Employing the Next Generation: Elder Z

July 20, 2022by Hiebing

At Hiebing, we keep a close eye on the people we refer to as “Elder Z,” our term for the elder slice of Gen Z.

As this segment of the population continues to roll onto the world’s stage, we have taken interest in their increasing impact on the economy, our culture and the workforce. As marketers, we’re helping our clients better understand how to connect with this generation, which makes up a growing portion of their target audience for goods and services, as well as their workforce. The latter is especially critical in the wake of the “ Great Resignation” as leadership teams worldwide are seeking to obtain and retain top talent.

With that in mind, our agency recently conducted proprietary quantitative research to better understand Elder Z’s views on what the path to success looks like, what makes for a winsome workplace and what type of work is most compelling. Here’s what we found.

Create Multiple Paths to Learn Career Skills

After years of American society pointing to a college education as the primary path to success, Elder Z has started to explore and embrace other routes. This should come as no surprise given the cost of education and the crushing weight of student loans, a paradigm their millennial predecessors also lived through. Add to that the volatile blend of virtual and real-life learning in a COVID world, which has likely lowered their interest in higher education as the default.

While some are considering and pursuing a college education, many are taking a “jump into the workforce” approach akin to the 1960s and 1970s. This generation lives primarily in a “dream it, do it” narrative, likely fueled by start-up culture that highlights personal motivation as the masterstroke to becoming billionaires.

But when it comes to the biggest hurdle on their career path, Elder Z believes theirs is knowing where and how to begin. They’re just not sure what steps to take to get where they want to go career-wise – or at least where they think they want to go. For companies, that hurdle presents a great opportunity. Because this cohort currently values real-world experiences more than higher education, apprenticeships and internships can become great tools for fueling the HR pipeline. These real-world experiences also give Elder Gen Z the chance to try on an industry and role – and discover how it aligns (or doesn’t) with their skills, strengths, interests and passions.

By creating these apprenticeships and internships – and sharing industry career advice through a blog and connections with the career development contacts at nearby educational institutions – businesses can actually help build their own pipelines of qualified candidates.

This may seem like a big lift, but there’s a lot of upside to doing this both for the companies and Elder Z employees. Such efforts not only foster relevant skill sets, but also bolster confidence and cultivate camaraderie for Elder Z and their teams while potentially setting them up for long-term success with the company. (Or, conversely, reveal that the fit isn’t a good one either for the employee or the employer, which is better for everyone in the long run.)

Cultural Values Are Key

Like the generations that came before, Elder Z appreciates good insurance, high wages/salary and flexible hours. Flexible hours may be tricky for companies to accommodate – and when it is, it’s important to figure out what’s possible and draft messaging to communicate that. Additionally, make sure you focus appropriately on the other aspects of your culture that really matter to this generation, among them community involvement and transparency.

When deciding which organization to join, Gen Zers put a great deal of weight on a company’s value system. On the diversity front, being LGBTQIA+-friendly is key because this generation as a whole defines gender identity and sexual orientation more broadly than any that came before it.

In addition to embracing inclusivity, they want to affiliate with companies that stand for something they believe in and take on an active role to fight issues like systemic racism, e.g., supporting movements like Black Lives Matter.

Clarifying your brand purpose and mission statements on your website and throughout the interview process can go a long way with this group, and it can help net a pool of candidates that are not only a great fit but also likely to bring some fresh ideas to the table.

Preferences Include Low-Stress Jobs With a Side of Creativity

Keep in mind that Elder Z is still quite young (ages 16 to 24), and they haven’t had enough time to aggregate a vast portfolio of professional or life experience. Even so, they still have a point of view. When describing their dream job, one of their top priorities is having little to no stress. While those of us that have been around the block know that some level of stress is part of any job (to varying degrees, of course), we can confidently interpret that as “having enough to like about the job to be happy.”

In terms of industries that make them happy, Elder Z was most interested in pursuing entertainment and fashion. As the first true digital native generation (i.e., never having lived in a pre-internet or pre-cell-phone world), this group has the desire to be seen and known. Additionally, thanks to social media, they are accustomed to having the autonomy and resources to create content to express themselves personally when and how they want.  

Unsurprisingly, they want the same from their professional environment – and their definition of a dream job includes having autonomy, creative expression and fun. They are constantly looking for outlets for their ideas and championing environments that allow them to push or remove boundaries.

Cool. TLDR.

To set your organization up for success with Elder Z, consider doing the following:

  • Assess whether the roles you’re trying to fill truly require an associate’s or bachelor’s degree or if there are real-world experiences and on-the-job training that would amply set a candidate up for success inside your organization
  • Find ways to enhance your own on-the-job-training to build confidence in your employees and to help create strong bonds and collaboration between them and their colleagues
  • Put guidance out to the world about ways to get started in your industry, helping Elder Z get a leg up on where to begin and what steps to take as they set off on a desired career path
  • Take time to think through and actively share what defines your company culture in terms of community involvement and inclusiveness
    Last, but certainly not least, be patient. After all, we were all young once.

Wondering how your brand can meaningfully engage with Elder Z? Email Dana Arnold at darnold@hiebing.com to set up a call.

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