Now Entering the Workforce: Rethinking Jobs for Gen Z


Now Entering the Workforce: Rethinking Jobs for Gen Z
Illustration by David Grey for Contact Center Pipeline

Many brands and organizations are focusing on recruiting and retaining younger workers, typically thought of as the millennial generation. On college campuses, however, professors and foodservice executives have noticed the arrival of a new group with distinctly different values and requirements. This group is Gen Z, currently aged eight to 22, who are now moving into the workforce at an increasing rate.

Gen Z are digital natives, and they have a different mindset from the older millennials. For instance, one professor found that her Gen Z students didn’t want to perform 10 hours of community service in her class. It wasn’t because they were disaffected or idle—instead, they themselves are founding not-for-profit organizations and want to spend those 10 hours improving causes already important to them. With that kind of mindset about making an impact, it’s critical for employers to consider how to attract and retain these Gen Z workers.

Work values is one of the areas where Gen Z is most distinctive from other generations. Quantitative research from Gotcha Communications found that Gen Z is determined to be financially independent. In fact, 65% of Gen Z prioritize salary vs. 54% of millennials. While work-life balance is important, it is a less of a concern for Gen Z at 38% compared to millennials at 47%. Gen Z’s focus on finances means that employers looking to attract Gen Z workers will be well-served to deliver messaging that highlights practical skills and financial rewards. Employers can show how their environment makes it possible for these value-conscious consumers to save and move toward their life goals.

Recently, we had the chance to talk with Gen Z workers in a call center environment. Jay Minnucci, CEO of Service Agility, led an engagement that examined the hiring and training practices of call center representatives. Many of the new-hires were Gen Z.

Jay says: “A key insight from this and other engagements is that contact centers have to establish more flexible work rules that conform to a population with dynamic needs and interests. As an example, the traditional scheduling approach of bidding on shifts that remain stagnant for a year is too stifling for someone with outside interests that regularly ebb and flow. A more interactive model that allows for swaps and changes via a mobile app is far more likely to attract and satisfy Gen Z workers.”

Consider Video to Attract Gen Z to Your Job Postings

Members of Gen Z have fresh approaches to evaluating jobs and looking for new positions. This suggests positioning and delivery system opportunities for recruiting and training. Here’s what one Gen Z call center employee suggests: “I would like it if they had a short video on how the job actually is to give me a feel for it. I don’t understand the description, so I don’t apply.”

Even though there are challenges in developing videos, the suggestion for video job vignettes and descriptions could help on several fronts:

  1. A short video format is more appealing and digestible than long written job descriptions. This format speaks to digital natives in their own language.
  2. Video also can convey the organization’s culture and experience through visual and audio cues, including audio branding. Going beyond written descriptions turns recruitment into a marketing campaign targeting new employees.
  3. A video can show how the employee is gaining valuable life skills in the job environment and also visually demonstrate how the organization values their contribution.

Tell Gen Z What Job (and Life) Skills They’ll Learn

Many job descriptions fail to give Gen Z applicants the information they are seeking in the way they are seeking it. One 22-year-old call center employee spoke about the benefits he sees from his current job: “I’m gaining valuable (soft) skills, like how to talk with people on the phone. My old job did not provide this, it was more of a technical help desk.”

When recruiting, it’s helpful to explicitly position the skills-building aspect of the job—explain to applicants how the job will connect to valuable work and life skills, specifically phone skills. For a generation that has grown up texting, communicating over a voice channel can be challenging, even if it’s the best way to obtain the needed result. Additional considerations:

  • Connecting the job skills with their giving-back values may be helpful. For instance, learning how to talk on the phone and clearly and effectively communicate can help them be more persuasive with their not-for-profit contributions.
  • Teaching the confidence and poise to leave voicemail messages will also be appreciated. Members of Gen Z sometimes express anxiety about this facet of phone use.

These employees are looking for hacks to get their work done more efficiently. Employers may want to carefully consider their resource guides and training manuals to see if information is delivered in a way that is useful and intuitive, rather than causing more work. This quote from a Gen Z call center employee illustrates how they would like to get information: “I wish we had like a search engine where you could type in questions. That would be faster than the data currently available.”

Make Sure the Job is Authentically Portrayed

Authentic portrayal of the day-to-day work experience, including the culture and the contributions the employee can make, ranks high among Gen Z workers, according to several recruiting executives. Ryan Marshal, Regional Manager of Human Resources at Convergint Technologies, reflects: “One of the things we do is sell our culture. This generation is first and foremost looking for the best cultural fit for them. They’re looking for a company where they’re not just a number, but where they can contribute to the company.”

While marketing and positioning the company and brand is important, given Gen Z’s tendency to check out reviews on Glassdoor and other sources, the portrayal must resonate with the actual experience and role that the company and the job plays in their lives.

Here is an example that my firm, Insight to Action, recently encountered which may help to illustrate this point. We were working to position a leading brand of pediatric supplement drink to first-time moms. The product had strong scientific research demonstrating that it could help in cases where a child’s diet was unable to deliver the required nutrition. However, when our approach suggested that the product was the hero in delivering the nutrition needed, moms rejected the message. Instead they wanted to hear that the mom is the source of nutrition, and the product’s role is to support all that the mom does to nurture her child. The mom needed to be positioned as the hero with the product in a supporting role.

An analogous workplace positioning is that the Gen Z worker sees the employer’s role as of one of helping them to gain useful skills that they can leverage at the workplace and elsewhere. Heather Watson, Behavioral Designer at The Center for Generational Kinetics, adds: “If you manage Gen Z, you’re not only managing their skill performance, you’re coaching their life, as well.”

Employers should welcome the entrance of Gen Z to the workplace. The cultural characteristics of this generation add up to employees that are passionate, frugal, collaborative and eager to succeed. Properly positioned and speaking their language, your company can be well on its way to recruiting the best of Gen Z.

Michal Clements headshot

Michal Clements is an independent market strategy and insights professional. As Managing Principal of Insight to Action, she works with B2B and B2C client teams to drive business results through a consultative approach combining strategy, analytics and insights. Her industry expertise includes consumer products (CPG), healthcare, software, B2B, food & beverage and education.