Generation Z, born between 1997 and 2012, is entering the workforce with new expectations and demands. As the first generation to grow up entirely in the digital age, they have unique perspectives on what they want from their employers.
In our research report, we unpack the notion that these young professionals are looking for clear expectations, transparency, personal connections, and respect… but how can you take our research and apply it to your campus recruiting strategies? What do we know about Gen Z and how do we act on it? What does setting the right expectations even look like? Is there such a thing as being too transparent? And how do you start to foster connections and community with limited resources and/or budget?
In our latest webinar, we sat down with Monica Ipong, Global Director of University Recruiting at Crowdstrike, and Natalie Sannes, Research Coordinator at dcdx, and talked about all of the above. We’ll take a closer look at the key takeaways from the event (if you missed it - download it here!) and explore what it means for employers who are looking to build a successful workforce for the future.
“You’re actually costing your company money if you don’t have a concerted Gen Z engagement and retention plan.” -Inc.com
Who is Gen Z and Why Do they Matter?
It’s important to note the differences between Gen Z and older generations, but take them with a grain of salt. Explains Natalie “we were the first generation to grow up entirely digital and it completely frames how we act, how we think, down to our behaviors.” There are endless articles and opinions about how ‘disruptive’ Generation Z is (they’ve been labeled as lazy, entitled, coddled, to name a few) but we prefer to frame it as they aren’t willing to accept things that are outdated or have been needing change. “Gen Z advocates for things they care out and it comes from a positive perspective, wanting to enact change within our culture,” notes Natalie, who identifies as part of this new workforce generation.
For Monica and Crowdstrike, acknowledging this new generation is important to attract and hire talent and retain them. Getting Gen Z to work more cohesively and the ability to create workplace synergy amongst generations is crucial: “otherwise, you’re bringing them in and training them up to go elsewhere…and that’s not the end goal,” quips Monica. Gen Z has caused Crowdstrike to shift its campus strategy to become more transparent, to be more intentional around language used in job descriptions, and have a more keen eye for diversity initiatives. As Monica puts it “everybody that’s responsible for the success of the company is responsible for [Gen Z].”
“Expectations relate to ‘what am I going to have to do?’” outlines Natalie. “Knowing expectations is important as it allows young people to feel safe, mentally prepared, and confident.” Salary expectations and career pathing expectations are weighted equally for Gen Z, but expectations can also encompass relocation details, start and end dates, flexibility around time off, hiring timeline, and more.
Monica acknowledges that times have changed, and candidate approaches to expectations have shifted, too. “Gone are the days of having a thousand applicants and letting them sit there for a few months,” she explains. “Now, students care that you are transparent and communicate.” Despite the use of CRMs or spreadsheets, it can still be difficult to keep up with that communication, especially on smaller or more lean teams. Monica notes that time management can be key in managing expectations: whether it’s setting aside time to send emails or work through candidates in your pipeline, the more you can communicate what expectations are, the more you’ll be able to adequately serve Gen Z.
Both Natalie and Monica agree that expectations and transparency are similar. However, whereas expectations are more candidate-centered (i.e. “what will be expected of me?”), transparency is more about “what will my employer be offering me?” For Natalie, it’s things candidates may not have control over but are still important to know. Think: salary, benefits, timelines, growth opportunities. “Expectations and transparency really go hand in hand and you can’t have one without the other,” she explains.
“Gen Z wants to know anything you can’t Google”
For Monica, recent interns or graduates can be a great resource to plug. “We can’t have interns rely on Google for everything,” she notes, so for remote-first Crowdstrike, it means running frequent feedback and focus groups to better serve the next cohort’s intern class. Using feedback helps fill in the blind spots for Monica and her team to understand what questions incoming interns may have or what they can do to better prepare the next cohort of candidates.
As we know, Gen Z has endless opportunity when it comes to selecting a workplace. From evaluating a company’s environmental, social, and corporate governance framwork, understanding their DEIB commitment, how their salary stacks up, company culture, and more, Gen Z has the upper hand when it comes to making decisions about where to work. However, both Monica and Natalie agreed that the third key tenet, respect, drives the relationship between Gen Z candidates and companies. Notes Natalie: “it encompasses respecting overall boundaries and work-life balance, but also feeling valued…respect drives the feeling of feeling chosen as well.”
For Monica, respect means that candidates truly feel their impact, value, and contributions. At Crowdstrike, this means ensuring managers are trained to hold weekly 1:1 meetings with interns to facilitate alignment, transparency, and expectations. She emphasizes the importance of having regular check points to provide reassurance around progress toward goals.
Respect also brings the topic of mental health to the forefront of the workplace. “Gen Z has the courage to bring that topic to the table where older generations might not feel comfortable, and there’s a lot of respect in doing that,” Monica says. As a generation who came of age with distractions, shorter attention spans, and information constantly at their disposal, it’s key to let Gen Z refresh and recharge. But it starts with leadership - as Monica affirms, “respect is about letting Gen Z know we applaud the work they’ve done but also encouraging them to take time to refresh. And, as leaders, demonstrating it by doing it yourself.”
Respect also means “opening the floor for that disruptive thought,” moderator Parker Pell adds. “Respect is a way of welcoming new perspectives and showcasing feedback reception and action. It’s a respect for opinion” he says, noting that companies can show how their programming may have changed this year compared to last year based on candidate feedback.
With Gen Z coming to age in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s important to remember that peer to peer connections were severely disrupted for this group, so they’re even more important now. Natalie pulls forward data from the Gen Z research report: “more than twice-over, Gen Z believes it’s more important to have connections with their coworkers than with an HR contact or supervisor,” she concludes. “It shows that peer relationships and the people you’ll be working with are important. It gives that social component that a lot of young people really desire.”
For Monica and her global UR team, there is work to be done to foster connections across time zones in addition to a largely remote workforce. “You have to be very intentional about creating connections and communities,” she says. In her nearly 5 years at Crowdstrike, the global UR team has iterated on how that’s done. Now, her team creates connections for interns six months prior to starting via a Slack group that facilitates buzzy icebreakers, questions, trivia, and updates. As they get closer to day 1, the team hosts fun events and provides more frequent communication so interns feel not only prepared and confident, but plugged in.
And it doesn’t stop with interns: Monica identifies that facilitating and encouraging connections has positive impacts across the UR team itself. After a successful virtual human bingo game, she notes that “it was so rewarding because we learned so much about each other, we learned where we had connections, and now we have ideas for when we get together as a team.”
When asked about the highlight of the research report, Natalie identifies open communication as the common thread tying all key tenets together. “Having open conversations and making yourself available to young people and making it known that you truly want them to succeed” takes away any fear or nerves, she says.
For Monica, it’s all about solidarity and resources. “Do not do this alone and don’t be afraid to ask for help,” she laughs. “Enable and empower others to help. Whether it’s your HR business partners, your learning & development team, IT, past interns, procurement & legal…having allies to help you break down barriers” can help make a massive effort more digestible (and scalable!).
Abode helps partner with campus recruiting teams to help them rethink how early talent is engaged and retained. For more insights like these or to watch the full the webinar presentation, check out our page here.