How to Hire Gen Z

July 25, 2019
By Aaron O'Farrell

The future of employment

The traditional recruitment process

The traditional recruitment process

Employers need to reimagine their internal policies and recruiting practices if they want to attract young workers. Millennials and Gen Zs make up more than half the world’s population. Together, they account for most of the global workforce. And they are unhappy.

Millenials are comprised of anyone born between 1980 and 1994. Gen Z is made up of people born between 1995 and 2015. 

Both Millenials and Gen Z are less trusting of employers and companies than any previous generation. Many watched their parents lose their jobs during the last global recession. Most grew up in the wake of extreme economic hardship. They’re worried it could happen again.

What generation are you?

What generation are you?

Of the Millenials and Gen Zs that have already entered the workforce, a lot have lower real incomes and fewer assets than previous generations at comparable ages, as well as higher levels of debt. The world is more expensive now too. A lot of young people aren’t optimistic about their prospects of owning a house or having long term financial security, so instead of possessions, Millenials and Gen Z are spending their money on experiences.

Rather than focusing on their careers, Millenials and Gen Zs have decided to travel and have fun. According to Deloitte’s 2019 Millenial and Gen Z Survey, 57% of Millenials place traveling the world as their highest priority in life, ahead of being wealthy (2nd highest), buying a house (3rd), making a positive impact on society (4th), and having children (5th).  Gen Z have almost identical priorities, but traveling and being wealthy scored even as their main priority.

Millenials and Gen Z, given their pessimism of the future, would clearly rather enjoy traveling and have fun while they can. And with the rise of social media and video sharing sites like Youtube, a lot of young people have turned traveling and having fun into extremely well-paid jobs.

Gen Z’s priorities

Gen Z’s priorities

So in a time when the youngest in society are turning their backs on traditional career paths because they have had to bear the brunt of social, political and economic uncertainty, how can companies attract employees?

Paddl spoke to Peter Wilson, a human resources expert and media representative at the AHRI (Australian Human Resources Institute) to find out.

When it comes to attracting young talent from Gen Z, Peter says companies must concern themselves with three things: “Reputation, reputation, reputation.”

“Gen Z are very concerned about the quality of their employers and that they are socially, culturally and environmentally responsible. They will research employers on Glassdoor and on social media to see what they stand for, and whether their values are aligned.”

Peter added, “If companies oblige these lessons and implications, and are a responsible employer that treats its people well and makes work a positive learning experience, they are far more likely to retain members of Gen Z as employees in the long-term.”

But there are other factors influencing Gen Z and Millenials to avoid or leave employers. Many complain about a lack of appreciation and not having enough opportunities to advance. Poor learning opportunities are another key factor, as well as low pay.

As a result, according to Deloitte’s 2019 report, more Millennials and Gen Zs than ever - 49% - would, if they had a choice, quit their current jobs in the next two years. In Deloitte’s 2017 report, that number was 38%. These are not idle threats: About a quarter of those saying they would leave within two years reported leaving an employer in the past 24 months. 

Peter Wilson suggested a number of ways employers could tackle this issue.

“First, clear job expression - what the role is and where it fits. Secondly, a proactive induction program that sets the lens and focus of the new Gen Z inductee, but also seeks their feedback. Thirdly, rotation of roles. Let new employees work in different areas of the business in their first two years to check it all out. Fourthly, a positive learning program - either employer provided or self-directed - with encouragement to participate. If an employer follows these four steps they are highly likely to have retained and committed Gen Z in two years time. Otherwise the risk of them walking out the door by then will be much higher.”

One of the biggest issues Gen Z wants companies to address is the need for a diverse workplace providing equal opportunity. Peter says this is extremely important to Gen Zs. 

He told Paddl, “Gen Zs want their employer to look like society and to be inclusive of others that are different to the mainstream, however you define that. To Gen Zs, diversity and inclusion is about being fair to all.”

Although many companies have become aware of this issue thanks to a heightened global conscience, employers are still categorically failing to provide equal opportunity to applicants. 

Peter explained these failings using McDonald’s as an example.

“McDonald’s surveyed all those who missed out on being employed from their online processes over the last few years. They learnt about how those processes had excluded those who had limited chances under them from the get go; e.g poorer education backgrounds. McDonald’s changed those processes, and also established a proactive approach to assisting potential employees from poorer socio-economic backgrounds to become more prepared and work-ready overall. But these exemplars and examples are all too rare.”

So, if employers radically re-examine their recruiting policies, will that be enough to change Gen Z’s pessimism? Most likely, no.

According to an infographic created by the Brighton School of Business and Management - using information compiled by writer Dan Schwabel about Gen Z in the workplace - more than 3 in 4 members of Gen Z believe they will have to work harder compared to past generations to have a fulfilling professional life. Also, 1 in 3 would like to retire by age sixty, but less than 1 in 5 believe that will be possible.

The future of employment?

The future of employment?

Another factor affecting Gen Z’s pessimism is the threat of AI. Machines are replacing humans in the workplace, because machines make fewer mistakes, work faster, and collect no wages. The threat of AI is considerable, but over-stated according to Peter Wilson. Peter agreed that AI is replacing workers, but insisted the positives outweigh the negatives for resourceful employees eager to grow.

“Some research on AI/robotics is very sci-fi and unnecessarily alarmist. Those studies have exaggerated the job displacement impact.  Whilst jobs around repetitive skills will be lost to AI, new jobs from general economic growth, working with machine learning tools, and other new jobs yet to be created have been largely ignored in such studies. However, AI reinforces the truth that we must all keep learning new ways and techniques to stay ahead. There are lessons here for both employers and employees.”

The message is the need to adapt and grow. Gen Z is considered far more self-reliant and resourceful than any previous generation, given that they grew up with the world’s  largest on-demand how-to video library at their fingertips, Youtube.

Youtube is the key to understanding Gen Z. Youtube is arguably the most diverse social media platform, allowing users to learn about almost anything and invent careers that didn’t exist ten years ago. Successful Youtubers, or vloggers, create video content, upload that content, garner a large “subscriber” following, and then generate enormous personal wealth in a remarkably short period of time from companies wanting to advertise on their videos.

For context on just how influential Youtubers are to the young generations, Pewdiepie is considered the second most influential Youtuber in the world with almost 97 million subscribers. Many of his videos earn millions of hits in a single day. Game of Thrones is the most-watched TV show of all time. The series finale was watched by nearly 20 million people on HBO when it aired - small-fry numbers to a Youtuber like Pewdiepie. At the time of writing, Pewdiepie’s videos have earned a collective 22 billion views. And most of those videos are of the Swedish vlogger playing video games or messing about with friends. With an estimated net worth of between 20 and 30 million dollars from Youtube revenue, that’s not a bad way to make a fortune.

Gen Z are creators of opportunities

Gen Z are creators of opportunities

75% of Gen Z wants to convert hobbies into full time jobs, according to research by Upfront Analytics. When a young creative person knows this opportunity exists with the help of social media sites like Youtube, it’s easy to understand why the traditional avenue of working your way up the ladder over ten to twenty years as an employee in a company is not appealing to Gen Z. 

Thanks to 70% of Gen Z watching more than two hours of Youtube a day, some Youtubers earn more in a week than most people do in a year. The same can be said for Instagrammers, or “influencers,” who are paid outrageous sums of money by companies to promote their products to their large online following. According to an Instagrammer rich-list compiled by Hopper, Kylie Jenner earns 1 million dollars per Instagram post. 

The desire of Gen Zs to succeed using alternative avenues such a Youtube is backed up by statistics. Deep Focus conducted a study in 2015 and found that Gen Z is more interested than Millenials in building key skills at a young age. This is because 62% of Gen Zs surveyed want to start their own companies instead of working for an established company.

Deep Focus also found that 89% of Gen Z say they spend part of their free time in activities they consider productive and creative instead of just "hanging out." As such, Gen Zs are more likely to have worked on a craft than Millenials at that age (42% vs. 25%). Gen Zs have also shown interest in developing skills tied to how to start a business (58%), graphic design (51%), how to shoot/edit videos (50%) and how to build or create apps (50%), amongst others.

Gen Z’s ability to create and its concerns and needs for a more inclusive society means that they’re an extremely powerful force in the world. Possibly the most powerful. Companies must listen to the needs of this new generation. And as the most resourceful and technologically fluent members of the world’s population, Gen Z are not only fed up with old ways, they’re doing something about it. With Millennials and Gen Z comprising over half the global workforce, they are not the future - they are the present.


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