With 61 million members—the oldest of which turn 23 years old in 2020—Generation Z’s impact on the workforce could surpass that of any other generation in history.
Read Part I of this series here.
As a millennial, John Frigo has seen firsthand the struggle that companies go through when trying to come up with recruiting strategies that reach a whole new generation of job seekers. Unfortunately, he also knows that most of those efforts fail.
“I think employers and companies have done a very poor job of understanding what people are looking for,” says Frigo, digital marketing lead at MySupplementStore, a distributor of vitamins and supplements. With both brick-and-mortar and virtual storefronts, the company employs a large number of Gen Z workers.
Along with their millennial cohorts, those young employees poke fun at some of the ways companies attempt to recruit and retain them. “Millennials, and even more so Gen Z’ers, openly joke about companies that think having beanbag chairs is going to make them an attractive place to work,” Frigo says.
For example, he remembers the big push to become a “cool” company where millennials would want to work. This found companies putting pool tables, foosball tables, and beer kegs in their break rooms, hoping that these perks would help them attract and retain younger workers.
“I suppose that’s better than your average dull office,” Frigo says, “but it’s not really doing anything for people’s lives or workplace experience, especially if it’s only for show and there’s never actually time to play any of those games.”
A better alternative, according to Frigo, is to play into Gen Z’s strong sense of purpose. This is a group of 61 million people that wants to do something good and have a positive impact on the world, so factor that into your recruiting efforts. Gen Z is also seeking an overall better quality of life, Frigo adds, which can be achieved through flexible work schedules, telecommuting, and/or a good-work life balance.
“The idea of a 40-plus-hour workweek and ‘coming into an office’ every day is kind of dated,” Frigo says. “There’s really no reason for it, and many people who have worked from home or telecommuted will tell you offices are distracting and that there’s tons of time wasted on commuting, senseless meetings, and just normal distractions of the office.” In situations where a physical presence at the office or in the warehouse is necessary, Frigo says distributors could use a “hybrid” approach that includes telecommuting 2-3 days a week and then coming into the office for the other 2-3 days.
Shepherding Gen Z into the Workforce
As they make their way into the workforce in their late teens or early-20s, every new generation is labeled and stereotyped to death. For example, Generation X was famously known as the “slacker generation,” while millennials were looked upon as being lazy, entitled, and disloyal. Over time, generations tend to shake these stereotypes just in time for the next, younger generation to move into the spotlight.
This is already happening to Gen Z, says Jagoda Wieczorek, HR Manager at Resumelab. So far, he says Gen Z is proving itself as a “middle of the road” group of individuals whose values and habits fall somewhere between Gen X and the millennials. “Gen Z combines big ambition with open communication and adjustment to changes and what’s most important,” Wieczorek observes. “They embrace opportunities that new technologies bring them and break free, looking for independence.”
To electrical distributors looking to harness this powerful force, Wieczorek says the first thing to understand is that Gen Z is currently entering a job market that carries the slogan, “employee market.” In other words, the onus is on the distributor to convince Gen Z that the company is an attractive place to work, and not the other way around.
“Gen Z will turn the tables on employers, and unlike their predecessors, they won’t put up with being treated like a meat market,” says Wieczorek. “They will look for great work cultures that serve as an extension of their social lives.”
They also communicate differently than other generations. Some of that is because Gen Z’ers have communicated via text since getting their first cell phones at a very young age. As a result, they’re dependent on over-text conversations and discussions, and haven’t learned to deal well with face-to-face disagreements.
“As much as employers may feel inclined to force discussions outside of their employees’ comfort zones because they think their employees should be able to handle difficult conversations face-to-face,” cautions Melanie Musson, an ExpertInsuranceReviews.com writer, music teacher, and church ministry leader who works often with young members of Gen Z, “they must realize texting is Gen Z’s culture.”
The best approach is to meet them where they are, says Musson, even if the underlying goal is to eventually change some of those text-related habits. “It’s okay to have a goal to improve in-person conversations,” she adds, “but start where they are and work towards that.”
Focus on Collaboration Versus Just “Teaching”
Marcie Merriman, managing director of cultural insights and consumer strategy leader at Ernst & Young (EY), says small to midsized distributors are in a particularly good position to tap into the power of Gen Z as it enters the workforce. “This is a generation that is naturally empowered, and that’s used to being able to figure things out or learn things on its own,” Merriman explains. “Because of the resources that are available to them (e.g., the Internet, mobility, social networking, online video, etc.) Gen Z’ers have developed an ability to learn like no other generation could have imagined.”
This leaves the door wide open for electrical distributors that look at Gen Z not as just as “kids that need to be taught,” says Merriman, but rather as young, educated, tech-savvy individuals who can bring their own knowledge repositories to the table as new recruits.
“Companies can learn as much from Gen Z as they can teach it, and that’s unprecedented in the workforce,” she explains. For example, most 22-year-olds have no problem saying in 50 characters what it may take someone else a page to write out. “From technology to social to marketing, this will present a great opportunity for open-minded organizations that collaborate with this new generation, rather than just needing to ‘teach’ it.”
Tagged with best practices, recruiting