How to Appeal to Generation Z Candidates

May 17, 2019

Contributor: RJ Cheremond

A new crop of Gen Z candidates diplomas in hand are now entering the workforce, and they are prioritizing flexibility and development opportunities.

Generation Z candidates (those born from the mid-1990s to the early 2000s), like their millennial predecessors, grew up in an age dominated by knowledge work rather than industrial work. These digital natives have lived their entire lives surrounded by technology that makes life easier, or at least faster. If you want to appeal to an ambitious digitally dexterous Gen Z candidate, you’ll need to offer flexibility and development opportunities.

“ In 2018, 40% of Gen Z candidates reported regretting taking their job”

“Employers who want to capitalize on the influx of Gen Z candidates into the labor market must consider how best to appeal to these individuals and reduce any desire they may have to seek alternative career opportunities,” says Lauren Smith, VP and Team Manager at Gartner.

In fact, this group has a good idea of what they want for their work environment: 37% of Gen Z candidates agree or strongly agree that when applying for a job, they already know what they need an offer to include to consider accepting it.

Unfortunately, a growing number of candidates regret their career decisions. In 2018, 40% of Gen Z candidates reported that they would not repeat their decision to accept the job offer they had accepted, and only 51% said they could see themselves having a long career at their organization. Candidate regret leads to turnover, low engagement and low productivity — more than one-third of candidates who regret their decision intend to leave their position within 12 months.

Read more: Make Sure New Hires Don't Regret Taking Your Job Offer

To successfully attract and retain Gen Z talent, HR leaders should focus on three key pillars.  

Offer workplace flexibility

“As the quality of technology and tools to get work done has improved, Gen Z candidates now expect employers to guarantee flexibility and skill development opportunities in the offer package — not just compensation,” says Alexia Cambon, Senior Principal at Gartner. “In addition to the ability to work from any location, these workers believe work should accommodate play, and play should be incorporated with work.”

“ We are seeing an increased focus on work-life integration and the ability to pursue interests”

These candidates are entirely comfortable with technology and less likely to draw boundaries between work and life, so flexibility in the working environment is a must. Besides producing great work, Gen Z wants to make sure that the years invested in their jobs are pushing them forward on their journey of self-development. Creating such advantages will help reduce turnover, boost revenue, and attract and keep Gen Z candidates in seat.

“With this latest crop of workforce entrants, we are seeing an increased focus on work-life integration and the ability to pursue interests simultaneously both in and out of the workplace,” says Smith.

Provide robust development opportunities

In 2018, 23% of Gen Z candidates listed development opportunities as a top attraction driver, compared to only 17% of their millennial predecessors in 2013. Gen Z candidates understand that innovation and change are a constant. To ensure they stay relevant as technology and business processes advance, this demographic seeks out opportunities to constantly grow and advance their skill sets, utilizing everything from training programs and boot camps to continuing education and mentor programs.

In an effort to appeal to Gen Z, leading organizations offer numerous development opportunities for graduates that continue throughout the career life span, and market these heavily when advertising to graduate candidates.

Shift management styles

In today’s digital age, candidates know they possess unique skill sets that are very much in demand and make up for lack of experience. Management approaches must adapt to this new reality and shift from an “always-on” approach to a Connector manager approach. Graduates most often need a manager to connect them to opportunities that serve as key engagement drivers. Connector managers can foster meaningful connections for their direct reports to and among employees and provide the right development and networking opportunities.

“Given that today’s graduates are focused on learning and developing skills, employers looking to gain a career commitment from their Gen Z employees must ensure they offer these opportunities,” says Cambion. “Our research shows that more than anyone, it’s an employee’s manager who influences the type of development an employee gets on the job.”

Not only are managers crucial to ensuring their employees’ portfolio of skills stays relevant — a key concern of Gen Z — but Connector managers improve the performance of employees by up to 26% and triple the likelihood that their direct reports will be high performers.

With graduation season upon us, employers looking to capitalize on the influx of Gen Z graduates into the labor market must consider how best to appeal to these individuals and instill good workplace practices to better position them for success.

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