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  • Writer's pictureAlex Atherton - Gen Z Thought Leader

The Battle To Recruit Gen Z

Many employers say that the struggle to recruit does not stop with Gen Z. Finding, keeping and satisfying all employees has never been harder. Organisations are battling against seemingly ever increasing demands for flexibility, pay and benefits or the risk of employees disappearing to developing a potentially profitable side hustle. The job market is a buyers’ market right now, and the buyers are in a strong position.

Gen Z is different to previous generations, and with good reason. Employers do not need to overhaul all aspects of their recruitment process for the demands and needs of the youngest generation in the workplace, but they do need to consider their approach. Those who take the time to see the world through Gen Z’s eyes and make the adjustments will discover the rewards.

The balance between human and automated interaction in a recruitment process is a difficult balance for any employer. The future employees who are most engaged at this point may also be those who stay longer after they have arrived. In order to achieve a high level of engagement, human interaction is required from the outset.

It is true that Gen Zs prefer human interaction more than is often thought to be the case. A key factor in this is the synchronous conversation. By that I mean one where dialogue flows from one party to the next and back again, such as in a telephone call or a face to face conversation. Asynchronous communication includes email, text/whatsapp or social media where gaps between exchanges could be hours, days or weeks.

A 2018 survey showed that Gen Z strongly prefer synchronous conversations. Face to face was by far the most popular method of communication and telephone calls are popular too. The halfway house of Facetime conversations or a zoom/teams/Google meet are preferable to many even when audio only is an option. They want to see the other person in the conversation.

Even those methods which are asynchronous can be used in a synchronous way such as the whatsapp or email conversation where the responses are quick enough to be live. So why are synchronous means of communication more popular?

The key factor is trust. Gen Z has had endless clickbait thrown at them for longer than they can remember. Their sensors for whether a message or the person who sent it are genuine are permanently switched on, and they did not live in an era where this was any different. The generations which came before them had a sense of mass media with far fewer outlets than is currently the case and a reputation for each of them. Gen Z does not have this luxury.

It really matters to Gen Z to be able to see the person they are talking to in order to trust them and also determine their level of authenticity. For older generations the idea of marketing often meant something that was shiny, polished and in print. Gen Z needs to see who is behind the words, and to judge whether they are a human they would like to engage with and if the words used by the organisation hold up. They need to see it how it is, and not someone else’s version of what that might be.

Organisations have difficult balances to strike. On the one hand, efficiencies matter and companies can ill afford to miss out on potential candidates because the person paid to pick up the phone was on another call. Gen Z understand that efficiencies matter too. They expect organisations to keep up to date, save money and use time effectively. This also increases trust, because they perceive that organisations who do so will have a better chance of surviving the next calamity along the lines of the Global Financial Crash or a pandemic.

It may feel more efficient in principle for an organisation to use AI options wherever possible, but if that leads to fewer applications, a lower quality of field and higher attrition rates it will only cost more in the long run. If you want to retain as well as recruit, be personal.

As a general rule it is a good idea to have one level of electronic filtering at the outset, such as a quiz or short survey, but the next should be human. Booking a time to talk can be automated, but the conversation should not be. That conversation presents the opportunity for an organisation to explain the process and to be clear and thorough about all aspects of how it will work.

Organisations may flip between automated and human interaction, but should explain to potential applicants why this is the case. Candidates do not expect leaders to waste expensive staff hours, after all it means there is more time available for people who are genuinely interested, but they do expect to feel a sense of investment.

"If an organisation does not invest in the person in recruitment, it is not a good indicator for the future. Those who do invest can still reap significant rewards, even in this job market."

About the Author - Alex Atherton is a former secondary school headteacher who heard the word ‘snowflake’ once too often to describe the students he worked with. He consults with organisations on recruiting, retaining and engaging Gen Z and both writes and speaks on the topic. You can find out more here

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