Companies competing for Gen Z candidates in a tight labour market may need to reconfigure their recruitment strategy to satisfy the preferences of young talent.

Boyden's perspectives on the news and trends that are transforming industries

Gen Z candidates are the newest generation entering the job market, and will comprise most of the workforce before long. They are the first generation born into technology, and generally more educated than Millennials or Gen Xers. In America, 66% have at least some college. This is the case in other rich countries as well. Gen Zers also differ from their predecessors in terms of what they want from employers. To attract talent from this pool, companies may need to adjust their recruitment strategy.

The flexibility to work remotely is one of the highest priorities for Gen Z employees, surpassed only by higher compensation and more career opportunities. Those born in the late 1990s and early 2000s experienced the pandemic-induced shift to remote work early in their careers. They are less tied to the notion of on-site work, and apart from initial issues with isolation, they adapted relatively quickly. For many, “work from home” has morphed into “work from anywhere” – and there’s no going back.

This has implications for both recruitment and retention: Survey data from McKinsey show that employees aged 18 to 34 are nearly 60% more willing to quit than older workers if the choice to work remotely is revoked. When searching for jobs, this group is more likely to show interest in listings that mention flexibility. And for those deciding between job offers with similar compensation, the ability to work flexibly was the deciding factor.

Of course, some industries are more conducive to remote work than others. Those with jobs that cannot be done off site are bearing the brunt of talent shortages. Other sectors, including finance, construction and manufacturing, have been slower to embrace it as a matter of culture. These, along with hospitality, “have faced some of the biggest skills gaps for all types of job,” The Economist reports. New graduates who would once have pursued careers in finance, for example, have opted for the tech sector instead. This trend is not new, but it was accelerated by the rise of remote work.

Most recently, as hiring has slowed in technology, the pharmaceutical sector is starting to hold more appeal for younger professionals. This is especially true of companies such as AstraZeneca and Pfizer, which led in the development of COVID-19 vaccines. But more importantly, pharma is perceived as offering the greater stability that Gen Z recruits are seeking. The draw of secure government jobs is also bringing more of them into the public sector, which could pose difficulties for private sector employers.

Commitment to diversity and inclusion and corporate social responsibility remain important to Gen Z candidates; however these are losing ground to higher salaries and future earnings. Many industries that remain reluctant to extend remote work opportunities are relying on these more traditional incentives. Notably JPMorgan Chase, Goldman Sachs and Citigroup, along with consultancies like McKinsey and BCG have raised first-year analyst salaries to six figures.

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