How to Attract and Recruit Generation Z Talent

Posted on August 16, 2022

Gen Z Recruitment Header Image

Generation Z, the first generation born into a digitally-enabled world, is predicted to make up 27% of the workforce by 2025. This means that recruiting and retaining Gen Z is an entirely different ball game to attracting their predecessors.

To keep your business thriving in the years to come, you need to consider how you’ll approach attracting this demographic as they enter and eventually dominate the workforce.

In this article, we’ll show you how to find, hire, and retain top Generation Z talent.

Table of contents

What is Generation Z?

Generation Z includes anyone born between the mid-1990s and the early 2010s. According to GWI research, they’re diverse, tech-savvy, and socially conscious—and they’re the newest generation hitting the job market.

Screenshot of Gen Z Characteristics

Gen Z-ers are the first generation to grow up with the internet (and no concept of life without it). They’ve likely never used a CD player, a floppy disk, or a VCR, whereas Millennials will have childhood memories of these items.

They’re also known as the “first global generation,” having grown up in a society where international content is readily available and online convenience is the norm.

Furthermore, the eldest Gen Z (now in their early to mid-twenties) are entering or already embedded in the workforce.

While some business owners are reluctant to hire employees with little experience, there are perks to hiring Generation Z employees.

Why should you recruit Generation Z?

Gen Z might not yet have the same on-the-job experience as Millennials (who are in their late twenties to early forties) or Gen X (mid-forties to late fifties), but they still have a lot to bring to the table.

In general, Gen Z is eager to work, socially aware, and willing to learn. Let’s explore this further:

  • They’re tech experts. As the first generation to be classed as “digital natives,” Gen Z is extremely comfortable using technology. They’re capable of using tech to make their lives easier and can troubleshoot when common tech issues come up—an ideal skill for any work environment.
  • They’re willing to learn. Gen Z wants to learn as much as possible. In fact, GWI reports that 63% say learning new skills is important (linked above), and a LinkedIn survey found that 62% want to learn more to improve at their job. If you hire a Gen Z employee, chances are they’ll be willing to upskill to accomplish their tasks as best they can.
  • They care about the environment, DE&I, and other values. Generation Z wants to work for conscious companies with good company culture. Many Gen Z are looking to work for companies that combine flexibility, such as work-life balance and purpose, even willing to forgo salary (around half the time, according to Deloitte).

How are Generation Z different from Millennials?

Millennials were born between the early 1980s and the mid-1990s. They experienced a childhood without a lot of tech in the home that we’re used to today (e.g., mobile phones, tablets, laptops). As they got older, technology—and eventually social media—became part of everyday life.

Screenshot of Millenials Characteristics

A global Deloitte report demonstrates that Millenials and Gen Z care about a lot of the same things, for example:

  • They’re worried about the state of the world
  • They’re struggling with financial anxiety
  • They feel burned out and stressed
  • They’re pushing for more purposeful and flexible work
  • They press their employers to tackle climate change
  • They’re concerned with workplace mental health

Despite these similarities, it’s important to recognize that there are differences between these two generations. The biggest difference is their age group:

  • Millennials are older, more likely to have families now, they’ve been in the workplace for longer, and they began working pre-pandemic.
  • Gen Z is new to the workplace, starting out on the career path either during or post-pandemic.

Grouping Gen Z with Millennials in your outreach won’t resonate in precisely the same way because they are in different stages of life. Because of these differences, Gen Z has different priorities.

For example, Gen Z craves human connection instead of digital communication. A Generation Lab study cited by Axios found that Gen Z is more eager than older generations to return to the office, driven by a fear of being “left behind” as a more inexperienced workforce.

Millennials, however, are happy communicating virtually. One study found that 55% of Millennial bosses use online messaging to communicate with their direct reports. Only 14% said they favored in-person communication.

This is just one example of how understanding the differences between generations can help you attract the right talent. We’ll look at how to attract Gen Z talent in more detail in our next section.

How to recruit Generation Z talent and fuel your future workforce

You may be looking to bring this youthful demographic to your company to incorporate their fresh ideas, or maybe you’re preparing for future recruitment efforts. Either way, it’s worth noting what Gen Z is looking for in an employer.

Let’s take a look at some practical ways you can attract top-quality Gen Z talent.

Diversify your workforce

Generation Z is set to be the most diverse generation to date.

Great Place to Work data shows that 47% of Gen Z employees identify as BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and people of color), 39% of Millennials surveyed identified the same. And according to Pew Research Center, 22% of Gen Zs have at least one immigrant parent, compared to just 14% of Millennials.

Screenshot of Survey Result Conducted by Great Place to Work
Source: Great Place to Work

McKinsey declared the business case for diversifying your workforce is stronger than ever. The management consulting company gave evidence that businesses with diverse teams and leadership outperform less diverse competitors time and again.

The company’s research found that “the greater the representation, the higher the likelihood of outperformance.”

Focusing on your diversity efforts will help to attract Gen Z talent and help them feel at home at your company. This means starting now on diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging (DEIB) initiatives or doubling down on any existing efforts.

Here are three ways you can do this.

1. Identify gaps in your current workforce

Take a look at your current workforce and evaluate if your teams are inclusive. Do you have fair representation of minority groups, such as women, in leadership positions? If not, it’s time to update your talent acquisition and recruiting strategy to focus more on diversity.

Brainstorm why these groups may be missing from your workforce and create initiatives to correct it. For example, your hiring team may inadvertently choose resumes that sound like themselves.

To fill the gaps this causes in your workforce, instigate a blind resume shortlisting practice, where identifying information is blacked out for the first review.

2. Listen to feedback

If you’re not sure where your issues are coming from, survey your people anonymously. These groups might not feel comfortable bringing up issues to managers but may feel confident enough to offer suggestions in an anonymous survey.

For example, women may request more remote options or a private room in the office where they can pump breast milk after parental leave. Other groups may suggest mentors with similar backgrounds.

3. Communicate your plan to all your employees

Let your current employees know that diversification is a company goal and explain why. Talking about it will help teams adopt the initiatives, take action and create an inclusive workplace.

Consider including your people in the initiatives themselves. Announce that employees are welcome to propose or spearhead projects, boosting their career progression too.

Show social awareness and responsibility

More so than their predecessors, Gen Z wants to work for ethical companies committed to social causes, and they’ll do the research to find out if you qualify.

According to Deloitte’s “Understanding Generation Z in the workplace” insights:

“To win the hearts of Generation Z, companies and employers will need to highlight their efforts to be good global citizens. And actions speak louder than words: Companies must demonstrate their commitment to a broader set of societal challenges such as sustainability, climate change, and hunger.”

To help your company stand out, publicize your corporate social responsibility (CSR) strategy: your plan for building, executing, and optimizing your social responsibility initiatives.

If you haven’t already created your CSR strategy, here are three ways to get started:

Identify social causes

Start by choosing which social causes you’d like to support. Ideally, choose issues that closely align with your business goals.

For example, a tech company might choose to support STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) in education; a marketing agency may choose to advocate for more inclusive ads.

In both scenarios, the companies chose a social issue in line with their business. Larger companies may be able to choose several issues to tackle, but often choosing one issue and creating truly impactful programs works well.

Create the strategy

After you’ve chosen a social issue to tackle, identify how to support your chosen causes and how you’ll measure success.

The tech company might set up a weekend coding club for local children. They might work with schools to offer extra credit to attend their club, helping to raise their grades. The company can then measure attendees' grades before and after the coding club program to see if it worked.

Promote your work

Promote your CSR efforts on your website and social media. If possible, take photos and videos of events in your programs and publish these alongside facts and results.

Here are a few ideas for ways to promote your CSR programs:

  • Write blog articles about setting up the program and how it’s going
  • Post about initiatives on social media
  • Create a dedicated landing page on your website
  • Write about updates in your company newsletter

For example, Spotify put its efforts behind parental leave to help their people “meet responsibilities at home and work,” offering six months of full pay (far more time than many U.S. companies).

Screenshot of Spotify Post on Twitter
Source: Spotify on Twitter

The company has tweeted about it, posted about it, written about it on its HR blog, and even created a special hashtag (#LeadOnLeave).

Offer growth opportunities

The younger generations, including Millennials, have a reputation of not wanting to work. Previous generations see Millennials and Gen Z as lazy, entitled, and avoiding any hard work.

Studies show the opposite.

Gen Z wants career progression. One survey by coaching company InsideOut Development found that two-thirds of Gen Z survey participants want to be the best in their profession, and 75% expect to stay in an entry-level position for only one year. They also highly value having a good manager and training accessibility.

This means you need to be clear about career progression and training opportunities in both your job description and your interview. You’ll also want to train up your managers to ensure they’re the best leaders they can be for an incoming cohort.

When new hires start at your company, help them see their potential career progression. Be transparent and realistic about timeframes, milestones, and salary increases along the way. Help Gen Z feel like they have a clear route for progression and so they know what to expect along the way.

How to retain Generation Z top talent

You’ve attracted some Generation Z talent, they’ve interviewed well, and accepted your employment offer. Congrats! Now, let’s focus on how to keep them on board.

Provide a seamless onboarding process

Starting a new job is daunting, especially if it’s your first job after college. A robust onboarding program can mitigate Gen Z’s worries when they start with your company.

Onboarding begins with pre-boarding, getting them set up with paperwork, policies, schedules, and equipment before their first day.

After that, include Gen Z in a week-long orientation to help them settle in and meet their new team members. We learned above that Gen Z values human interaction, so if you have a central location, this should take place in person. Otherwise, welcome your new recruit virtually.

Plan their first few months with your company in a 30-60-90-day plan, so they know exactly what they should be doing and what to expect.

If your company is fully remote, you can kick off your pre-boarding digitally. With Polymer, you can manage the entire hiring process in one location—including sending through documentation once the offer has been accepted.

Screenshot of Polymer Hiring Software

Here’s how the candidate management process could work for you in Polymer:

  • Candidates join the system when they apply for the job
  • Track and manage them at each stage of the hiring process
  • Add notes and feedback after each interview
  • Make your hiring decision
  • Start the onboarding process by sending automated messages, information, and any other relevant content
  • Candidates review the information in time for their first day

Using our software, you can create a seamless and thoughtful candidate experience. You’ll also keep your previous Gen Z candidates in your talent pipeline, which you can return to later if you have new roles to fill.

Give guidance and support

Like most generations, Gen Z employees want support from leadership. To manage Generation Z successfully—and keep them on board—you need to embrace leadership styles they value, like empathy, honesty, and being people-first.

Let’s look closer at those values:

  • Gen Z wants empathetic leaders. Gen Z is hoping their managers and company leaders can see things from their perspective despite being in potentially different life stages (or tax brackets). Help your leaders understand Gen Z’s mindset, their worries and their situations so they can empathize with the incoming workforce.
  • Gen Z wants honest leaders. Honesty and transparency are top values for this cohort. For leadership, this applies to feedback. Let Gen Z know how they’re doing in their role, praise them when it’s going well and support them when it’s not. This driven generation won’t stick around in a position where they aren’t sure where they stand and can’t see how to make progress.
  • Gen Z wants people-first leaders. Gen Z is looking for an employee-first approach to management. Make time for regular check-ins and help your Gen Z employees work autonomously by providing the right tools, resources, and mentorship. If your company puts its people before its profits, make this known to build Gen Z’s trust in your organization.

Take mental health into account

Mental health discussion is one of the hallmarks for Generation Z. Along with their Millennial counterparts, mental health awareness at work has been driven into the limelight—and employers should take note.

This is more challenging, however, than simply polling your employees once in a while to see how they’re doing. GWI reports consistently finding that only one in three Gen Z respondents report feeling comfortable about discussing their personal mental health.

So, without prying, what can you do to support Gen Z’s mental health?

Promoting a healthy work/life balance is a good place to start. Burnout during the pandemic will be a real issue for older Gen Z (and most other employees), and for those who weren’t yet in the workforce, they’ll have heard about it.

Set expectations for healthy work and life boundaries, then lead by example. If you answer emails outside of working hours, or make it clear that you never take a holiday (or break for lunch), your employees will pick up on this behavior and emulate it.

You can also stand out by offering support for mental health, such as by partnering with local facilities or offering compensation for mental health activities. A study published in The Lancet found that for every $1 invested in mental health treatment, organizations saw $4 ROI in better health and productivity.

Screenshot of Survey Result Conducted by The Lancet about Mental Health Return on Investment

Lastly, help your managers identify signs of struggling mental health. Offering training on what symptoms of anxiety and depression look like in the workplace (including how to spot them remotely) and learn how to help these team members avoid burning out.

Offer flexibility with both in-person and remote work

At this time, the available data indicates that Gen Z’s preferences for working in the office or remotely vary depending on factors like geographical location, whether they’re currently living with parents, and the role.

Around half of Gen Z surveyed by Dell (53%) preferred to work in an office rather than working from home. However, another survey found that Gen Z is more likely to apply to remote positions than other generations.

For employers, a hybrid option appears to be the most attractive. The hybrid model offers the flexibility to work remotely and in the office, allowing employees to choose what works best for them.

There are different ways to approach hybrid working:

  • Flexible hybrid work. Employees choose the days they want to come into the office.
  • Fixed hybrid work. You set days and times that employees can work from home and when they need to be in the office.
  • Office-first hybrid work. Employees are expected to be on-site, but they can work remotely if necessary.
  • Remote-first hybrid work. Employees are expected to work from home, but they occasionally come into the office.

Not every business is able to be flexible, but if you can offer some remote work, you’ll likely achieve a +1 in Gen Z’s book.

Provide a decent salary

Gen Z has repeatedly indicated that salary and benefits are top factors when considering starting a job.

Screenshot of factors that influence a gen z employee's decision to stay with a company
Source: InsideOut Development

Straight out of college, the average Gen Z job seeker tends to have higher salary expectations than actual early-career industry averages.

Coming straight out of college with little to no work experience, it’s unlikely they’ll meet those salary expectations. But if Gen Z employees feel like they’re not being compensated fairly, they won’t hang around.

As an employer, you’ll need to start by managing expectations, ideally handled in the onboarding period with a career progression roadmap (as discussed above). Find a middle ground that works for both of you by discussing their goals early on.

Explain what Gen Z can hope to earn in their role over the next one to five years, and outline what it will take to achieve their salary goals (i.e. what positions might offer that salary).

You should also show employees how they can benefit from the job in other ways. For example:

  • Offering a great benefits package
  • Providing training to help employees develop skills
  • Gaining on-the-job experience that’ll support their career growth

This should show Gen Z that there’s value to be found outside of their salary.

Create a seamless hiring experience for Gen Z talent with Polymer

To attract and retain Gen Z, offer a holistic work experience from job description to interview to employment. Help them see how they fit into the organization and how the organization fits into the wider world.

To encourage Gen Z job seekers to apply, modernize your hiring methods. This is where Polymer can help.

We help hiring managers and business owners track and manage the entire hiring process in one location. You can automate parts of the recruitment process, customize your job board with branding and videos, and create a seamless application process for your Gen Z candidates.

Sign up for free to get the ball rolling.

Get started with Polymer today

No matter what type of organization, from local brick-and-mortar shops to distributed tech startups, Polymer is the best way to grow a team.

Sign up for freeContact us