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Generational divide: what sets older and younger Gen Zs apart?

Members of this generation have reached adulthood and within the next decade will make up 30% of our workforce. This is the generation that started their careers during a chaotic time, witnessing events ranging from the aftermath of Brexit through to the long-lasting consequences of the pandemic. In this article, we share some insights into the breadth of complexity of this generational cohort of talent, by comparing the views and priorities of workers with up to six years’ career experience with those still studying.

Reflections on recruitment

For older Gen Z professionals – those who graduated before 2019 – the recruitment process is an opportunity to demonstrate their skills and experience in a practical way. They’re particularly interested in completing applied assessments, such as case studies and technical tests to showcase their hard-earned skills in a real-world context. Therefore, if you’re targeting these experienced workers as part of your recruitment strategy, there’s clear value in adopting a practical assessment. Meanwhile, for students and graduates entering the professional world for the first time, a softer, more personal approach to recruitment is preferred. They generally favour human engagement and interactive processes such as assessment centres and events to gain a better insight into the firm’s culture and people. For companies pivoting their recruitment strategy towards entry-level hiring for the first time, we recommend re-designing the end-to-end process rather than re-purposing lateral processes. It’s important to effectively assess for potential rather than unfairly test for learned skills that they may not have had the opportunity to develop.

Looking to leaders and networks

In addition to their desire to show-off their practical skills in the recruitment process, the more mature of Gen Z workers are focused on leadership. Most of the pre-2019 graduates surveyed believe the quality of a firm’s senior team is more important than internal networks. Leadership and vision are what resonate with experienced Gen Z talent, so offering exposure to senior leaders as part of the recruitment and onboarding process is crucial to forming strong, lasting connections with these experienced professionals. Furthermore, it is worth considering how to tailor your EVP to better attract and align your firm with more experienced recruits. As well as giving an insight into your company’s leadership style and culture, this will help inspire candidates to envision the sort of roles they could move into in the future. In contrast, the youngest members of this generation prioritise building a network over leadership when considering opportunities. For this cohort starting their careers at the entry-level, there is clear value in being able to see personal testimonials and evidence of opportunities to benefit from peer mentorship during the recruitment process. Assigning a buddy at the critical point between offer acceptance and the start date can also be a key differentiator to mitigate against last-minute reneges. Incorporate these elements into your talent acquisition efforts, and your business will reap the rewards through stronger emotional engagement and personal connections with potential employees.

To work from home, or not to work from home

A topic of continued discussion since the pandemic has centred around flexible working and the role of the office. Our results found that those still studying were almost three times more likely to prefer coming into the office five days a week, compared with their more experienced Gen Z counterparts. Furthermore, the main drivers for coming into the office differ depending on which demographic within Gen Z you are looking to attract. Our results highlighted clear patterns based on experience level when it came to the influences for coming into the office be it the learning curve, working environment or social purposes. Communication around your flexible working policy should be targeted to align with individuals’ motivators for wanting to come into the office to help generate commitment.

One size doesn't fit all

One of the clearest conclusions drawn from our findings is that there’s no such thing as a ‘typical’ Gen Z worker or jobseeker. This is a dynamic, diverse, and ever-changing demographic, and your approach to hiring and retention should be similarly flexible if you want to meet their needs. It’s true there are similarities and overlaps between the older and younger cohorts, particularly when it comes to basic requirements and job expectations, including the expectation of a competitive salary with importance on pay transparency, for example. Our respondents were also unanimous in their desire for development pathways and career progression. Graduates from 2017 onwards chose wanting faster progression as their top reason to leave a job, ahead of a higher salary. But there are also clear and significant differences between the older and younger members of this generation. Ultimately, successful recruitment and talent retention relies on a strong, evolving understanding of your target market. This will help you tailor your strategy to meet the unique expectations of your ideal candidates. You can also get to know this generation better by reading our in-depth analysis of their views on recruitment and work in the full 2023 Gen Z Hiring Report

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