THE BLOG

How Do You Become an Employer of Choice for Gen Zers?

06/08/2015 05:59 pm ET | Updated Jun 08, 2016

The best of the best are not just those who are best educated, not just the STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) grads. The best of the best are the self-starting high-performers in every field - those who are the most career minded at this early stage in their careers, regardless of what industry they are seeking to enter. They are the serious applicants for serious jobs.

Too many employers who are trying to hire the best of the best today are still offering the same long-term career opportunities, together with traditional, old-fashioned rewards they've been offering for decades: slow steps up the organization's ladder, six-month reviews, annual raises, and other standard benefits. If all you have to sell are one-size-fits-all career paths and rewards that don't vest until several years in the future, your value proposition and recruiting message will not be compelling to best of the best Gen Zers. For the most in-demand potential employees among Generation Z, traditional rewards are merely the threshold test.

What's confusing to many employers, however, is that Gen Zers often appear very concerned about these long-term opportunities--eager to learn about the traditional career track and benefits. What can they expect in five years? Ten years? Fifteen years? What's going on here? Are Gen Zers just "traditional career path curious"?

Yes. They are curious to know where you think they might be in the organization if they were to stay for five, ten, or fifteen years. But this is just-in-case information: just in case they get stuck in your system, they want to know how it might play out. They are also savvy enough to know that hiring managers are concerned with retention of new employees and that they should try to express interest in staying for at least some reasonable period of time.

Very few would-be employers write on their website, "Come work for us for a little while, and let's see how it goes." Employers rarely say in interviews, "Well, if you work here for six months or a year, that would be fine, and then let's see how it goes." And maybe more employers should do that. But if you want to speak to Gen Zers in a way that differentiates you as a potential employer, you should focus your messages on, "Let me tell you what the deal is today, tomorrow, next week, this month, the first six months, and the first year."

When it comes to compensation, focus your recruiting message on performance-based compensation. Financial compensation must be competitive in the marketplace. But much more important than the actual salary, new young workers want to know that their compensation is not limited by any factor other than their own performance. They want to be assured that if they work harder and better, they will be rewarded in direct proportion to the value they add--and that the value they add above and beyond the job won't be assumed to be part of the starting package.

When it comes to work conditions, emphasize whatever flexibility you might have to offer, especially when it comes to schedules and location. Gen Zers want to know that as long as they are meeting goals and deadlines, they will have some control over their own schedules. The more control, the better. That also goes for where they work. To the extent that working in a particular space in a particular building is required, they want to know that they will have some power to define their own space--that they can arrange furniture, computers, art work, or lighting--to their liking.

What else are the best of the best looking for? The best Gen Zers are looking for formal and informal training opportunities and want to be assured that they will be building skills and knowledge long before those skills become obsolete. They also want access to decision makers who can help them. Gen Zers don't want to wait until they climb the ladder to build relationships with important leaders, managers, clients, customers, vendors, or coworkers. They want access right away. Not only that, they want to know that someone is keeping track of their success: They want to receive personal credit for results achieved. Gen Zers don't want to work hard to make somebody else look good. They want to put their own names on the tangible results they produce.

Gen Zers are a highly-skilled, highly-informed workforce with a lot of potential - so being an employer that stands out to them is important! By keeping your recruiting message focused on the shorter-term, on how you can compensate them based on their own performance, the flexibility you can provide, and the kinds of learning opportunities they can expect to have access to, you'll start sending a positive message to Gen Z right away.