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Hiring Millennials: The secrets to recruiting Millennial and Gen Z Employees

Forget traditional recruitment methods. Here’s how to reach - and retain - young employees

They are young; they’re well-educated; they’re technologically savvy – attracting and retaining Gen Z and Millennial workers should be a crucial part of any employers’ recruitment strategy. 

Why? Not only are Millennials becoming the leaders of today, they’re the customers and consumers of today, too. Meanwhile, Gen Z are the leaders of the future – the changemakers who bring a fresh perspective to the job. 

So, how can businesses attract, hire and retain the labour market’s newest next-gen recruits?

First, it’s important for employers to understand the differences between the two cohorts, and to set aside any preconception they may have about them.

Who are Gen Z and Millennial employees?

  • Definitions vary, however, in general those of employable age in each of these generations include:

    • Millennials: Anyone born between January 1980 and December 1994 (currently aged 27-38)
    • Gen Z:  Anyone born between January 1995 and December 2003 (currently aged 18-26)

The secrets to hiring Millennials and Gen Z

1. Speed up your recruitment process 

Millennials and Gen Z have been dubbed the ‘on-demand generation’, having grown up with everything from food deliveries to movies available when they want it, where they want it. Having grown accustomed to instant gratification, they have little patience for long delays - and that includes slow recruitment processes.

“Time to hire is important – you have to move fast,” emphasises HR leader Lucy Wilson, founder of That People & Culture Co. “Consider the pace of the recruitment process; is it fast? Is the form easy to fill out? Can you do it on mobile? How long does it take to complete the process and how long till [you] make contact with them? Millennials and Gen Z don’t wait.”

2. Get clear on your purpose 

Millennials and Gen Z care about purpose and values – so, as an employer, you need to be able to define and articulate your business’ mission, vision and values. 

Three easy ways to ‘show the why’:

  • On your website – either your main site or a special portal for candidates  
  • A special handout pack outlining your vision and mission 
  • Organise for candidates to talk to other employees 

3. Create an attraction strategy 

With employers grappling with retention rates due to the so-called ‘Great Resignation’, it’s time to get crystal clear about what your workplace offers potential new recruits when hiring. Enter: the attraction strategy – a document that clarifies who you are trying to recruit, your key messages, and the benefits you offer. 

That might include your culture, the tools or tech you offer and the career opportunities available.

4. Use platforms that Gen Z are using 

Don’t wait for Millennials and Gen Z to find you – go to them by using the platforms you know they’re on. 

Nearly half of all under-30s have a TikTok account for example, and some employers, like Target and Shopify, have experimented with using the video-sharing app to recruit young workers.

Other options are to build a company presence for your business on platforms like TikTok and LinkedIn and, if you’re engaging recruitment agencies, ensuring that they are using these platforms on your behalf. 

5. Create an inclusive workplace - and recruiting strategies

Inclusivity and diversity are key for Millennials and Gen Z – and it’s all-too apparent when companies are lacking in this area.

“Diversity and inclusion need to be a part of your organisational hiring and professional development strategy. Millennials like everyone to be included across all minority groups – culture, race, gender, disability, neurological – as they believe everyone has value to bring,” explains Wilson.

So, it’s important to use inclusive practices when recruiting. 

The 2021 Deloitte Millennial and Gen Z study encourages business leaders to “use systems and processes that are gender and colour-blind and think differently about the types of experiences and qualifications that might prepare people for specific roles. 

“That may include hiring for curious mindsets instead of specific skill sets, or seeking people who have demonstrated they’re agile, comfortable with ambiguity, and able to overcome adversity.” 

For example, removing names from resumes helps decrease gender and race biases – a practice big Australian businesses, such as Australia Post and Westpac, have tried and adapted. 

Another technique is using appropriate skill-based tests, rather than relying on past education, to better give candidates an equal footing. 

Beauty business, The Body Shop, has done away with resumes, references and background checks altogether in an effort to provide more opportunities to single parents, young carers, homeless and First Nations Australians. The company has streamlined their Christmas casual hiring process into three key questions: ‘are you legally authorised to work in Australia’; ‘can you lift up to 11 kilograms and work an eight-hour shift’; and ‘are you happy to work with customers?’ 

6. Ask current employees in that generation 

No one knows Gen Z and Millennials better than those in that demographic, so ask current team members about what attracted them, how they and their friends that age search for jobs, why they like working at your company.

7. Be honest 

This may seem obvious, but if you mislead a candidate in an interview about what it’s like to work at your company, they’ll find out – and fast. 

Gen Z and Millennials value transparency more than any other generation - and they are used to using technology to get the information they want.

“If you say: ‘this is our employee experience’, they’re going to check that for themselves,” emphasises Wilson. “They’re researching, they’re going on [employment site] Glassdoor, they’re reading reviews – remember [Gen Z and Millennials are] very capable at finding information.”

Secrets to retaining Millennials and Gen Z team members 

1. Flexible working 

Flexibility in terms of working arrangements, hours and tools are crucial – even more so following the pandemic, which has demonstrated the success of remote-working models.

The 2021 Deloitte study reinforces this, as Millennials and Gen Z participants both list flexibility/ adaptability as the most critical employee characteristic for successful businesses.  

Remember: flexible working isn’t just remote working or offering flexible hours, but includes investing in collaborative tools to connect remote staff.  

The Australia Workplace Gender Equality Agency collected data from private sector organisations with 100 or more employees on the uptake of flexible work arrangements due to COVID-19, finding that nearly four in five employers have a formal flexible work policy or strategy, with larger organisations more likely to have formalised flexible working arrangements compared to small and medium organisations. 

Their recommended actions for employers to build an effective flexible work policy or strategy include:

  1. Make ‘all roles flex’ 
  2. Trust your people
  3. Role-model flexibility by managers and leadership
  4. Communicate effectively
  5. Acknowledge the adjustment
  6. ‘Log off and check out’ at home and in the office


2. Invest in technology 

Great tools and technology are crucial in retaining digital natives. Stay up-to-date with industry tech trends and invest in AI tools if possible, suggests Wilson. 

“Gen Z often have way more tech knowledge than the people hiring them – they’re not scared to try things and break things. They’re growing up in a social environment and social media community” says Wilson. “The technology experience needs to be amazing.”

For a small business, this might mean using software like Slack, rather than simply email, or offering logistics, inventory or marketing software that makes employees’ everyday roles easier.

3. Clear communication 

“Millennials want direct access to leaders,” says Wilson. “They want less hierarchy, and they don’t want to be micromanaged. They want to come in, do great work, head off – and switch off.”

Create opportunities for Millennials to have direct access to leaders, such as regular informal group team meetings where questions are encouraged – either by submitting prior or asking on the day.   

Seemiller explains that Gen Z aren’t as concerned about direct access to leaders, but that “they want to be informed about the decisions leaders are making. As long as they’re informed about a decision, they’re good.” 

Weekly leadership blasts – either via text, emails or Slack – with updates and key info dot-pointed are also a great way to make team members feel as though leadership are keeping them up to date. 

4. Make your culture a focus 

Millennials and Gen Z care about culture and the environment they’re in. Creating positive, mental-health-led cultures boosts productivity and retention.   

“Prioritise mental health support and resources and create cultures where it’s OK to acknowledge stress,” recommends the 2021 Deloitte study. “Leaders need to destigmatise the conversation around mental health in the workplace and encourage their people to be transparent about their needs. Ultimately, this will help employees to feel healthier and happier and boost productivity.”

How to start building positive team culture:

  • Define what you want your team culture to be

  • Ask your employees about the current and desired culture, and provide opportunities for employee input and feedback

  • Set the tone – from leadership down

  • Prioritise transparent communication around culture as well as business decisions, changes, and opportunities

  • Regularly commit to getting the team together in a way that’s comfortable and positive, such as off-site lunches for launching new projects, group involvement in local charity events, offering one-on-one mentoring, or team outings

5. Promote career development  

Deloitte’s previous studies have shown that Millennials are more likely to leave an organisation in two years or less if their leadership skills aren’t being developed. 

“It might seem like they’re quick to jump but consider the fast pace we expect them to operate at… yet we don’t mirror career advancement in the same way,” highlights Wilson. “The expectation is to operate at that pace, so organisations need to offer learning and development at the same pace.” 

6. Build an experience strategy 

A good employee experience isn’t something that just happens, it’s built. 

“Your people-experience strategy should include your employees’ technological and digital experience, as well as their physical, professional development and cultural experience – but it has to be true to who you are as a business,” explains Wilson. “The drivers and attractions may be different for the two generations, but your people-experience strategy can be all encompassing to create a workplace people want to work at – and continue working at.”

How do you build a people or employee-experience strategy? You can work with experts like Wilson, a people-experience strategist, or start building your own by looking at how your team's day-to-day experience at work plays out.

People experience checklist:

  • What’s important to our employees – are we meeting their needs?

  • Are our processes and technology easy to use?

  • Do our employees have easy and direct access to managers and leaders?

  • Do we cater to different personality types and ways of working?

  • How do we promote healthy work/ life practices?

7. Review your policies 

Pointless policies – particularly around meetings, working methods, office hours, and remote working – are going to quickly become a thing of the past.   

Dr Corey Seemiller, professor of organisational leadership at Wright State University. believes, “moving forward [after the pandemic], people aren’t going to put up with the old-school shenanigans, like the inflexibility around remote working, unless there is a good reason that’s being communicated to them. Gen Z – along with everyone else – are going to have a low tolerance for policies that don’t make sense to them. There’s currently this ‘get back to the office’ shift which doesn’t make sense [to Gen Z] and is contributing to the Great Resignation.”

However, if you can adapt and focus on building a thriving, flexible, diverse and inclusive culture and workplace, you can greatly benefit from hiring more Millennial and Gen Z staff. 

Want to understand Gen Z and Millennials better?

Here’s what you need to know about the workforce’s newest generation.

They are values-driven

Both groups share a focus on social change and accountability, according to the Deloitte Global 2021 Millennial and Gen Z Survey

“In the 10 years Deloitte has been conducting the Millennial Survey, Millennials and Gen Zs’ lives have changed, but their values have remained steadfast. They have sustained their idealism, their desire for a better world, and their belief that business can and should do more to help society,” said Michele Parmelee, deputy CEO and chief people and purpose officer at Deloitte Global.

They are diverse

Millennials were the most racially and ethnically diverse, until Gen Z came along – one factor that contributes to their drive for diversity and fighting against the status quo.  

They are educated

Research reported by the New York Times, found that while Millennials are the most educated, they’re the worst paid. It’s important to note that they have been greatly financially impacted by this century's most defining moments – global debts, 9/11, the Global Financial Crisis and following recession, and now the COVID-19 pandemic.

How are Gen Z and Millennials different?

They are motivated differently

“Gen Z is motivated by relational factors – such as making a difference for someone, having an impact,” says Dr Seemiller. “Tell a Gen Z employee that the work they do is important, whatever it is, and it will motivate them.”

“Whereas Millennials at that age were incentivised by accolades, benchmarks, doing well and moving up – the ‘if you do this, I will give you thatmotivation continues,” says Seemiller. “Gen Z wants to be rewarded too, but it’s not what drives them. Millennials just want to hit the mark and be given positive feedback in some way.” 

They learn differently 

Another key difference is the way they learn. Seemiller explains that Millennials are collaborative – they want to come together and work in groups. Whereas Gen Z are a ‘DIY generation’ – the self-taught YouTube generation. 

“Millennials want think-tank rooms, while Gen Z want a weblink to their online-learning programme so they can sit in the corner with their headphones on. If Gen Z comes together, they want it to be purposeful – ‘why are we coming?’ – there should be a reason,” explains Seemiller. 

They have grown up with technology differently 

While both generations are ‘digital natives’, their experience is different. Gen Z have never lived in a world without tech – whereas older Millennials likely remember dial-up internet.

One last thing? Forget the stereotypes

In the recruitment process don’t believe everything you hear or read about Millennials and Gen Z. There’s more to these 20- and 30-somethings than avocado toast…

Professor Seemiller has been at the forefront of Gen Z research and says that in today’s post-pandemic era, it’s common for employers to believe that younger employees don’t want to return to the office and prefer digital communications. 

“Gen Z actually prefers face-to-face communication over other types of communication. Not just in-person, but video, too – they like to see expressions and have a conversation.”

Another popular misconception is that Millennials are disloyal and tend to ‘job hop’. However Wilson says that when Millennials move between jobs, it’s less about a lack of loyalty and more about a mismatch in terms of their expectations of their employee experience and the reality of the organisation’s values and culture. Economic conditions (and the need to pay off student debts) also often play a role.

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Written by
Isabel Sandercock-Brown
Isabel Isabel Sandercock-Brown is a freelance writer and copywriter.
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