Hiring & Recruiting

Generation Z: What We Know and How to Use It

James Davis, Editor of HR Daily Advisor, recently had the pleasure of sitting down with Jennie Hollmann, Ph.D., Director of Organizational Research at Caliper. In the below Q&A, Hollman and Davis discussed some of Caliper’s insights about Generation Z and how to attract this group as candidates.

gen z

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Davis: I can’t even tell you how many articles I’ve looked at and even published about the Millennials, and now it’s all about Gen Z. How accurate do you think that information about generations really is?

Hollmann: I think the research done on the defining events and how that is likely to shape behavior and attitudes is likely to be accurate.  That said, until we have the opportunity to really study this generation, which is only just entering the workforce, I would keep an open mind.

Davis: Do you think such information can really prepare organizations for what they need to do?

Hollmann: Yes, absolutely. Understanding how a group of people are likely to behave, believe, and be motivated can only help organizations in recruiting and retaining talent at all levels.

Davis: HR spends so much time trying not to make generalizations about specific groups of people—but then generational generalizations (a mouthful to be sure!) are printed left and right. How do we navigate the gap between these two concepts?

Hollmann: Great point. I think if we keep in mind that generalizations can help HR, and other key stakeholders, make some decisions, but at the same time we need to be aware of individual differences. Not everything can be individually tailored (such as recruiting and selection methodology) but other events (such as setting development goals) can be.

Davis: People talk about Gen Z being the first digital natives. Can you elaborate?

Hollmann: They are the first generation to be born during a time when what we consider “digital” technology already existed—cell phones, wi-fi, internet, etc. They never knew a time without it.

Davis: What advantages and disadvantages might a digital native have when it comes to the modern workplace?

Hollmann: One key advantage I would guess is acceptance of technology. While technology will continue to change my guess is this generation will see it as more fluid than older generations. A potential disadvantage is making the assumption that everyone in an organization that they may work have the same attitudes and preference towards technology.

Davis: I’ve heard that people caution attempting to micro-manage Gen Z in particular. Doesn’t everyone hate micromanagement? What makes Gen Z different.

Hollmann: I think everyone hates the term micro-managing but the reality is some people are motivated by rules, policies, and being clearly told what to do. I think it may be too soon to know if this generation has a different distribution of people who prefer or don’t prefer this style of management. That said, an indicator that the may be less than enthusiastic is their independence of working style they have become accustomed to in school. They are likely to be given deadlines of midnight, be able to work on projects at any time of day and using technology to their advantage. Being told exactly when and how to do something may lead some to feeling frustrated.

DavisWhat is something that most people don’t know about Gen Z?

Hollmann: I believe their social conscience will play a positive role in how they, as a cohort, evolve and contribute to the workforce.

DavisWhat is something that you wish everyone knew about Gen Z?

Hollmann: We should be excited for them!