Unlocking Gen Z: Strategies to Attract, Engage, and Retain the Next Wave of Talent

Gen Z is soon poised to become one of the largest segments of the global workforce within the next two years. At 2 billion-strong, members of Gen Z were born between 1997 and 2009, and they currently represent more than 30% of the population. By 2025, they are expected to make up 27% of the global workforce. 

The substantial size of this generation, combined with the aging Baby Boomer and Xers generations who are retiring in droves, means that Gen Z will play a major role in the corporate and defense tech world in the next decade. 

Companies that need to remain competitive in the global marketplace must begin marketing to this generation and crafting recruitment messaging that resonates with these candidates. 

Is Corporate Loyalty a Thing of the Past?

Researchers have also found that Gen Z has firmly rejected corporate loyalty, with Gen Z changing jobs more often than any other generation in history. McKinsey found, “A remarkable 77% of Gen Z respondents report looking for a new job (almost double the rate of other respondents).” This generation is defined by their short job tenure and desire to increase salary and the strength of their job title by quickly moving from role to role. 

The generation’s tendency to job hop is not just defined by a desire to increase their salary or boost their career prospects; Gen Z is deeply concerned about the lack of job stability and the number of layoffs they’ve witnessed in their early careers. 

“While some degree of job churn in early careers is expected, the economic pessimism reported by Gen Z—only 37 percent believe that most people in this country have economic opportunities—suggests a deep malaise about their own prospects and those of other Americans,” says McKinsey. 

In the past, executives often expressed frustration at the transient nature of Gen Z employees and their tendency to quickly change jobs. However, this attitude is rapidly starting to shift as companies recognize the size and importance of Gen Z employees to their company. 

We’ve recently noticed a change in the conversation. Companies are no longer worried about Gen Z’s shortcomings; they’re now saying, ‘how can we make our company more attractive to them?’ Companies are faced with an aging workforce, and they’re embracing Gen Z as the future.” Kamala Burks, Senior Media Consultant at AMG Defense Tech

Despite the generational tendency to quickly change jobs and pursue new opportunities, companies can effectively build loyalty and increase the average job tenure of their Gen Z employees. The key to increasing employee loyalty is understanding Gen Z’s workplace priorities and building a welcoming culture that welcomes their input and reflects their values. 

Gen Z Recruitment: A Shift in Priorities

The growing importance of Gen Z in corporate America is causing HR departments and recruiting teams to take notice. 

Gen Z, in comparison to earlier cohorts like Gen X and Millennials, places a great degree of importance on work-life balance, social responsibility, and a supportive workplace. “They want to work in a safe, friendly, and diverse workplace,” according to The Rise of Generation Z report by Paychex. Gen Z also tends to value training, clear career progression, and a collaborative workplace above all. 

“They really want to do a good job and be valued. They also care very much about the values of an organization and its leaders, so if companies want to attract the top talent, they should be prepared to talk about more than just the job and making money,” said Intelligent’s recent report on Gen Z college graduates. 

Experts in the defense industry and at the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) agree. Gen Z also wants to know exactly how their role, and their employer, is contributing to social good and helping to change the world for the better. Kathy Gurchiek, an HR journalist and former managing editor of a Department of Defense journal, wrote that employers need to “explain how the job seeker’s work contributes to the organization’s mission. Some don’t talk about how their role makes a difference.” 

At AMG Defense Tech, we help clients appeal to Gen Z workers by implementing proven brand marketing strategies, highlighting work-life balance and remote work policies, and focusing on social responsibility and mental health benefits. 

Reach Gen Z Candidates with Proven Strategies

The most notable difference between Gen Z candidates and their older counterparts is Gen Z’s deeply held belief in the importance of social good. 

Members of this generation want to work for companies that emphasize social responsibility and help change the world for the better. They are particularly attracted to companies that emphasize diversity and inclusion, environmental responsibility, and work-life balance. 

Resonate with Gen Z Candidates Using Targeted Messaging

To successfully recruit Gen Z candidates with specialized skills, organizations need to start speaking their language. This includes focusing on the priorities unique to this generation, like social responsibility and mental health. 

Ed Bourn, Sales Director at AMG, encourages companies to focus on the societal benefits of the defense industry. He says: 

Our defense partners protect our warfighters, US citizens, and allies across the globe. A large percentage of them are women- or minority-owned organizations. This is similar to our high-tech clients. They are highly involved in giving back to their communities, too.” 

Organizations can reach passive Gen Z candidates by highlighting the social impact of their company’s work on their website, social media posts, and brand marketing campaigns. By targeting these campaigns at Gen Z applicants, firms can increase their candidate pool and reach highly specialized workers who have traditionally been overlooked in previous hiring efforts. 

In addition, firms should highlight their medical and mental health benefits. “Mental wellness is another area employers should emphasize when attracting and retaining young job seekers,” says SHRM. The organization’s research found that “61% of Generation Z respondents said they would strongly consider leaving their current job if offered a new one with significantly better mental health benefits.” 

Social Media Recruitment and Digital Advertising

Perhaps the defining feature of Gen Z is their engagement with social media platforms, both for their personal and professional lives. At AMG Defense Tech, we’ve found that crafting a robust social media presence is one of the best ways to recruit these candidates. 

The U.S. military is one part of the government that is using social media with great results. Stephanie Miller, Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Military Personnel and Policy, recently told a Senate panel that “The portrayal of the mission and what service looks like for military members and their families is often skewed in the media and in the minds of the current youth generation.” 

She argued that an increased focus on targeted advertisements and social media marketing may be the key to recruiting Gen Z candidates in high tech, the federal government and defense industry. That’s why the defense industry is using high-tech tools, like social media, to change the “national dialogue” and recruit qualified candidates by emphasizing the social responsibility and public good associated with the sector. 

Companies can reach Gen Z candidates by developing a rich social media presence and by crafting short video reels, testimonials, and community-focused content that resonates with young workers. 

Virtual Career Fairs and the University-to-Industry Pipeline

One of the most effective ways of sourcing qualified Gen Z candidates is to start recruiting them before graduation. Companies can increase the impact of their targeted messaging and attract new candidates by collaborating with local universities to host job fairs and offer internships to college students. 

When it comes to bolstering the university-to-industry pipeline, the defense and tech industries are following the US Federal Government’s lead. 

In June 2021, President Biden signed an executive order encouraging federal agencies to increase the number of paid internships for college students. This policy has already paid massive dividends—the 2023 Fiscal Budget allocated funds for more than 35,000 paid internships. 

Companies can take advantage of this trend by organizing in-person career fairs at their local universities to secure candidates well in advance of graduation—helping them gain a security clearance, if need be, and feel part of the company’s mission early on. 

In addition, AMG Defense Tech has found that firms that continue to offer virtual career fairs after the end of the COVID-19 pandemic can expand their candidate base and achieve even greater success when compared to companies that only provide in-person events. 

Employee Referrals and Recruitment’s Hidden Weapon

Finally, organizations should leverage their most important resource—their current employees—to attract new candidates. Research has found that “referred candidates are more likely to be hired and more likely to accept offers, even though referrals and non-referrals have similar skill characteristics.” 

In addition, referred candidates are more likely to be hired. They’re also more likely to stay at their job longer and to buck the job-hopping trend that defines the generation: “Referred workers are substantially less likely to quit…referred workers yield substantially higher profits per worker than non-referred workers.” 

Personal connections, former classmates, and alumni networks are among the most effective connections. “In fact, when the two know each other only through social media, the hiring outcome is not any better than that of candidates with no referral at all,” said an editorial in the Harvard Business Review. 

Defense and high-tech companies can take advantage of this dynamic by encouraging their current employees to reach out to qualified candidates and creating a formal employee referral program that rewards staff who successfully recruit candidates. 

Putting It All Into Practice

At AMG Defense Tech, we help defense and high-tech firms reach qualified candidates and meet hiring goals by crafting targeted messaging that appeals to young professionals. We deploy this messaging by combining social media marketing, digital advertising, career fairs (in-person and virtual), and employee referral programs. 

When combined, these strategies help companies cut through the noise and position themselves as incredible workplaces where young people can make a difference. Deploying these techniques can allow your firm to reach the right candidates and outshine the competition, who often fail to meet hiring quotas and face project delays as a result. 

Reach out to the AMG Defense Tech team today to learn how we can help you craft a custom marketing campaign to source and hire the right specialists for your project needs. 

If you’d like to learn more about how we can help you adapt to the evolving marketing landscape and ramp up your efforts, please contact us today.

Published On: May 9, 2024