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Get ready for Gen Z, employers. First hint: They're not millennials. (McDaniel & Goucher)

The Baltimore Sun

MAy 6, 2019


When AT&T recruiters compete for young talent on college campuses, they want to show how the old telephone company has become a modern media firm. So they let students wear high-tech goggles and take a “virtual reality” walk through a typical day on the job. The employer also uses video interviews, texts and Snapchat to connect with potential young hires.

“With Gen Z … we have to show them rather than just talking about it,” said Michelle Jordan, an assistant vice president of HR development and college recruiting.

Move over millennials. The next generation is just starting to make its way into the workforce, and employers are taking note.

The first wave of Generation Z, those born after 1996 and more than 60 million strong, will start moving from college to career this year. These newest workers come from the first post-9/11 generation, one that’s grown up with social media and smartphones, watched their parents go through the housing bust and a deep recession, and come of age amid political polarization and soaring college debt. It’s little wonder they’re pegged as anxiety-ridden, but experts say they’re also independent, pragmatic and super-connected.

Gen Zers are expected to make their presence known in the workplace, distinguishing themselves in multiple ways from millennials, those roughly in their mid-20s to late 30s. That older group, born from 1981 to 1996, now makes up the largest chunk of the labor force, having surpassed Generation X and baby boomers, according to Pew Research Center analysis. By next year, though, members of Gen Z are expected to account for a fifth of the workforce. And those workers will have a different outlook on the world.

“They grew up in a dramatically different era,” said Roger Casey, president of McDaniel College in Westminster and an expert in generational issues. “We’re just beginning to see transitions that are going to make them distinctly different from the younger people in the workforce.”

Gen Z workers will want what everyone else wants, he said, but “they will ask for it. It’s true of millennials, and we will see that even more with this next generation.”