shaping your employer branding strategy to attract Gen Z talent

even as Gen Z faces outsized economic repercussions from the global pandemic, employers may learn best practices from the workforce’s youngest group

As fallout from the global pandemic continues to reverberate across the globe, the toll is having varying effects on different segments of the population. By age group, there is far more concern among middle-aged and elderly workers, but the financial impact on the youngest working generations may be more pronounced. With many Gen Z workers facing their first global financial crisis – arguably the worst in many generations – how they view the job market and their choice of employers may be reshaped for years to come. 

A recent Harris poll of American adults found that Gen Z workers were three times more likely to lose their jobs as a result of the COVID-19 crisis than workers between the ages of 35 and 54. For the youngest generation in the workforce – defined as those up to 22 years old – the economic shock may be a wake-up call that the decade-long economic expansion couldn’t go on forever. As they look for answers that may not be as forthcoming as they would like, many Gen Z workers are likely to re-prioritize their career goals. 

Doing so could mean how they view the attractiveness of employers. Our 2020 Randstad Employer Brand Research survey, conducted at the end of last year before the global pandemic outbreak, shows that up until that point, Gen Z respondents did not consider job security to be one of the top three attributes they valued most in an employer. A little more than one-third (36%) said they preferred an employer that offered job security, but this quality trailed an attractive salary and compensation package (cited by 51%), a pleasant work environment (42%) and a good work-life balance (42%).  

By contrast, job security was the second-most important quality that the oldest generation value, cited by 49% of workers aged 55 to 64. Similarly, Gen X workers also cited job security as the second-most desired quality (47%) in an employer.     

With little warning, Gen Z workers, many of whom are about to enter or just recently entered the workforce, had a thriving global economy taken away from them. Not only do many now find themselves unemployed due to the crisis, but for those coming into the job market, it will be much harder to secure jobs in the months ahead as they compete with other generations in the marketplace. 

With one-third of Gen Z workers we surveyed still in school, a bleak jobs market may be waiting for them in the months and possibly years ahead. And among U.S. workers in higher-risk industries – those most economically affected by the pandemic crisis – the Pew Research Center estimates 24% are between the ages of 16 to 24. Randstad found that even before the crisis began, just 29% of Gen Z respondents were completely confident that their company provides long-term job security – the lowest percentage among all generations.

Another way in which Gen Z may be affected is their outlook on job hopping. One-quarter (24%) told Randstad that they had changed jobs because they felt a lack of purpose in their work, which was the highest level among all age groups. This outlook may significantly change as unemployment rises and opportunity to find work they find meaningful becomes more unlikely. 

The news for Gen Z workers is all bleak, however. As many are quarantined or sequestered at home, they are also finding innovative ways to use technology to stay connected, network and create through social media and popular apps such as TikTok. And Forbes contends that employers can learn from the adaptability and flexibility of Gen Z and Millennial during this crisis. 

There are indeed ways in which organizations can learn from the youngest generation in the workforce. Through their adaptability and networking skills, Gen Z workers may be the most resilient during a time of extreme challenge. And as many within this group are just about to enter the labor market, the hardship they face will be a foundation on which their careers will always be built upon. Here’s how you can leverage their standout attributes:

Learn Gen Z’s socialization habits

As the most connected generation ever, this group is exceptionally prepared for remote and virtual relationships. By understanding how they are leveraging social media, how they communicate over different channels and the way information is shared, your business may find new ways to keep your workforce more connected and engaged. 

Optimize technology for the best experience

When social distancing went into effect, companies scrambled to enable their workforce for remote work. Now that most have implemented technologies to facilitate this, is the experience conducive to productivity? Gen Z is perhaps the group most adept at using technology to create a satisfying experience so consider their views on how best to leverage digital tools to your advantage. 

Don’t overlook the importance of facetime 

While it may seem contradictory, the digital generation also craves one-on-one interaction with managers and colleagues. Citing a survey conducted by the Workforce Institute at Kronos Inc., the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) found that 75% of Gen Z respondents said they prefer face-to-face meetings with supervisors and more than one-third preferred this method when getting feedback from co-workers. Make sure during the current lockdown that you schedule such meetings over video to prevent feelings of isolation and dissatisfaction.

As businesses around the world seek ways to keep their workforce motivated and engaged during the pandemic crisis, learning from while inspiring their workforce will be key to maintaining a high level of morale. The experience and upbringing of Gen Z workers may help company leaders to accelerate that process and create learnings that may be used for some time to come.