This is our last segment in our four-part blog series, Gen Z Research Findings, guiding employers to build better candidate journeys for top early-career talent. Please read Parts I-III, Who Is Gen Z and Why Do They Matter, Setting Clear Expectations for Incoming Candidates, and Why Candidates Sign With Employers They Can Trust, here.
Over the past several weeks, we’ve uncovered how candidates expect to 1) understand daily roles and responsibilities in the workplace and 2) gain transparency around the hiring process, salary details, and career growth opportunities.
In this segment, we dive into Gen Z’s preferences surrounding workplace connections and communication styles. Key takeaways? As a generation heavily influenced by the COVID-19 pandemic, Gen Z hopes to forge real, meaningful connections in the workplace. Meanwhile, Gen Z wants to absorb written, easily-digestible information from employers — at a higher cadence than you’d expect.
How the COVID-19 Pandemic Influenced Gen Z’s View on Workplace Connections
Today’s early-career candidates did not have the same high school or college experience as generations past. With the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, their lives were thrust into a virtual environment: educational courses, graduation, job interviews, and onboarding took place online, depriving young people of in-person social interaction.
Three years into the pandemic, Gen Z candidates have openly said, “We’ve had enough.”
Despite their status as “digital natives,” the pandemic limited Gen Z’s tolerance for online-only working environments. According to the National Society of High School Scholars (NSHSS), 63% of young people demand in-person training from employers (in stark contrast to the 13% who desire online trainings). In addition, research shows that the vast majority (72%) of Gen Z prefer face-to-face communication at work.
Gen Zers want employers to support their career goals while creating opportunities for real connections to take place. Why? Simple: The pandemic wreaked havoc on Gen Z’s professional and personal lives. Today, 78% of 18-24 year olds claim that COVID disrupted their professional development, while 73% report feeling lonely either some or all of the time.
What Employers Can Do
Employers need to strike a balance between 1) the flexibility of a hybrid working environment and 2) Gen Z’s desire for in-person connections. In comparison to older generations, who have a more binary view of work-life balance (simply put, you’re either at home or at work) Generation Z has fully embraced the concept of working from anywhere. To attract and retain Gen Z workers, consider flexibility in where, when, and how your teams work. Provide comfortable working spaces that can accommodate both deep-focus and collaborative work. As we’ve seen, Gen Z wants the workplace to help facilitate connections, friendships, and relationships.
How to Foster a Culture Where Personal Connections Take Place
In a recent survey, one former intern commented, “My favorite internships were the ones where I got to meet the most people,” a statement backed by many other young people. Nearly half (45%) of Gen Zers want to know information about co-workers' personality, interests, or social lives outside of the workplace.
Fostering a workplace culture that encourages interpersonal connections doesn’t just mean opening lines of communication between candidates and HR managers. When asked whom they were most interested in meeting prior to their start date, an overwhelming majority (59%) of Gen Zers said members of their future team. By comparison, a measly 6% of respondents said their HR contact, and 24% said a direct supervisor.
Gen Zers aren’t just looking to meet their future colleagues — they’re hoping to meet potential friends. It’s far easier to become friends with 1) others of the same seniority level and 2) those who work in the same department and therefore share similar interests. As one Gen Z candidate puts it, “You might not interact with your hiring manager as much as…someone who has similar responsibilities to you. It would be nice to have a contact on the team, like an onboarding buddy.”
What Employers Can Do
We place accountability on the employer to create opportunities for connections to take shape.
Facilitate workplace connections early within the candidate experience, and reiterate throughout their journey. Launch a mentorship or buddy program to encourage peer connections and offer a glimpse into workplace culture. Leverage apps like Discord, GroupMe, or Slack or a platform like Abode, allowing new hires to make connections before their first day. Better yet, provide prompts or icebreakers to keep the conversation fun (e.g. pets, favorite travel destination, favorite podcast, et cetera).
Keep the conversation moving after the cohort’s initial start date. Check-in with new hires every 30 days, ensuring they have opportunities to make personal connections at work. Regular ERG opportunities, company-wide happy hours or events, networking groups, or ambassador programs helps Gen Z candidates stay connected and engaged.
How to Communicate With Gen Z in the Workplace
When communicating with future employers, Gen Zers want to feel prepared, get straight to the point, and communicate at a higher frequency than generations past.
Surprisingly, a majority (86%) of Gen Z candidates prefer written communication over audio or video formats. As one candidate puts it, “I prefer email over a phone call. I feel like I can gather my thoughts before I respond to it.” Written information allows candidates to absorb information on their own terms, and refer back to important materials when needed.
When communicating with Gen Zers, provide easily digestible snippets of information at a regular cadence. In a recent survey, 51% of Gen Z candidates said they preferred “concise, easy to read” information “with lots of detail” over audio clip or video communication. In addition, nearly 7 in 10 (69%) candidates said they want to hear from new employers 1-2 times per week prior to starting a new job. After a major milestone in the candidate journey (such as an interview) Gen Z candidates want to hear back from an employer as soon as possible, typically within 24 hours.
What Employers Can Do
Build a keep-warm strategy around bite-sized pieces of information. Breakdown long emails or “multiple-scroll” messages when communicating with candidates, and within each piece of content, focus on 1-2 action items to keep candidates focused (remember their need for a locus of control!)
Employers can also consider increasing communication cadence as a candidate approaches hir or her start date. Provide helpful, relevant (maybe lesser known!) information such as relocation or housing guides, onboarding paperwork, office dress code, office perks, or instructions on parking and commuting. Continue your high-touch outreach after their start date with daily check-ins, feedback loops, and surveys. Leverage an automation platform, like Abode, to implement your content strategy and view the ROI of your communication efforts.
How Abode Can Help
It’s more clear than ever that Gen Z candidates demand expectations on daily responsibilities, transparency surrounding the hiring process and career growth, opportunities for personal connections, and concise, frequent communication.
The workplace of the future is shaped equally by candidates and employers and demands for clear expectations, transparency, respect, and connection will cause workplaces unwilling to adapt to lose access to high-quality talent. We believe workplaces not only have the ability - they have the responsibility - to rise to the challenge of creating strong work-life relationships, facilitate social connections, be more transparent during the hiring process, and give Gen Z opportunity to truly flourish. As we know, it’s only a matter of time until they are the workforce.
We hope this four-part series provided actionable insights on how to rethink your candidate experiences. To build automated, personalized journeys at scale, consider Abode. Abode is built by Gen Z for Gen Z, allowing you to attract and retain top early-career talent. With Abode's platform, you can implement a keep-warm strategy, automate your post-offer journey, track candidate engagement, and reduce your renege rate. To learn more about Abode and how it can transform your candidate experience, schedule a demo with us.