The ABCs of Recruiting Millennials and Generation Z

The scramble for talent in today’s tight labor market is reaching recent college graduates. And although organizations are exploring innovative strategies to attract younger workers, they have to be ready to offer these benefits and work solutions to compete, consultants say. 

"Employers will need to work harder than ever before to attract and more importantly retain" millennial workers and even Generation Z employees (born in the mid-1990s to early 2000s), Nicholas Wyman, CEO of the Institute for Workplace Skills and Innovation, told Bloomberg BNA via email May 31. 

In a survey of 100 HR professionals, 78 percent reported they are targeting millennial workers in their recruitment efforts, and another 56 percent said they actively try to attract Gen Z workers, Andrew Challenger, vice president of Challenger, Gray & Christmas, told Bloomberg BNA May 30. One benefit that is at the forefront of HR’s plans to recruit younger workers is student loan assistance, Challenger said. 

Despite the survey finding that 73 percent of companies plan to offer this kind of benefit, only 22 percent actually have the benefit in place for incoming employees, Challenger said. Of those that plan to implement student loan assistance, only 14 percent plan to do so soon, while the rest have no definite timeline for implementation. 

A recent college graduate borrower owes an average of $37,000 in student loans. So "clearly student debt is weighing on the minds of millennials," Challenger said. Additionally, student loan assistance plans can work double duty, not only as a recruiting tool, but also as a way to retain employees. 

If employers can help employees reach that next level of stability in their lives to buy homes, start families, and save, "those employees are less likely to move around, relocate, and jump from company to company," Challenger said. But the option has to be there to motivate these workers. 

Most essential to a recruitment strategy for millennial and Gen Z workers is the way HR communicates with these potential employees. Companies should learn to "communicate in their language," Wyman said. Employers should understand these workers are looking for jobs that allow for flexibility, not organizational structure, and are thinking globally, not locally, in terms of how they see their careers advancing, he added. 

Challenger said there was a time when "a stable job with upward mobility was enough, but today there is an added layer of making jobs matter to the greater good." 

Allowing more workplace flexibility will also give a company a leg up on the competition. Millennials are "so comfortable with technology, they can perform as well in any setting as they would in an office," Challenger said. But companies that offer a lot of flexibility should also keep in mind that millennials want a workplace that feels like a community. HR should also make efforts to connect colleagues and co-workers, to ensure cooperation, he said. 

When it comes to managing millennial and Gen Z employees, Wyman advised HR to "think mentoring, not management." 

Mentoring is a tool for transferring organizational knowledge while supporting, guiding, and teaching, according to Wyman. It will assist workers to meet the challenges they find on the job, and to identify career growth opportunities. HR should consider developing a system based "on and off the job, where a person can earn while they learn," Wyman recommended.

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