Minnesota’s up-and-coming workforce has some advice for today’s hiring managers: Your old ways of recruiting are not going to work.
“You can’t apply the same frameworks you used to hire baby boomers to this new internet generation,” warned Philip Xiao, a 25-year-old Minneapolis entrepreneur, addressing a roomful of human-resource managers and campus recruiters.
Even tactics used to reach millennials might hit a sour note with members of Generation Z, whose leading edge is turning 22 this year.
For example, only 29% of 18- to 24-year-olds are on LinkedIn, Xiao said, as he led a Gen Z panel discussion earlier this month at a forum convened by the business development group Greater MSP.
Saddled with debt, this group is aware of widening income disparities and expects to earn more equitable wages.
They reject the top-down corporate hierarchy even more radically than millennials.
And they are turned off by hiring practices and corporate cultures that don’t reflect a broad view of diversity — race, class, gender, religion, sexual orientation, identity.
While they don’t expect to stay with the same company for a lifetime, Gen Zers nonetheless say they value long-term career paths that offer them new skills.
“A lot of assumptions are made that just because this is a digitally native generation that is comfortable using technology that that’s how they will want to communicate on making a really important decision like where they’ll live and work,” said Matt Lewis, a Greater MSP vice president. “We’re not selling them a discount coupon for their next burrito.”
By 2030, more Minnesotans will be at retirement age than in the last six decades combined. Along with declining birthrates, basic demographics portend an unprecedented labor shortage even as more boomers remain in the workforce beyond age 65. Major urban centers and rural areas alike are fighting to woo young workers, the most mobile sector of the workforce.
Five years ago, the Twin Cities region was gaining about 2,000 people a year in the 25- to 34-year-old age group, according to research by Greater MSP, which is focused on regional job creation and business expansion. As the massive cohort of millennials comes of age, the 15-county area now sees nearly quadruple that number, with about 7,500 more each year in that age group.
Among the 30 largest metros, the Twin Cities area ranks 14th in terms of share of Gen Z residents, well behind Riverside, Calif., San Antonio, Houston, Dallas and Atlanta. About a quarter of the metro’s residents were born between 1997 and 2012, the loose designation assigned by the Pew Research Center.
This generation is the most racially and ethnically diverse of any in American history, and eclipses the millennials as the most tech-savvy. The oldest Gen Zers were 10 when the iPhone hit the market.
While the 9/11 terror attack was a defining moment for millennials, the oldest Gen Zs were preschoolers at the time. Their lives have been shaped by the Great Recession.
“We went home and discovered that Daddy lost his job, and life isn’t going to be the same anymore,” Xiao said in an interview. “It was the beginning of our fundamental distrust of institutions like Wall Street or government. The message we got was that everyone is in it for themselves and it’s up to us to take care of ourselves.”
Xiao’s nascent company, Homi, is an online recruiting and hiring marketplace to connect companies with talent. It grew out of an idea to help college students and alumni network with businesses.
About 135 people attended the Aug. 15 event in downtown Minneapolis, which drew from more than 70 organizations, Greater MSP said. It included representatives from higher education, student and community groups, human resource officers, internship program coordinators, among others.
Things grew interesting when Xiao turned to his panelists — two college students and two young professionals — and pointedly asked about traditional campus recruiting. “Walking up to a stranger, shaking their hand, chit-chatting for 30 seconds and then getting told to apply online. How’s that experience for you as a candidate?”
Here’s their takeaway:
Don’t discount “soft skills.” Christian Moreno Cova, a rising junior at University of Minnesota Duluth, is a business analyst intern at McKinsey & Co. He’s majoring in jazz piano — not finance or economics — and that sometimes trips people up.
“The great thing about jazz is we learn to think on our feet,” he said. “We learn to improvise and we learn to communicate through more than just words.”
Be authentic. Ollie Kalthoff, a student at Century College, is an aspiring activist, and identifies with the pronouns “them/their.” “A lot of people in my generation tend to think of networking as this big terrifying thing: I have to dress up real nice, shake people’s hands in the right way, make eye contact,” Kalthoff said. “But really it’s making a genuine relationship. Making a new friend in a bit more formal of a setting.”
Take recruiting efforts off the beaten path. Jazmine Logan, a program assistant in the Minneapolis Department of Civil Rights, is a millennial and first-generation college graduate. She said HR managers have good intentions but need to ask different questions about diversity, career goals. Show up at the multicultural center, or meet with affinity groups, such as women in STEM. It’s “a show of intentionality,” she said. “I’m already in a safe space.”
Take an active interest. Lulu Bauermeister works as a project manager in corporate social responsibility, strategy and operations at U.S. Bank. She believes in “connection before content,” which roughly means not launching into a dry pitch before having a genuine chat about company values. And maintain that relationship once young professionals are on the job. “If the manager is invested in my personal and career growth, I’m much more likely to stay with the company,” she said.
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