Employee Retention, Engagement, Hiring & Recruiting, HR

4 Strategies to Engage the Gen Z Workforce

Are you prepared for the next generation of workers? Unlike Millennials, Generation Z—which can be defined as those who were born between the mid-1990s and the early 2000s—is more technologically inclined and globally connected than generations past. If you’re looking to recruit and engage Gen Z workers, Ryan Jenkins offers four strategies to help you out.

gen z

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In the webinar Gen Z Entering the Workforce: How to Attract Talent, Maximize Potential, and Overcome Cross-Generational Challenges, Jenkins explains how Gen Z workers differ from Millennials. He says they are more high tech, more diverse, more experimental, and prefer customization over any other generation. In order to attract and retain them, you must change the way you handle your workforce to accommodate for them.

1. Trade Sage on the Stage for Guide on the Side (Leadership)

When it comes to performance, Millennials and Gen Z workers are identical in their beliefs that in order to be successful, you must have constant feedback. Unlike Baby Boomers, who are more comfortable with the annual performance review, and Gen Xers, who are OK with routine check-ins, Gen Z workers are accustomed to immediate feedback based on their technological upbringing.

You can attract and retain Gen Z workers by implementing “self-reviews.” Self-reviews allow workers to critique their performance before bringing it up in a more formal review setting. Because Gen Z workers tend to be more critical of their own work, you’ll get more honest and candid feedback from a self-review than the more formal, annual review process.

Also, by implementing self-reviews, you’re turning your leadership team into “coaches.” Managers will be able to affirm their direct reports’ weaknesses and encourage their strengths, similar to how coaches manage their teams. Jenkins offers some great examples of companies that have implemented self-reviews by using mobile-based applications:

  • General Electric (GE) managers give constant feedback through an app called “Performance Development at GE” (PD@GE). While GE still holds annual performance reviews, the app is a great way to keep track of an employee’s performance year-round and provide a more meaningful and future-focused conversation during the formal review.
  • AT&T Teams are connected via the “Loop” app—which is offered through a third-party vendor—where employees create goals, receive feedback, and adjust performance. Loop helps leaders and star performers get lots of feedback, quickly, so they can be their best.

By having managers change to a more “coaching” style approach and by using technology in the review process, you’ll be able to engage the Gen Z workforce.

2. Think Like a Wise Man, but Communicate in the Language of the People (Communication)

Each generation has a different preferred method of workplace communication. Baby Boomers prefer more formal, direct methods through e-mail and text. Generation X prefers informal, flexible conversations through e-mail, text, and Facebook. And Gen Zs and Millennials prefer informal, authentic communication through a variety of platforms that allow real-time, quick responses.

Jenkins says in order to attract and engage Gen Zs, you’ll want to curtail your communication methods to what appeals to them most. If you’re trying to recruit Gen Z through social media, you may be better off using Snapchat than Facebook. If you’re thinking of calling Gen Z candidates to tell them they got the job, you may want to consider sending a text message instead of making a phone call. Video is also a great way to engage the Gen Z workforce.

When it comes to recruiting, video is the future. According to Jenkins, 93% of Gen Zs say they visit YouTube at least once a week, and 54% visit the site multiple times throughout the day. If you’re trying to attract Gen Z, clearly video is the way to go, and this same sentiment was repeatedly touched upon at the recent RecruitCon event this past May.

It may be difficult to convey your company culture, but by showcasing a “day-in-the-life-of” video of your workforce, you’re showing potential candidates what it’s like to work for your company. With Gen Z being the most technologically savvy, this is the best way to get this generation interested in your company.

3. Iron Sharpens Iron, and One Man Sharpens Another (Reverse Mentoring)

As I’ve previously mentioned, Gen Z is the most technologically savvy generation that you’ll employ. According to Jenkins, this is the first time in history where “the emerging generations have skills and knowledge that previous generations don’t have.” In light of this, many older workers may benefit from working with Gen Zs and Millennials, as the younger generations may be able to pass along the skills and knowledge they’ve been accustomed to. Jenkins refers to this as “reverse mentoring.”

All generations can benefit from reverse mentoring, as everyone will be able to learn from one another. Jenkins says that Gen Zs will benefit, as well, by being able to build their communication skills. Jenkins offers the following tips for conducting reverse mentoring:

  1. Make a list of five things you don’t know but need to know.
  2. Identify one or two things that you are most likely not to learn on your own or during your course of work.
  3. Identify someone to mentor you.
  4. Clarify where to meet, frequency, expectations, etc.
  5. Prepare by identifying a set of questions. (Ask naive questions.)
  6. Grow.

Another great way to get employees to learn from one another during the reverse mentoring process is to have employees try to teach each other something the mentee thinks he or she already knows. For example, have a manager and direct report mentor each other on leadership. The manager may benefit from listening to what the direct report has to say/teach him or her about his or her individual managing style.

Jenkins also offers a few industry examples of companies that have successfully implemented a reverse mentoring program:

  • At Burberry, the former CEO created a “Strategic Innovation Council,” where Millennials met to innovate the company’s future.
  • Aetna has a generational employee resource group (ERG) that enables each generation to learn from other generations.
  • Bacardi’s “rising stars” program develops emerging leaders and encourages them to disrupt the company from the inside out.

4. Work Hard, Play Hard or Work Smart? (Work Styles)

Now that you know how to engage Gen Z through leadership, communication, and reverse mentoring, the final stage of engagement involves Gen Z’s work approach. Every generation is vastly different in its style of work. Baby Boomers are under the notion that loyalty should be rewarded and, therefore, stick with companies a lot longer. But Gen Xers think that work is a means to an end, and if they work hard, they should be able to play hard. With Gen Zs and Millennials, they take a vastly different approach.

It’s no secret that Millennials and younger workers job hop. According to a recent study, Millennials will change jobs an average of four times in their first decade out of college, compared to about two job changes by Gen Xers their first 10 years out of college. Jenkins says that if Millennial and Gen Z workers are unhappy with their current role, they won’t think twice about finding a company that meets their needs.

Jenkins says, “Mobile technology and ubiquitous connectivity have empowered the next generation.” In light of this, Jenkins says, employers need to enhance the experience of their workforce to help engage and retain ALL workers, not just Gen Zs and Millennials. By improving your company’s processes, policies, perks, and programs, you’re creating an organization where people want, not need, to show up every day.

Jenkins also likens employee experience to customer experience. If you handle your workforce the same way you’d treat your customers, your employees are more likely to stick around. When customers are satisfied, they stick with your product or service longer, and the same can be said about employee experience.

Jenkins says that material employers (those that treat their workforce like a product rather than people) will see a large decline in employee satisfaction over experiential employers that treat their workforce like customers. The end goal, Jenkins says, is to shift Generation Z’s relationship with work from feeling like a material purchase to an experiential purchase.

Jenkins closed out the webinar with one last tip to keep in mind about the future of work: One generation’s status quo is another generation’s challenge to improve.

Melissa BlazejakMelissa Blazejak is an Editor for Recruiting Daily Advisor and L&D Daily Advisor. She has written articles for HR.BLR.com and HR Daily Advisor and has been at BLR since 2014. She graduated with a BA of Science, specializing in Communication, from Eastern Connecticut State University in 2008. Most recently, she graduated in 2014 with a MS of Educational Technology. Llamas are her spirit animal.