Gen Z — people born between 1997 and 2012 — are known for being the most well-educated, diverse and digitally savvy generation so far. By 2025, Gen Z will make up 27% of the workforce — meaning startups looking to hire fresh talent will have to learn how to attract them.
This week, we look at how companies can make themselves appealing employers to Gen Zers.
— Anisah & Miriam
Gen Zers are highly coveted in the tech talent market, as they’re hungry, energetic, curious, willing to learn — and bring fresh perspectives to fast-growing companies. Companies looking to hire them need to learn how to communicate with Gen Z and understand what they value in a working environment.
We asked Thomas Kohler, founder of talent acquisition management company pplwise — who has helped companies such as emobility provider Tier and digital tax accountant TaxFix hire Gen Z tech talent — to hear his top tips for attracting this age group.
Stand for something. Gen Z is not a homogenous group, but research shows that the majority of this generation want to work for companies that care about sustainability and social impact — and they too want to feel like they’re making a difference. Make sure your company has a compelling mission statement that shows intent to do good in the world, and highlight any activities you do for good causes: whether it’s contributing to charities or organising volunteering days at the local homeless shelter. Gen Z has a strong sense of social responsibility and enjoys collaboration — so whatever "impact" work you’re doing, they’ll want to know about it.
In job descriptions, highlight the impact of the role. Instead of writing a traditional job description, which describes a rigid set of tasks or responsibilities, focus on the outcomes and impact of the role. In other words, how will this particular person contribute to the company’s overall execution of its mission? Tier’s currently hiring a product designer, and the job spec describes how the candidate will help the team of designers accelerate the company’s growth through product iteration and experimentation. It also shows how the product designer will work with the product, research and data teams to better understand the market and customers — so the candidate can see how the role fits into the wider organisation.
Offer long-term compensation. It goes without saying that paying a competitive market rate is essential for attracting talent. But Gen Zers are typically looking for more than just cash up front. Many want to be involved in building up a company’s success and being compensated for that later down the line — instead of working hard to hit short-term targets and receiving annual bonuses. Offering long-term incentives — for example, stock options, or long-term cash incentives (non-equity based) — can help entice Gen Z candidates in, and also ensure they stick around.
Showcase career development opportunities. Demonstrate to candidates that you have a clear framework which shows level by level how they can develop in the organisation — and what they have to do to rise up the ranks. One of the best career frameworks I saw was in the operations function at Uber. Each role had 18 different stages (from entry level to VP level) and for each stage, a list of key competencies and skills required for the role was given. They also included how performance would be assessed and how they would offer feedback.
Clear progression frameworks are key to retaining particularly young talent: without them, employees can get frustrated with the lack of focus on their development and drop out of the organisation. In Uber’s case, the company has been known for being an aggressive environment to work in, but employees tend to stay there for up to four years sometimes because they have a clear path to seniority.
Recruit based on values. Having part of your recruitment process dedicated to an assessment of values can be effective for capturing Gen Z's attention. Gen Zers want to be assessed on more than just their CV — and are keen to work for organisations whose principles align with their own. Decide before you advertise for a role what values or qualities you are looking for in a candidate. At Tier, they look for an entrepreneurial, "get things done" mentality — as well as empathy and a collaborative attitude. HR tech Personio also has a stage in its interview process where it assesses candidates based on its values such as customer empathy, transparency and collaborative spirit, which are listed on its website. Recruiting based on values makes the whole process feel like a two-way street as both employer and candidate assess each other for cultural fit. It can also help to streamline the interviewing process — you can score candidates based on how many of the desired attributes they have and then decline the applicants early on that don’t fit the criteria.
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💨 Speed is key. You won’t win the hearts of Gen Z with a long, drawn-out recruitment process. 60% of Gen Z say the job application alone should take less than 15 minutes.
🤔 What motivates Gen Z? They want to know that your company cares about the environment, is digitally savvy and has a good social media presence — and that it offers good development opportunities. If these are things your company possesses, make sure to stress them in interviews.
🧠 Don’t skimp on mental health support. Gen Z may have been weaned on technology, but they still require real human connection. To keep your Gen Z employees, put mental health front and centre, support them with coaching and make onboarding a community building exercise.
Consider transparent salaries. It’s becoming one of the “easiest ways” to attract Gen Z talent, some say. Gen Z wants to work for fair and diverse companies that reflect their values — and they want transparency from organisations to prove it.
👂 Listen to their needs. Asana’s recent report investigates what Gen Z needs from their leaders right now, after years of pandemic, isolation and the upheaval of the professional working world.
SoSafe bags a new CFO. Felix Fichtl — formerly chief financial officer at social media advertising giant Smartly.io — has hopped aboard Sosafe, a cybersecurity awareness training startup. He’ll help the company build on its recent growth — it closed a $73m Series B round in January this year — and further scale internationally.
Transaction Link has a new head of product. The startup offering a suite of fintech products to companies has hired Bryan Lee — formerly senior product manager at Grover, a secondhand marketplace for technology, and Shopify.
Freedom Finance has a new CEO. Emma Steeley — who was most recently CEO at AccountScore, an open-banking-as-a-service platform — has jumped ship to Freedom Finance, a digital lending marketplace. Current CEO Brian Brodie will move into a newly created role as chairman to support the transition of leadership.
Our latest report explores the Greek startup landscape to understand how the country is carving out a name for itself. From educational advancement to middle managers, we explore the gaps and glories of this Mediterranean hub.
What does the future hold?
1. Breaking the taboo on pivoting. For early-stage US startups, pivots are a common thing. But the European ecosystem is still not supportive when a young company changes direction. Should it be?
2. Use "stay interviews" to retain talent. A stay interview is a conversation between a manager and employee where they chat about what the employee is enjoying, what motivates them and what problems they’re having. It helps employers keep a pulse on what they could be doing better.
3. Fridays off all summer? WeTransfer is giving it a go. It says it won't change its work patterns Monday to Thursday or adjust its compensation and benefits. But how?
4. Siblings and cofounders? Being in business with your sibling can be harmonious at best and explosive at worst. But what is a family-run tech company really like?
5. Companies still hiring amid the downturn? We're constantly updating this list to help you, your friends or colleagues bag a new job in tech.
The world’s first fintech sitcom (yes, really)
It’s the moment we’ve all been waiting for — The Office meets fintech. Hewlett Packard Enterprise and NVIDIA have come up with Get Ahead!, a four-part series which explores the delights, and annoyances, of working at a fintech startup.
Who are the characters? Well, there’s Matthew Parker, AI customer insights manager, who likes cycling and is stressed; Hamish Herrera, head of IT; Jasmin Jenkins, a data scientist who likes jargon and is stressed; and Dwanye, who doesn’t appear to have a role or a second name, but is also stressed.
What happens? I wouldn’t want to spoil this cinematic masterpiece for you but the basic premise is they are working on a new fintech product and are trying to hire some developers. In the wise (and actually quite relatable) words of Jenkins, “it starts out fast and then roadblock, roadblock, roadblock”.
What are the good parts? It’s slightly amusing, but perhaps not in the way that’s intended. Also, it’s short. The longest episode (the season finale) is nine minutes. I doubt it would capture anyone’s attention for much longer, but as is it’s easy to justify as procrastination.
What are the bad parts? It seems cruel to say the script and the acting, but it’s not going to win any awards… unless it’s an award for a unique and potentially quite effective piece of marketing.
Out of five stars? Two. A star for each time I chuckled.
Should you watch it? Put it this way, I’ve only seen the first two episodes but will probably go back and watch the final two. I might not want to get ahead, but I do want to get to the end. For curiosity, if nothing else.
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