Most analysis of generational differences is not very productive, particularly in the context of the workplace.
At best, identifiable differences between generations provide a starting point for discussion. At worst, they compound our existing biases and create friction in the workplace. Closer scrutiny often reveals that significant differences have less to do with the decade(s) a generation was born in, and more to do with what age they happen to be right now.
But while generational differences may not exist to the extent we believe them to, the fact that we believe them to exist is, itself, very important.
What Managers Think Gen Z Wants
Gen Z is not unique. They want what Millennials, Gen Xers, and Baby Boomers all wanted as early adolescents: independence, flexibility, and engagement on platforms they deem “modern”.
What is unique is what today’s hiring managers think they want, and what they think their limitations are. For talent acquisition, that’s almost as important as what Gen Z actually wants and what their actual limitations are. Nobody wins when a hiring manager thinks the recommendations made by their TA department are unreliable.
What’s The #1 Perceived Limitation of Gen Z?
That's right: today’s managers expect Gen Zers to be woefully inadequate when it comes to operating the “phone” portion of their smartphone.
In a recent survey of 1,000 workplace managers in the US, only 2% thought phone calls would be an effective way to communicate with Gen Z. Of 1,000 potential hiring managers, only 20 thought traditional phone communication would work as intended.
So what are 98% of hiring managers going to think when you hand them notes from a phone screen?
What Surveys Say About “Traditional” Communication
It’s not surprising most hiring managers feel this way. Recent surveys of Gen Zers paint a fairly bleak picture, particularly when it comes to more “traditional” forms of communication:
- 43% say they feel more comfortable talking to people online than in “real life”. (JWT, 2012)
- Over 50% say it is easier or more convenient to chat digitally (JWT, 2012)
- 62% will not use an app or website that is too slow to load (IBM, 2016)
- 75% say the smartphone is their device of choice (IBM, 2016)
You can’t really blame them for distrusting evaluations that rely on what they think Gen Zers think are outdated communication tools.
Giving Hiring Managers What They Want
When was the last time you used your in-office phone, other than to receive a sales call? Chances are, not very recently. Long-distance communication in the workplace has transitioned from one-dimensional (voice) to multidimensional (voice, webcam video, screen sharing, etc).
The same reasons that shift took place (video chat providing more visual feedback, the ability to share online experiences in real time through screen sharing, the ubiquity of internet-connected cameras) are the same reasons the shift is taking place in hiring. Even moreso given what hiring managers expect the next generation of candidate wants.
There’s a strategic element here too. Interviews performed via video can be recorded and shared with hiring managers and across departments. They avoid questions of reliability since hiring managers can watch promising candidates’ interviews for themselves.
- Phone screens (and the notes taken in tandem) are not seen as reliable by hiring managers, since they perceive phone calls an inadequate way to communicate with Gen Z.
- Video chat is the default form of communication in today’s workplace, it’s what hiring managers expect.
- Recorded video interviews avoid questions of reliability: hiring managers can see candidates for themselves.