About 17 million members of Gen Z are now adults and have entered the U.S. workforce. As employers looking to hire, remember this mantra: acceptance is key. This is especially true if you were resistant to and skeptical of millennials—one of the most scrutinized generations of all time. Employers were slow to adapt to their needs and, as a result, are still struggling to hire and retain them.
Gen Z is the largest generational cohort of all time and has the power to upend the workplace as we know it. As a result, understanding what sets them apart and how their characteristics translate to the workplace will be critical to your long-term success.
Defining Gen Z Characteristics
Gen Z is considered the largest, most ethnically diverse generation in U.S. history. Not only have these young people grown up with social media and technology, but they have witnessed their parents go through the Great Recession and have come of age in an era of deep political polarization. These experiences have had a profound impact on their outlook of the world, which has shaped these unique Gen Z characteristics:
- They’re digital natives: Having never known a world without the internet or smartphones, Gen Z considers technology a necessity for living in today’s world.
- They’re focused on mobility + multi-tasking: As the most technologically advanced generation, they can seamlessly transition between different devices and forms of communication, whether that be email, texting, or face-to-face.
- They’re independent: Raised by Gen Xers who were warned against “helicopter parenting,” Gen Z has been given plenty of space growing up and tends to be pretty independent as a result.
- They crave financial security: Having seen the effects the Great Recession and the student debt crisis, they are seeking financial security and will work hard to get what they want.
- They are practical and cautious: Despite graduating into one of the best job markets in a generation, they are not interested in taking chances. Many of them have chosen (or are interested in) career paths that can give them job security and stability.
- They are instant information seekers: Gen Z is the most marketed-to generation, which means they are accustomed to processing information quickly and efficiently.
- They are socially conscious: They are deeply committed to social and environmental causes. Gen Z actively engages in activism, using social media and other platforms to drive awareness and change.
- They value diversity + inclusion: Embracing diversity comes naturally to Gen Z. They prioritize inclusivity and equality, valuing differences in culture, ethnicity, gender, and more.
- They are entrepreneurial: They’re eager to create their own paths, often seeking side gigs, freelancing opportunities, and innovative ways to pursue their passions.
How to attract Gen Z
Rather than expecting Gen Z to bend to your requirements, you should remain open and flexible to their needs in the workplace. To help show that you are, here are some simple ways to adapt your hiring process to appeal to key Gen Z characteristics:
- Get digital: If you want to successfully engage with Gen Z during the hiring process, you need to ensure you are maintaining an active online brand. To get a head start, consider your digital presence Gen Z’s one-stop shop for everything they need to know about working for your company, from your services/products to your company culture. Read also: How To Leverage Social Media For Employer Branding
- Be mobile responsive: If your website and online application process aren’t optimized for mobile, they should be. As a mobile-first generation, Gen Z will certainly use their tablet or mobile device to research employers and apply to jobs. If they can’t easily navigate your website or application process through these devices, they’ll likely abandon the process altogether.
- Cater to their “short” attention span: You need to not only appeal to Gen Z’s digital preferences, but also grab (and keep) their attention. According to a study by Altitude, Gen Z has developed an advanced “8-second” filter for sorting through content. This not only means your job descriptions and initial job application process need to be simple and to the point, but that you are taking the steps to shorten your overall hiring process. This is where more video content and video interviewing tools can be especially helpful!
- Emphasize career development: Like their millennial counterparts, one of the defining Gen Z characteristics is a desire for career stability. This doesn’t mean that they are searching for job security with one employer, but rather for opportunities that will help them gain new skills and experiences for the future. As a result, you need to be able to address opportunities for career growth and development during the hiring process.
- Think about corporate social responsibility: If you don’t think about your brand in terms of corporate social responsibility (CSR), you risk alienating your Gen Z candidates. With early data showing that this generation cares more about brand ethics, volunteering, and philanthropy, you need to start thinking about your social impact and how you can offer more value through CSR.
How to retain Gen Z
Creating an environment where Gen Z can thrive does not mean that you need to completely overhaul your culture. When it comes down to it, this cohort values many of the same workplace factors that their predecessors do:
- Support from management
- Professional development
- Team rapport
- Meaningful work
- Work-life balance
Therefore, all you really need to do is make some adjustments to your employee engagement tactics in order to better adapt to Gen Z characteristics. Here are some simple ways to get started:
- Give regular feedback: Annual and bi-annual performance reviews and generic job feedback will not cut it. 66% of Gen Z needs feedback from their supervisor every few weeks or more to stay in their job. In other words, they are seeking more a mentor-mentee relationship with their manager. To help meet this need, focus on goal setting and giving staff trackable feedback. This will help these younger employees visualize a path toward advancement and understand what they need to do to accomplish their professional goals. Read also: 3 Ways To Develop Future Company Leaders
- Be technology focused: Having grown up using the latest and greatest technology, they expect nothing less in the workplace. If your organization is utilizing very old software or infrastructure, these younger employees will likely leave for an organization that is more up-to-date with evolving tech trends.
- Foster a collaborative environment: Despite being the most technologically advanced generations, Gen Z still values collaboration in the workplace. In fact, 90% of them prefer to have a human element to their teams, either working with innovative co-workers or with co-workers and new technologies paired together. This means that you should still find ways to foster collaboration in the workplace—incorporating team-based project management and communication tools such as Asana and Slack when possible.
- Trust them: With independence being one of the top Gen Z characteristics, they are seeking autonomy in the workplace. While they will look toward their supervisor for guidance and structure, they can be trusted to take full ownership and responsibility for their work. For employees, this means giving your staff more flexibility over their work environment and process. Rather than focusing on how (and where) tasks are completed, focus on the end result.
- Highlight wellness: Despite their young age, Gen Z is very proactive about their health. Taking a more holistic approach than other generations, they are focused on improving their physical, mental, social, and financial well-being. To appeal to these Gen Z characteristics, you should ensure your wellness program addresses all four of these needs. Read also: 4 Wellness Programs That Can Boost Employee Engagement
While it may be tempting to dismiss these young professionals as “inexperienced” and “naive,” the reality of the situation is that every generation was new to the workforce at some point. If you want to be able to compete, you need to accept their differences and start making room for them—either as full-time hires or interns. Taking the steps to do this now—while many Gen Zers are still growing up—can help equip you with the experience and insight you need to meet the evolving needs of your workforce.