Employers Should Look at Each Candidate as an Individual
By Kelly Moulton and Mia McDonald
In the midst of the Great Resignation, employers are desperate to hire new staff. Insider Intelligence reports that in 2022, approximately 20.2% of the U.S. population will be made up of Generation Z, meaning employers will increasingly need to turn to this group to fill roles.
Born between the years of 1997 and 2012 and sometimes called ‘screenagers’ for their attachment to mobile devices and upbringing in a digital environment, the strengths and weaknesses of Gen Z, as well as what they have to offer to the workforce, differ significantly from previous generations in some ways, but mirror their predecessors in other ways.
Edward Segal, in his Forbes article, “How and Why Managing Gen Z Employees Can Be Challenging for Companies,” discussed the challenges Gen Z applicants present to employers. Among those, noted several executives, are a lack of discipline and patience as well as the need to develop a work ethic.
Gen Z is not unique in facing broad generational criticisms. Baby Boomers and Millennials can relate to the struggle of being defined by their generation. But just like prior generations, Generation Z is diverse in its composition, motivations, and beliefs. Working to understand each of these components can help generate success for both employers and Gen Z employees, while increasing Gen Z commitment to the employer.
Raised in different decades and growing up utilizing different technologies, it can be a challenge to integrate intergenerational individuals employed in the same workplace. But with the influx of young workers entering the market, employers need to continue to learn and adapt so they can obtain and retain the best applicants, just as they require their new hires to adapt, learn, and grow within their roles.
A great way to help acclimate new hires to the community and culture of the workplace is to integrate them into a working team of established professionals who can help ease their introduction. This is a strategy we both experienced when we started at Meyers Brothers Kalicka.
MBK created a space where both of us could work directly and collaboratively with a team of other young professionals, allowing us to quickly meet and bond with co-workers in various specialties. This made for a welcoming, and less intimidating, entrance into the firm and the demands of public accounting in particular. This strategy also provides a broad base of different people to go to with questions, improves motivation and accountability, and fosters a teamwork-driven environment.
“Gen Z is not unique in facing broad generational criticisms. Baby Boomers and Millennials can relate to the struggle of being defined by their generation. But just like prior generations, Generation Z is diverse in its composition, motivations, and beliefs.”
Another important consideration is that many Gen Z workers entering the employment market have just completed school during a global pandemic. This has fostered adaptability to different styles of working and learning, as many recent graduates were required to manage their own time and resources with remote education. Employers should try to mirror this and offer similarly flexible work hours and locations.
Companies need to ask themselves, are we truly devoted to our employees maintaining work-life balance? Taking this non-traditional approach can, in turn, allow employees to pursue other interests and certifications. Generation Z is very aware of the importance of mental healthcare, often seeking out employers that understand and support a balance between their work and personal pursuits, from time with friends and famil to higher education or community events. Allowing more flexibility for staff ultimately makes for a happier work environment and more productive, connected employees.
Employers can successfully integrate and take advantage of the strengths of Gen Z new hires if they take a multi-faceted and individualized approach. This can be encompassed with the collaborative work environment, as well as flexible work hours and locations arranged to accommodate the needs of each individual. Employers need to allow for independence — showing that they trust and value contributions — while also setting clear expectations and providing consistent feedback to foster growth. This will create a sense of empowerment, which will be a vital trait for these future leaders.
For this more hybrid, flexible strategy to work effectively, communication is essential. Whether it be a quick phone call, email updates, or regular in-person check-ins, setting standards for communication will help to keep everyone on the same page.
It is important to understand that there is no cookie-cutter approach that will work in all cases, and employers should not try to generalize a strategy for all young applicants. Perhaps the most important thing employers can do is set aside preconceived notions about the generation, and instead look at each candidate as an individual. They should consider the ways in which each individual learns best, as well as the specific projects assigned. What is the overarching goal of the project, and what is the key takeaway that can be taught? Where can we allow for flexibility to best accommodate their needs and set them up for success?
For Gen Z applicants, it is important to remember that what is valued most by employers is a positive attitude and a willingness to learn. Beyond this, new hires and even current employees should always look for ways they can pull down tasks from higher-ups; offering time to check in and help on any available tasks will show initiative and generate more respect. Employ your strengths in digital communication and technology, but be open-minded and use your first few years to further diversify and learn as much as you can from those around you. Immerse yourself in your environment and seek out opportunities to bond with your co-workers and make connections. Networking not just outside of your company but within it as well will help hires work well with a variety of people and grow invaluable interpersonal skills that cannot be taught in a textbook.
With compromises in attitude and an appreciation for change and development from everyone in a workplace, employers will be able to reap the benefits of the upcoming generation of workers and future leaders.
Kelly Moulton and Mia McDonald are associates at the Holyoke-based accounting firm Meyers Brothers Kalicka, P.C.