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Attracting Younger Employees to the Workforce

As previously discussed in Episode #1074 of the Arete Coach Podcast, employers and business leaders are facing a shortage of labor supply. Because of this, employers are investing in new recruitment and hiring strategies. Some of these strategies are focused on younger generations such as Generation Z and those graduating high school and college. Below we discuss and examine key strategies for recruiting and hiring the next generation of the workforce.

Examining the younger generation

Before examining how to recruit younger generations, it is important first to establish an understanding of younger generations. Who are they? What are they looking for in their future careers? What is different about them from generations before?

Reduced workforce participation

According to the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas and the U.S Bureau of Labor Statistics, since the COVID-19 pandemic, fewer employees under the age of 25 have returned to the workforce than those aged 25-54. Prior to the pandemic, a little over 80% of youth aged 16-24 were participating in the labor force. In May of 2022, only 62.3% of youth aged 16-24 were participating in the labor force. This indicates that approximately 17.7% of youth aged 16-24 have previous work experience, but have yet to return to the workforce. This reduced workforce participation indicates there are employees available in younger generations who have not yet returned to the post-pandemic workforce (Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas & U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2022).

General demographics

According to research from Pew, Generation Z (those born after 1996) are the most diverse generation to date (Fry & Parker, 2018). They “see the country’s growing racial and ethnic diversity as a good thing, and they’re less likely than older generations to see the United States as superior to other nations” (Parker & Igielnik, 2020). According to Pew, “Generation Z represents the leading edge of the country’s changing racial and ethnic makeup” (Parker & Igielnik, 2020).

Generation Z also has the lowest rate of college debt—compared to Millennials (born from 1981 to 1996), who have an average of $38,000 in college debt (Statista, 2022). The low rate of college debt among Generation Z might be due to many of them still being in college or not yet enrolled in college.

According to Gallup's research, younger people were more likely to lose their jobs due to the COVID-19 pandemic than their senior counterparts (Pendell, 2021). Other research indicates that younger generations also place great importance on how “ethical,” “diverse and inclusive” their workplace is (O’Boyle, 2021).

What are they looking for?

“Corporate culture matters. How management chooses to treat its people impacts everything for better or for worse.” - Simon Sinek

Workplace well-being

What are younger generations looking for when applying for jobs? Gallup Research polled adults aged 15 years and older, including Millennials and those from Generation Z (Pendell, 2021). Their research revealed that an “emphasis on well-being is nonnegotiable for younger workers” and that workplace well-being is the number one concern for younger generations. Gallup attributes this to negative emotions such as “anger and stress” that “increased across the workforce in 2020” during the COVID-19 pandemic (Pendell, 2021). This sense of workplace well-being includes physical, career, social, financial, community, and cultural well-being (O’Boyle, 2021). Additionally, workplace flexibility and remote worker support is also considered a valuable form of workplace well-being (Pendell, 2021).

Ethics and diversity

Younger generations value working for ethical employers. However, they view ethical organizations differently than older generations. For example, “older generations may associate ethical behavior with personal character. Younger generations are concerned with people and the planet.” Additionally, younger generations of workers view “diversity, equity, and inclusion as imperative.” (O’Boyle, 2021).

What makes them different?

Social media usage

Research has indicated that 73% of “job seekers between the ages of 18 to 34 found their last job through social media” (ApolloTechnical, 2022). Although a majority of job hunters use social media regardless of their generation, younger generations have “had some kind of social media presence for more than half their lives” (SproutSocial, n.d.). Research from the Economics and Sociology Journal indicates that Generation Z “prefers online job search over older methods” and that a majority of Gen Z individuals see a company's “social media profile” as a “very important” factor when considering where to work (Peter et al., 2020).

Value of well-being and culture

Younger generations place greater emphasis on relationships and culture. For example, those born after 1980 value more that an “organization cares about employees’ well-being” while those born from 1946 to 1979 view ethical leadership as the most important feature of a potential employer (O’Boyle, 2021). According to TalentLyft, Gen Z employees “care more about the meaning of their work” and look for “a strong sense of belonging to the company they work for.” Gen Z employees care about the values of the company they work for and “are looking to identify with them” (Prpic, 2021).

Sharing salary information

According to research from BankRate, Baby boomers are the “least likely to discuss” their pay and salary with coworkers and other professional contacts. On the other hand, younger generations are more likely to share their salary information with others. 26% of Gen Z employees have shared their salary with a co-worker and 25% have shared their salary with other professional contacts (Sham, 2022). This increase in “transparent conversations about compensation” can increase compensation requested by potential employees and job applicants (Sham, 2022).

Strategies for attracting the younger generation

Based on the data and research discussed above, there are several recruitment strategies that employers can use to attract younger generations.

“The ROI of social media is that your business will still exist in 5 years.” - Eric Qualman

Social media

As aforementioned, the majority of Gen Z job applicants view a company’s social media profile as a “very important” factor when considering where to work (Peter et al., 2020). Social media platforms like LinkedIn report having 55 job applications submitted per second (Ku, 2022). According to PostBeyond, social recruiting (or recruiting with the use of social media) allows employers to “connect with more candidates,” “save money and time on hiring,” and “showcase… employer brand” (Ku, 2022). A new form of social recruiting has also developed on a trending social media platform: TikTok. In 2021, they launched TikTok resumes with companies such as Chipotle, Shopify, and Target piloting the program. On this platform, potential job applicants respond to job applications using videos they create to introduce themselves (Maurer, 2021). According to the Society of Human Resource Management (SHRM), “social media- including TikTok- is a tactic proven to be very helpful for recruitment, especially for employers facing labor shortage” (Maurer, 2021).

Sell a culture that focuses on well-being

According to The Undercover Recruiter, it is important for employers to sell their culture to younger generations. They want to work for companies that care about their well-being and alongside employees with a shared mission. However, this well-being includes consideration about their lives outside of work. For example, digital nomadism is now a new form of employment enjoyed by many employees in younger generations.

According to ProjectUntethered, in 2021, 44% of digital nomads were Millennials, 21% were Generation Z, and only 12% were Baby Boomers (ProjectUntethered, 2022). Younger generations are favoring more flexible employment options that support their work-life balance. However, they also value the benefits and perks offered by employers such as health insurance and vacation days. For more information on creating well-being in the workplace, check out Episode #1050 of the Arete Coach Podcast where we discuss 11 reasons employees stay with businesses and what leading companies are doing to improve employee well-being.

Advertise and celebrate diversity

As discussed previously, younger generations place great importance on the diversity of their workplaces. In response, employers and recruiters are advised to advertise their value of diversity. Consider this insight from ZipRecruiter. They state that to attract college graduates (a sect of the young workforce), “rather than posting ads for specific positions, recruit candidates to your company by providing information on your mission, business model, industry and all the entry-level career opportunities you have available” (2015). Furthermore, the Society of Human Resource Management also states that “more companies and organizations” are “highlighting diversity in their ads” because of the high competition labor market and the “demographic shifts” in the United States (Thaler-Carter, 2001). By advertising the “real” and “authentic” diversity of a workplace, employers and recruiters and make their workplaces more attractive for potential employees (McCrea, 2020).

“A long apprenticeship is the most logical way to success. The only alternative is overnight stardom, but I can’t give you a formula for that.” - Chet Atkins

Pave career paths through apprenticeship and mentoring

According to Business News Daily, “Millennials want to know that they have room to grow when choosing an employer” and that if they know “how long it might take them to advance, they’re more likely to stick around and work toward those career goals” (Schooley, 2022). This also applies to high school students. According to ADP, “high school students are hungry for meaningful work to help share their future career objectives…” By advertising the career path available for job positions, younger job applicants with career aspirations can begin to visualize their role in your organization. This can also be done by mentoring.

Also from Business News Daily, younger generations such as Millennials place “higher value on collaboration than competition. Employers can keep millennial employees engaged by implementing internal peer mentorship programs and assigning team-oriented initiatives” (Schooley, 2022).

Pair younger generational recruitment efforts with philanthropic initiatives

According to ADP, “business-sponsored events have the potential to draw high school volunteers who value philanthropic activities.” Business leaders can then mine interns from that volunteer pool and give “students valuable experience to include on their college applications and resumes.” Philanthropic efforts give organizations the opportunity to also display their values and workplace culture. By displaying these features, participants of these philanthropic efforts can also be encouraged to apply for jobs within an organization as well.

Rethink your job descriptions

When looking to attract the younger generation to your organization, it is important to re-evaluate your job description. Younger generations in the workforce likely do not have years of experience. Consider what experience is absolutely necessary for your job descriptions and what skills could be trained and enhanced after hiring (McCrea,2020). Research indicates that 61% of entry-level positions require at least 3 years of experience (Bates, n.d.). College graduates, high school students, and those who have only been in the workforce for a few years are not likely to have 3 years of experience on their resume. According to Harver, “Instead of focusing on hands-on experience that is directly relevant, you should aim to focus on transferable skills and look at what candidates did in school besides studying. Internships, part-time jobs, extracurricular activities, and volunteering are all excellent examples of what you can look at to determine whether or not a candidate is a good fit for your organization” (Bates, n.d.).

Connect with colleges and high schools

A great way to access a pool of job candidates is by building relationships with local colleges and high schools for in-person work and a variety of universities and colleges for remote employment. Most universities have career offices with career counselors and guidance for students. By building relationships with these career centers, employers can give college students an early introduction to their business and workplace before they graduate. High schools also offer some career counseling services to their students. A common practice for many seniors in high school is a career assessment test, which aims to help students decide what career path they want to pursue. High school counselors and staff also discuss future goals with students who are not wanting to pursue a college education. By connecting with these resources and sharing your open positions and careers available to high school graduates and students, high school counselors and staff can direct students towards your organization for employment purposes.

Implement student loan payback programs

Student loans are a common burden for many college graduates. They are also a roadblock for many high school graduates looking to obtain a higher education. According to PayCor, “more than 3.2 million workers have more than $100,000 in student loan debt” (2022). Furthermore, the Society of Human Resource Management states that “to catch the eye of job seekers” employers should “consider offering cash to pay down employees’ student loan debt.” They also state that “although the percentage of employers offering student loan repayment assistance doubled to 8% in 2020… it remains an uncommon benefit despite its popularity among younger employees” (Sammer, 2022). By providing student loan payback programs, employers can attract and retain younger generations of talent looking to get rid of their student loan debt or pay for college while working within a company.

The main takeaway

As employers struggle to find labor that meets the needs of their workplace, there is a younger generation of employees continually entering the workforce who are looking for careers and opportunities. By recruiting these employees, employers can fill open positions in their organization and diversify their workplaces. Employers looking to invest in this pool of candidates can connect with younger generations by having a presence on social media, celebrating diversity, creating cultures that foster workplace well-being, displaying career paths, offering mentorship opportunities, using philanthropic efforts to attract potential employees, re-evaluating job descriptions, connecting with colleges and high schools, and offering student loan payback programs to attract and retain younger generations to the workforce.

“Nothing we do is more important than hiring and developing people. At the end of the day, you bet on people, not on strategies.” - Lawrence Bossidy


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