Will Generation Z Even Care about HR Technology?

By Diane Gayeski Jul 6, 2015
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As the economy recovers and older workers retire, HR departments will need to ramp up their recruiting efforts. What will it take to attract the best young talent? While it’s probably wise not to lump all of today’s teens together, there are some important trends in attitudes towards employment that need the attention of human resource information systems (HRIS) professionals.

The most talented young people in high school and college may not be interested in traditional jobs, and it’s going to take innovative communication and collaboration strategies to recruit and retain them.

New HRIS Strategies Tap Talent

Generation Y, also known as the Millennials, are in their 20s to early 30s; Generation Z is made up of today’s teenagers. Both are “digital natives” but their demands on HRIS will go beyond web and mobile access. They will be much more selective about where and how they work, and how they are managed, incentivized, trained and informed.

A recent report from Accenture predicts that HR information and processes will be more fully integrated and accessible to every employee in the future, and notes that HR will need to behave more like a digital marketing department in terms of analyzing data and creating customized talent offerings, jobs, and ways of recruiting and incentivizing.

What might this look like?

  • Generations Y and Z are very close to their friends and social media followers, and have spent a lot of time in classes working on team projects. Could HR identify top talent along with their cohort (groups/colleagues/friends), and recruit them as a team?

  • Young people are used to mass customization and want to be recognized for their unique traits and interests. Might jobs be designed around people rather than trying to fit people into jobs?

    Could we use more data about the “whole person” and offer potential employees a customized set of responsibilities, schedules, compensation packages and growth opportunities? Instead of listing jobs, could we list necessary outputs and outcomes and let prospective employees bundle these according to their own profiles?

  • Today’s youth are tapped into their own statistics, whether from a fitness band, their number of followers or friends on social media, or instant feedback from online tests. We could do a better job at enabling employees to be self-managed and directed. Instead of giving performance data to their supervisors, could we let employees manage it themselves, just as they track their own fitness and diet goals?

  • Many young people have spent a lot of time playing sophisticated interactive games and are accustomed to keeping their families and groups intact remotely through social media, texting and video chats. Digital technologies can form cohort groups that can collaborate in the ways they find most productive. Give these groups a goal and let them decide how they want to divide it up. Provide advanced project management tools at every level. Can work be made into a digitized “game” with immediate feedback on goals and performance?

  • Even the best-educated young employees will likely recognize that their skills have a short half-life. Can HRIS do a better job of predicting and assessing current and future levels of skills and knowledge that are needed for certain roles, and providing that to individuals so that they can manage their own learning?

  • More young people will likely want to work for themselves. Can we develop systems that are adept at managing and sourcing contractors, consultants, freelancers and “taskers”?

Human resources information technology experts are in a great position to use their own strengths and interests to experiment, prototype and network.

It’s useful to benchmark what is happening in marketing, because that function has the most immediate pressure to adapt to consumer needs and behav­iors. We need to begin thinking of employees as consumers who will have a choice whether or not they want our jobs—or any company job for that mat­ter.

Take a leaf from the books of TaskRabbit, Yelp, crowdsourcing and crowdfunding websites, online dating websites, fitness trackers, Uber and AirBnb. These are the tools people are now using to make important deci­sions in their lives—and we need to meet them where they live now.

Diane Gayeski, Ph.D., is dean of the Roy H. Park School of Communications at Ithaca College, in Ithaca, N.Y. She is the author of 14 books and a frequent speaker on Generation Y issues, e-learning and organizational transformation.

©2015. International Association for Human Resource Information Management. Used with permission.

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