The first two decades of the 21st century are in the bag, and millennials – for all the impact they continue to have on the workplace – aren’t all that young anymore. The youngest among them are in their mid-twenties, and have built up a few years of work experience. The oldest among them are turning 40. Many of these older millennials, thanks to their out-of-the-box thinking and penchant for office ping pong tournaments, will soon reach executive status. Some have already gotten there.

When we talk about recruiting millennials, then, we’re increasingly talking about people with 10-15 years of career experience who have their eye on retirement in another 10-15 years. This demographic – born between 1981 and 2005 – will remain a key area of recruitment focus for the foreseeable future. But in terms of recruiting on university campuses, forget it. We’re on to Generation Z.

What’s the difference?

Is it productive, from a talent management point of view, to dwell on the perceived differences between Generation Y (millennials) and Generation Z? In terms of what matters to individuals, isn’t the former is a just continuation of the latter?

Yes and no.

Marketers are busy formulating ideas on how these groups differ. Modern recruitment efforts should be aware of these ideas.

  • Millennials grew up in a time of transition from analogue to digital technology. Gen Z have been saturated in digital since birth.
  • Millennials like to spend on experiences and live today. Gen Z (this is surprising to some) tend to be more conservative and forward-thinking with money.
  • Millennials like to see people discussing products in advertising. Gen Z don’t care as much about that.
  • It’s also interesting (and funny) to note that a four second differential has been suggested in the attention span of millennials, who are willing to pay attention to a piece of content for 12 seconds, and Gen Z, who are able to spare 8 seconds.

In terms of higher education, both groups are on board. Problems of student debt, and other socioeconomic conditions, appear to make people more financially literate – and more determined to invest in their own futures – as time goes by. It has also been noted that millennial parents are saving aggressively for their children’s higher education.

Recruiting Generation Z

The number of millennials on university campuses is dwindling, but recruiters shouldn’t worry too much about bridging a massive divide in order to tap the Generation Z talent pool. These young people are more relatable than we might assume, and in some ways, their values are moving in a more conservative direction than those of their millennial counterparts.

Among the possibilities we should keep in mind are an increased focus on salary over other benefits, such bean bag chairs and open office plans. Generation Z are also eager to invest in new skills and professional growth. Even in their first year or two of university, they will aggressively seek to establish relationships that can further their careers. It seems reasonable to infer that sociopolitical uncertainty, and global challenges like climate change, are contributing to these trends.

Back to basics?

As potential employers, one thing we can do is be involved on campus. We can transmit our values, and our interest, even when we’re not hiring. If we’re serious about forming a meaningful connection with young people, there are things we can do even when no opportunities are available. Offering mock interviews and critiquing resumes (i.e. offering educational value to bright young students) is a powerful example.

It goes without saying that data and technology are important, and that strong social values are non-negotiable. We have to know where talented students are spending their time online, and align our recruitments efforts to relevant channels. We have to highlight how our social values align with theirs.

But we don’t need to go over the top to announce ourselves as hip or disruptive career destinations for Generation Z. It’s entirely possible that stability, salary, and honest career development opportunities are what these bright young people want. Formulating our recruitment strategies around those basic tenets should serve us well as we enter a new phase of the war for talent.

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