. They often feel detached, alone, and misunderstood. There have been a number of studies on loneliness. One found that loneliness has the same impact on mortality as smoking 15 cigarettes a day, making it even more dangerous than obesity.

Many companies are struggling to integrate this new generation into the rest of the workforce because of social skills alone. In fact, many are investing in basic training on how to play nice with others, and what’s expected in terms of behavior in a corporate environment.

While this approach can’t hurt, it’s certainly not the most effective way to integrate these new employees. No PowerPoint is going to teach them how to understand facial expressions and read between the lines.  

Instead, spend your budget on in-person socials. Gen Z is seeking deeper connections all around, and one of the biggest draws of your brand is going to be your people. One-third of new hires can be found looking a new position within 6 months—mostly because they don’t feel like they fit in. So during recruitment, make sure they are meeting their team and getting to know them. Once hired, make sure they are spending authentic, quality time with the people they work with, both on the job and socially outside of work. A weekly happy hour goes a long way to making this happen.

Above all, let’s stop making fun of them. We’ve tired out the old refrain about how Millennials are so entitled and in need of positive affirmation, and how Gen Z can’t make friends with anyone but a phone. So let’s stop all that and start creating an inclusive culture. This is what’s going to appeal to Gen Z, and this is where your company needs to be if you want to attract and retain the best young talent out there.

Wait, you mean there’s a magic formula?

Let’s start with this…

Be authentic. Highlight your people. Meet in person.

Yes, you can focus on a seamless recruiting software, or a fancy onboarding and social skills training. But no matter what else you do, this simple yet incredibly effective formula will help you engage, connect, attract, and retain the youth audience in your organization.

Sarah Weise