Showcasing purpose, growth, and flexibility is key to crafting an EVP that attracts younger workers.
By Marta Chmielowicz
For a long time, “millennial” has been the buzzword of the business world. HR professionals have been thinking of little else but benefits to attract them, programs to develop them, and strategies to manage and retain them. But with Generation Z about to enter the workforce, all of that will change.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, Gen Z is the generation born after 1997 that currently outnumbers both millennials and baby boomers at 25 percent of the total population. And they are joining a labor market in a booming economy that is generally considered “fully employed.”
“Gen Z workers are graduating with an abundance of choices of where they can work. They are entering a job market characterized by a 3.9 percent unemployment rate, a historically low level not seen since 2000,” says Claudine Macartney, executive vice president and CHRO of insurance provider American International Group Inc. (AIG).
To remain competitive, businesses are being forced to adapt—but many are struggling to align their employee value proposition (EVP) and recruitment strategies to the changing needs of today’s workforce. In fact, Head of Global Marketing and Employer Brand Strategy for Allegis Global Solutions Craig Fisher cites a recent Allegis survey: As many as 69 percent of HR decision-makers claim that their organizations fall short in delivering the specific benefits embraced by millennial and Gen Z workers.
“Many employers often fail to build vital relationships with millennial and Gen Z workers due to weak talent practices that never evolved to keep up with changing needs. The weaknesses of immature practices span the talent lifecycle. For example, how many employers post job descriptions that are inaccurate or fail to align with candidate needs and values? Without listening and adapting to the needs of the talent they seek, companies lose great candidates before they apply,” says Fisher.
But truly connecting with Gen Z employees requires understanding what motivates them—where they come from, what they value, and where they want to be in the future. “Connecting with workers today isn’t just about perks and fancy break rooms,” Fisher adds. “It’s about listening to the talent and understanding their unique wants and needs. It’s about real relationships. And it’s about empowering them to achieve goals that are relevant and compelling in terms of today’s career and life priorities.”
How can organizations differentiate themselves in such a competitive and demanding talent marketplace?
According to Macartney of AIG, three considerations are key:
1. Purpose. The results of Monster’s 2016 Multi-Generational Survey show that, like millennials, 74 percent of Gen Z respondents are motivated by work that has a sense of purpose compared to only 59 percent of baby boomers. “Gen Zs look beyond salary and benefits when considering a job,” Fisher explains. “Two areas of employer commitment rank high among their priorities: diversity and inclusion and corporate social responsibility.”
In order to attract this portion of the workforce, organizations need to demonstrate their positive impact on the world around them. AIG has embraced this approach as part of its outreach efforts to Gen Z candidates.
“Insurance is one of the few professions where you are directly helping people to prepare and respond to some of life’s most significant moments,” says Macartney. “We find this resonates well with Gen Z workers who are looking to make an impact in their careers.”
Macartney says education is a large part of AIG’s strategy to connect with Gen Z. “Educating this generation on the insurance industry, what we do, and how it relates to the world around us is an important way to engage,” she explains. By sharing industry insights in their outreach to high schools and programs like Girls Who Code, AIG is able to generate interest and passion among Gen Z candidates.
2. Growth. Gen Z is a uniquely entrepreneurial generation. Having grown up during an economic recession with technology at their fingertips, they are pragmatic, motivated, resourceful, and committed to working hard. “The most common benefit that Gen Z workers look for is the ability for both personal and professional growth, such as volunteer opportunities, career movement, and experimentation that encourages contributions and development,” says Hire Velocity’s Chairman John West.
In fact, Monster’s report shows that the vast majority of Gen Z survey respondents (76 percent) believe that they are the owners of their career and will drive their own professional advancement, and nearly half (49 percent) want to have their own business. For HR professionals, this means that Gen Z employees are likely to jump ship if their needs are not being met.
“Having grown up in a world of instant updates and gratification, Gen Z workers do not fear change as much as previous generations and job hop more frequently. They are quick to ask ‘how can I move up fast,’ and due to the interconnectivity of their generation, they easily can, and do, compare their work situations to their peers,” says Mary Southgate Dickson, internal talent acquisition consultant at Personify. But growth opportunities throughout the entire employee lifecycle will help prevent attrition, she says.
“At AIG, we’ve made real progress in creating a strong work environment that not only attracts Gen Z but retains them as well,” says Macartney. “We’ve incorporated a very strong performance management culture that aligns an individual’s goals to the organization’s larger purpose. We also provide routine check-in conversations with managers and mentors to drive continuous improvement.”
These strategies are complementary to a two-year early career development program that AIG leverages to recruit a diverse range of workers—not just Gen Z. “This program involves a combination of in-person career development seminars, mentoring from managers, and on-the-job training to help colleagues acclimate to a professional career in insurance and at AIG,” she says.
3. Flexibility. Like millennials, Gen Z is seeking workplace flexibility. According to Dickson, this includes flexibility in many forms: work schedules, dress codes, paid time off, and even career paths. “When designing a benefits program for a generation that is very individualistic and often has a ‘the world is my oyster’ mindset, it is important to give them options, rather than taking a one-size-fits-all approach,” she explains.
AIG has tailored its recruitment strategy with flexibility at the core. “We’ve found that Gen Z workers are very skilled at blending work-life priorities into the way they operate,” says Macartney. “We offer flexible work arrangements and a very competitive paid time off policy. We also underscore AIG’s global presence across the Americas, Europe, Asia Pacific, Middle East, and Africa. We find that Gen Z workers are attracted to companies that can offer them opportunities to experience working and living overseas.”
In return for flexibility, Gen Z employees are more likely to be comfortable working anywhere and everywhere. Monster’s study reports that 58 percent, compared to only 45 percent of millennials and 33 percent of baby boomers, are willing to work nights and weekends for higher pay. In addition, 67 percent are willing to relocate for a good job.
By meeting Gen Z’s three basic needs, organizations can bring a fresh, new energy to their work environments. But how can HR professionals tie these elements together to deliver a comprehensive EVP?
• Engage online. To recruit Gen Z workers, employers must deliver an exceptional candidate experience that is digitally driven. West of Hire Velocity says the digital elements of the recruitment process can be differentiators. “Gen Z workers will be looking at all digital aspects of the company and recruiting process: Is the career page and website mobile friendly? Is it easy to access? Is there a simple application process? So, companies should find a way to utilize new technologies such as artificial intelligence to create new engaging and tech-enabled recruiting strategies,” he explains.
Personify’s Dickson recommends that organizations have user- and mobile-friendly career pages and provide candidates with frequent updates from the recruiting team throughout the entire hiring process. This will resonate with a generation that is accustomed to speed and efficiency.
Organizations also need to maintain an accurate online presence. “Gen Z is the more tech-savvy generation and will do their research on a company before moving through the application process,” says West. “Companies need to maintain active social profiles, including Glassdoor where 70 percent of candidates look at company reviews before making a decision. Responding to reviews, updating pictures on the culture, and making sure the profile answers any questions that a young candidate may have will all be important strategies to engage Gen Z candidates.”
• Illustrate the experience. A strong social media presence is also a powerful tool to depict the company brand and employee experience—two elements that are essential to winning over young job candidates.
“It is important that companies expand the traditional realistic job preview approach to include highlighting the complete employee experience during recruitment,” Dickson says.
For smaller companies that are unable to deliver the flexibility and benefits that Gen Z desires, focusing on culture and brand is an inexpensive way to differentiate themselves from the rest of the marketplace. HR professionals should leverage social channels to highlight the unique career opportunities and experiences that Gen Z workers will have if they join the organization.
According to West, this can be accomplished by showcasing:
- achievements and awards;
- growth plans;
- mentorship opportunities;
- team members;
- the company atmosphere and culture;
- the day-to-day of the job itself; and
- how employees can contribute and grow in the role.
“The more detail the better,” West says. “Companies can also consider a ‘day in the life’ video walk-through that highlights the office and responsibilities of the role for candidates.”
• Embrace technology. Catching the attention of Gen Z candidates online can be difficult. “Traditional recruiting is a phone-based relationship, but the Gen Z generation responds far better to texting or social media, which means recruiters need to adopt different tools (such as text-based interviewing platforms) and tactics (like using hashtags on social media) to reach this audience,” says Dickson.
HR professionals need to stay ahead of the trends, meeting young job candidates where they are online and utilizing recruiting technology to ensure a positive and efficient experience. West believes that social media—and video in particular—are key to success. By posting engaging media-based messaging on platforms like Instagram, Snapchat, and Twitter, HR leaders can more vividly communicate company culture and EVP.
According to Allegis’ Fisher, organizations can also leverage advertising with good results. “Today’s teens would rather be at their own house playing with friends online than being in the same house to hang out. So, consider the multitude of in-game advertising that is online, either gaming or on YouTube (the new TV),” he says.
Driving Brand Unity
Although these strategies are targeted specifically to the needs of today’s newest generation of employees, organizations can leverage this evolution in recruitment to improve their talent acquisition efforts across the board.
For example, AIG leverages its Gen Z recruitment strategy to underscore a larger organizational push for greater diversity. “Attracting Gen Z workers is a part of a broader recruitment strategy at AIG,” says Macartney. “Our goal is to draw a diverse pool of talented candidates, not only those early in their careers but also mid-career professionals who are switching industries along with veterans and academics.”
This is possible because many of the benefits sought by Gen Z are shared by a diverse range of professionals across the workforce. Ultimately, things like wellness, flexibility, and job security are universally desired and can serve as a common thread throughout an organization’s brand and talent acquisition strategy.
“Because a positive work-life balance is a priority for all generations in the workforce, organizations can convey a unified employment branding message by creating an EVP that focuses on the integration of employees’ professional and personal lives,” says Dickson. “All employees want to feel comfortable in the workplace, so companies should focus on creating a flexible employee lifestyle that incorporates all aspects of life that are important to workers, setting them up to be successful and happy inside and outside of the office.”