“Gen Z is about to define a new norm for the foreseeable future with major implications for employers who fail to respond and connect with them,” states Workforce Attractiveness In The Food Retail Industry: How To Recruit Gen Z. The new report from FMI and Saint Joseph’s University focuses on recruiting college-educated Gen Z into corporate roles. But research into Gen Z indicates this statement applies across the job market.

For retailers, one of the first recruiting barriers to overcome is lack of information on the part of Gen Z. Many Gen Z students surveyed said they aren’t aware of or don’t have enough information about corporate jobs in grocery retail. As a result, retailers need to educate graduating students about the many available jobs and their benefits.

But successful recruiting goes beyond letting students know these positions exist. Retailers and other food companies need to understand the dynamics of Gen Z and what they look for in a job/company.

Who are the members of Gen Z?

First, Gen Z are digital natives. They have never lived without the technology older generations must learn to adopt. The report also points out that many negative events — increased school shootings, climate change, post-9/11 terrorism, the 2008 recession, etc. — have shaped Gen Z. One result is these young people are less likely to take risks and they seek stability and security in jobs/finances. 

However, Gen Z also want to work for companies that stand for something. Young adults have been exposed to and have been a part of activism. They also grew up in a society increasingly more aware of gender experience and social justice. They value diversity. And they want flexibility in all facets of the workplace, ranging from benefits to work hours. 

Another trait of this younger generation is their tendency to question and ask why, according to a report on the manufacturing workforce from Tooling U-SME. Why do we need to do it this way? Why is this important? Why can’t we try doing it differently? They ask about the why because they want to innovate the what,” states the report. “They want to improve the outcome and take pride in their contribution to something bigger than themselves.” 

Recruiting Gen Z

The FMI report suggests the following ways food retailers can successfully recruit Gen Z into corporate jobs:

  • Reach out to college students earlier, before they near graduation, so they know about positions. Showcase the variety of career options available.
  • Advertise authentically by highlighting the company’s internal culture. Gen Z wants to understand the benefits of working at a company and the impact that work can have. 
  • Market potential high salaries and quick promotions. Offer development programs to help employees advance in the company.
  • Emphasize innovation in the industry. Pique interest by getting out information about high-demand jobs, such as ones related to analytics and technology. 
  • Show how the company contributes to communities.
  • Emphasize the positives of the industry and how it contributes to a larger world purpose.

Many of these suggestions also apply to recruiting Gen Z into food manufacturing. The report from Tooling U-SME offers these suggestions:

  • Look for those with a curious and open mindset and plan to train them with a formal training program.
  • Show the company’s commitment to professional development — and specifically how younger workers can advance in their careers. 
  • Create a collaborative environment — young people are eager to contribute to their company’s success. Let young employees know their feedback and ideas are wanted and respected, and create ways for them to share. 
  • Highlight cutting-edge tech — robotics, automation, 3D printing, robots, augmented reality. YouTube videos can be a fun way to show the new face of manufacturing — 85% of Gen Z say they use that video platform.

Gen Z is the future of the food industry, and companies that understand younger adults will have an advantage in recruiting and retaining them.