It has come to stay: Generation Z (also Gen Z) is slowly becoming part of the working world. The successors to the Millennials were born between 1997 and 2012 - their oldest representatives will be 25 years old this year, the youngest are just ten. The Millennials are slowly but steadily replacing the Baby Boomer generation on the labour market, which will retire within the next 15 years. Stereotypically, there are some differences between generations X, Y and Z - but soon they will have to work side by side. Reason enough to take a closer look at the newcomers in the world of work.
How does Gen Z differ from their predecessors? With what demands and ideas do they enter the world of work? And what can you do to recruit the skilled workers of tomorrow? I would like to find an answer to all these questions in this article.
Why distinguish between different generations in addition to "young and old"?
First of all: I must and will generalise here - nevertheless, some representatives of the generation certainly differ from the general social science assessments. Nevertheless, the Zlers grew up under similar conditions - at a time of rapid technological progress. With the launch of the iPhone in 2007, digital networking became part of everyday life. The young generation grew up in uncertain times: marked by the economic crisis that began in 2008, accompanied by environmental disasters, increasing terrorism and, last but not least, the Covid 19 pandemic. This has left its mark on the Zlers: they are often worried, anxious and looking for stability and security.
What distinguishes Generation Z?
The so-called digital natives have experienced the possibilities of a digitally networked world from the very beginning: online discussions and a fast exchange are completely normal for them, they are always accessible and up to date. Due to the easy accessibility of knowledge and information, they are more critical, question and compare more.
Due to the vastness of the internet and the trend of globalisation, Generation Z is offered a seemingly infinite number of possibilities in everything they do. This in turn means that young Z learners find it difficult to commit and make binding decisions. In addition, the general style of upbringing has fundamentally changed due to the influence of the parents' generation, Generation X: Most Zlers were already the centre of attention as children, were included in decisions, always motivated and praised. Therefore, many of them have a strong self-confidence, are independent and communicate directly.
What demands does Generation Z have on the world of work?
The bitter truth for many companies: young Zlers do not focus on their working lives. Most of them do not feel the desire for a steep career. They want to realise themselves in their work. That is why their path into the world of work is often not a linear one: since there is an almost infinite amount of information and possibilities available to them, they try themselves out and look for possible fields of work in which they can find fun and meaning. Corporate Social Responsibility, or CSR for short, is of particular importance to Gen Z. Crises and environmental disasters like this one, which the Zs themselves grew up with, are something they would like to actively prevent in the future.
Once they have found a company that meets their requirements, they want a lot of freedom and autonomy as well as space for personal design and development. They also value flat hierarchies, a pleasant working atmosphere and appreciative communication. The young generation is cosmopolitan: they want to be part of a community that is multicultural and diverse. Their tasks should always correspond to their abilities and inclinations - otherwise frustration quickly arises.
The focus, however, is on a good work-life balance; even if flexible and location-independent work is almost a matter of course for them, they want a clear demarcation between work and private life. This means: overtime only in exceptional cases, no work at weekends, no work-life blending, as Generation Y still appreciated. The Zlers strive for structures, security and stability.
If their employer cannot or does not want to offer all this, they make short work of it - because the Zler rarely build up a strong loyalty or close emotional bond with the company. Full of self-confidence, they will embark on the often global search for a new job. In order to retain the young talents in your company in the medium and long term, you should therefore offer them interesting projects with changing challenges and good development opportunities. Democratised corporate structures can also make the decisive difference. Modern technical equipment is also important, because this is a basic requirement for digital natives.
What should you pay attention to when recruiting Generation Z?
The aspect of speed is elementary for recruiting young talent. Through digital networking, Gen Z is used to receiving immediate feedback - if this does not happen, they become insecure. Therefore, you should keep feedback times as short as possible, set up an automatic confirmation of receipt when an application is received and regularly seek contact with your candidates, even in the case of rather lengthy procedures.
You should also proceed with empathy and understanding. This will help you to address and counteract the worries and fears to which the Zler are prone. Openness, honesty and transparency are also essential. You won't get far by trying to build castles in the air - because thanks to internet affinity and research skills, these would be debunked in no time. Instead, you can convince the young talents with competence and down-to-earthness.
These recruiting trends can convince Gen Z
Principle number one in recruiting Generation Z: Mobile first! If you have not yet dealt with the topic of mobile recruiting, you should do so now. Because young talents not only use their smartphones to chat or browse social media, they also use them for research purposes - not least when looking for a job. Therefore, it is crucial to make all important elements in the application process available for convenient mobile use as well. This includes a mobile-optimised job advertisement and career page as well as an application form on the website or in an app that is as easy and quick to fill out as possible.
Closely related to mobile recruiting is social recruiting or social media recruiting. Here you search for suitable candidates in social media such as LinkedIn or Xing. A combination of passive sourcing and active sourcing is recommended: you place a job advertisement and also contact suitable candidates for the vacant position. In social recruiting via career networks, it is also a good idea to enable one-click applications. This gives potential applicants the chance to save a lot of time: If they are interested, they can simply send their LinkedIn or Xing profile with just a few clicks to apply for the job.
Of course, you can also use other social networks such as Facebook, Instagram and TikTok for recruiting the Zler - because these are used much more frequently and time-intensively than the career networks. However, you should consider whether a direct approach via these channels suits your target group or whether you want to use them exclusively for your employer branding. In doing so, offer insights that could be interesting for young talents. For example, you could offer a look behind the scenes or present exciting projects. Extra tip: A pinch of humour should not be missing either.
Think about how you could optimise your recruiting process: Maybe it's time to do away with letters of motivation? In most cases, these consist only of empty phrases and say little about the applicants or their honest motivation. Moreover, it costs the candidate a lot of time and usually only answers a few questions. And between you and me, do we really need writing talent for every vacancy, which the applicants have to prove with the cover letter?
Another important way to reach Generation Z: personal communication. This is very popular and appreciated by young talents, for example at trade fairs and job events at schools or universities. But you should also not underestimate the effect of word-of-mouth! Pay attention to your image as an employer, because both positive and negative experiences with your company get around quickly - especially those of the young, well-connected and always accessible Generation Z.