‘People think Gen Z are from Mars’ – why workplaces must reassess their approach to younger workers

Companies have a lot to learn from those born since 1997, speakers at the Unleash World conference said

Credit: Getty Images

Michael Kienle, global VP of talent acquisition, L’Oréal told delegates that businesses have a lot to learn from younger candidates entering the workforce. 

“We talk a lot about Gen Z and sometimes I have the impression that older generations think they’ve just arrived from Mars. Personally I can relate an awful lot to Gen Z and to what they claim, what they want and what they aspire to,” he said.

“Of course, between each generation, there are differences, but they’re not a generation coming from Mars. They’re human beings.

“And I think it's very interesting, the amount of claims and ideas that we need to embrace and that we can only use as a company to improve our processes and to make us better.”

Gen Z, he noted, are more vocal about what they expect from employers and they are not shy about using social media to publicise any bad experiences or bad practices in recruitment processes.

Summer Baruth, head of global employer brand and talent attraction at infrastructure consulting firm AECOM, said that Gen Z candidates “aren’t saying anything different” to previous generations entering the workforce, but they are simply more vocal in expressing those concerns. 

“I think it's all just people. And I think the more and more we talk about these things, the more we're going to continue to find that we all really want the same things, we're just not vocalising it in the same way,” she said.

“Innovation comes with the younger groups coming through and so the more open-minded we can be as companies and as leaders within our companies to really help open the door for them, I think the better.”

Kienle described how he was asked to do a 45-minute Q&A at a French business school with students about entering the job market and noted the main question they asked was: “How do you prepare for interviews?”

It was the “basic” core skills they wanted to learn and he said “this was the same 20 years ago, it was the same 10 years ago and it's still the same now”.

The biggest difference that Kienle and Baruth noted about Gen Z candidates is in how workplaces engage with them. Social media is integral to connect and attract younger talent, but workplaces need to adapt their recruitment strategy so that they are using different platforms for different purposes, rather than having a blanket approach across social media platforms.

“If I have a conversion objective, it's not TikTok that I’m using,” Kienle said. “If I want, however, to develop awareness, then TikTok would be an interesting tool.

“Otherwise, today we're working more on YouTube and LinkedIn. Because LinkedIn is professional, I don't have to explain why I'm posting this and that, whereas on TikTok we would need to really adapt the content.”

You can read more from the Unleash World conference here: 

Being comfortable with feeling vulnerable, embracing ambiguity and charting the next ‘black swan’ event – key HR takeaways from the Unleash World conference

Head of HR is most important business partner to the CEO, L'Oréal number two tells Unleash World conference

‘HR business partners will no longer exist’ – four challenges for people professionals in the next 10 years

You can also read more about why we shouldn't generalise about Generation Z from our magazine