Over the last few years, I’ve covered Gen Z a lot. I’m talking articles, webinars, speaking engagements – you name it. To the extent that some have questioned my authority on the subject, given that I’m apparently not a member of the latest youth generation. As shocking as that may seem, I am reasonably confident in the research that exists about Gen Z and my ability to draw conclusions from it. Even so, it’s important to stay on top of this as these young workers are still just trickling into the workforce. They’re as new to us as work is to them, and as a result, our understanding of one another is bound to change.
Cut to the 2019 World’s Most Attractive Employers report out of Universum. If you never looked at it before, the findings include survey responses from upwards of 200,000 business and engineering/IT students from the 12 largest global economies. It’s a substantial piece of research that gets a lot of play for the brands it highlights, but that’s not our objective today. Instead, let’s spend some time digging deeper into the other insights it covers, which come directly from the source in question – Gen Z.
Economic uncertainty is a real thing –
One thing we hear a lot about this population is that they’re eager for job stability. An upward trend in the Universum research, his year’s respondents, ranked “To be secure or stable in my job” as their number two career goal, right behind “to have work/life balance.” In thinking about it, this answer makes perfect sense, with Gen Z growing up during the Great Recession, and witnessing first-hand the impact it had on their parents. At the same time, the goal of having an international career continues to decline steeply, with Universum citing trade wars, tariffs, and rising nationalism as possible reasons why.
An online upbringing coincides with innovation –
Another Gen Z trope is the digital native storyline. It goes, while Millennials started using desktop computers in school to learn MS Paint and Oregon Trail, their younger counterparts came out of the womb, tapping and swiping the touch screen of their smartphones. This one is funny because it’s true. To reiterate these are business and engineering/IT students, and even when you look at the survey, you see that the option to be entrepreneurial, creative and innovative edged out being competitively or intellectually challenged. The question is who will be the next Mark Zuckerberg?
Visual communication is key –
As a result of this time spent online, Gen Z is changing the candidate communications game. While it seems unlikely any of them realize that job postings once went in the newspaper, it’s not surprising that they want to see potential employers in addition to hearing from them. Seriously, they’re spending more time on YouTube than Netflix, and when it comes to their online presence, Instagram reigns supreme. So in asking these 247,235 students about how they want employers to communicate with them, social media, employers’ career websites and online job boards placed near the top, with IRL (that’s in real life) career fairs also of interest.
Gen Z be shopping –
Of course, the WMAE list is really about employers more than it is these potential candidates. Year after year, Google naps the top spot because, well, it’s Google, and even bad press about doesn’t seem to hurt their reputation. But in the background, further down the list, exciting things are happening. Automotive brands are growing in prestige, with these employers rising in the ranks or staying consistent (except poor Volvo). And there’s also a growing interest in e-commerce and retail is holding steady despite what your local mall tells you. Could this be Gen Z’s individualistic nature and personal preferences influencing their opinions? Maybe.
Gen Z is an interesting lot and the first generation that will live its entire life online. Unlike the Millennials who got backhanded by the media as they graduated from college, Gen Z has been an object of intrigue and fascination for years at this point. That’s why it’s so helpful to hear from them directly, learn more about what they want from the world and their employers and have the opportunity to prove or disprove all of the speculations. If anything, this latest slate of research might prompt more questions than it answers, like Will Google retain its grasp? Is Bezos behind the bump in e-commerce? Do we need to recruit with Snapchat and TikTok? Is Gen Z taking lessons from the last recession and starting their savings now? Or are they all out buying BMWs? Guess we’ll have to wait and see.