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Recruiting and Retaining Millennials and Gen Z 

Finding the best talent and holding onto to them has become the Holy Grail. The turmoil in the job market – even with fears of a recession – continues. The cost of recruitment is high and the cost of turnover even higher, especially when you consider how long it takes an employee to be trained and productive. The New York Times reports that the impact turnover is having on productivity is a major factor in a lagging economy

Let’s look at our present workforce. Millennials, age 26-41, represent roughly 40% of U.S. workers. Generation Z, age 10-25, who are just getting into their first jobs, make up 13% of the labor force. Combined, that’s over half of the American workforce. Understanding these two generations and what’s important to them is critical. They differ from earlier generations in their priorities and what they expect from employers. 

Different Priorities: Purpose and Connection 

As hiring managers, we often refer to our own past when recruiting these younger workers. It’s natural. You think, “Well, you’re starting where I did. So, you must have the same goals and desires that I did at your age.” Not necessarily.  

Previous generations were more focused on money and job security. However, for millennials and Gen Z, in particular, connectedness and purpose are often more important than salary. These workers want the organization’s mission to connect to their values. They want to know that what they’re doing matters and makes a difference in their lives, their families and their communities. Hiring managers need to be able to explain the “why” to candidates and employees and how what the company does makes a difference. 

For example, staffing and recruiting sits at the forefront of people’s livelihoods. As a recruiter, putting people in the right job can change their life trajectory significantly. Maybe we’re helping them get a big raise, or changing their commute, giving them more time with their family or finding a new career. One phone call can change that person’s life. These actions resonate with many younger employees who we recruit for our firm. They also inform the discussions we have with candidates when we’re looking to fill open positions for our clients. 

The first step is to understand what motivates that individual employee or candidate. Then you can link what they want to what you can offer. What does that person value most – work/life balance, remote work, skill development, compensation, benefits, or impact on the greater community? If it doesn’t match, then maybe it’s not a good fit and better to find out earlier than later. 

What Do Millennials & Gen Z Want? 

While it’s difficult to generalize about millions of people, research is showing that employees in their 20’s and 30’s are very specific in what they are looking for from an employer.  

Learning and development. These workers need and want training. Over three-quarters (76%) of Gen Z say that learning is key to their success, according to LinkedIn and over two-thirds (67%) say they want to want to work at companies where they can learn skills to “advance their careers,” according to the National Society of High School Scholars (NSHSS). Although many prefer remote or hybrid work, they also realize they need face-to-face interaction to learn. Being empathetic towards what a person is and how they learn is a huge reason why these workers stay or leave.  

Work-life balance. Millennials are the generation that brought work-life balance to the forefront. The pandemic has accelerated this. Remote and hybrid work is now table stakes. Younger employees want flexibility in working arrangements. They also are looking for employers who put an authentic emphasis on well-being. 

Diversity, equity and inclusion. Fairness and equity are very important to both millennials and Gen Z, who are the most ethnically and racially diverse generations. They want to see an employer who takes DE&I seriously. Approximately three quarters (76%) of workers would consider looking for a new job if they discovered there was an unfair gender pay gap or no diversity and inclusion policy at their company, according to ADP.  

What’s at Stake? 

This generation won’t stick around if the job doesn’t work out as promised, according to a 2022 study by The Muse. Kathryn Minshew, The Muse’s cofounder and CEO, calls it “Shift Shock.” Millennial and Gen Z candidates are more likely to feel the employer-employee relationship should be a two-way street, Minshew explains. “On top of this, the pandemic has emphasized for many that ‘life is short,’ which means candidates are less likely to stick around in unfulfilling jobs.” Survey responses were chilling. Four out of ten (41%) would give a new job two to six months if they felt Shift Shock as a new hire. 80% said it’s acceptable to leave a new job before six months if it doesn’t live up to expectations.  

Holding onto your people and showing them that you care is what will get you through the next six months to a year. It may take an overhaul approach to how you think about your business, not just short term, but how to grow the next generation so that your organization continues to thrive in the coming decades. If they’re connected and they have the motivation, this one-on-one interaction and attention will payoff. 

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