How Career Development Professionals Can Close the Gap Between Human Resources and Gen Z: The Creation of Sustainable Relationships

How Career Development Professionals Can Close the Gap Between Human Resources and Gen Z: The Creation of Sustainable Relationships

DOI: 10.4018/978-1-6684-7442-6.ch011
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Generation Z (Gen Z) is about to be the world's largest and most educated cohort of workers. Human resource managers (HRMs) now rely heavily on the human capital of post-secondary education (PSE) Gen Z graduates. Yet, they struggle to understand how Gen Z graduates' work motivations differ from those in previous generations. This chapter proposes that career development professionals (CDPs) working in PSE can help to create sustainable relationships between Gen Z graduates and HRMs. The chapter begins with a review of Gen Z work motivations and HRM's efforts to satisfy those. It then reviews the current model of CDPs' roles (one that focuses on educating students about HRMs) and proposes an extension to that role (one that focuses on educating HRMs about graduates). Practical examples of this reimagined role in action are provided. Ultimately, the chapter offers a new way of thinking about how CDPs facilitate successful school-to-work transitions and contribute to sustainable relationships between Gen Z graduates and HRMs.
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By 2025, one in four workers in OECD countries will be from Generation Z (henceforth Gen Z) (OECD, 2022). Gen Z is the generation born between 1995-2009 and who are, at the time of this writing in 2023, roughly 13 to 28 years old (Goh & Lee, 2018). Human Resource Managers (HRMs) will depend on Gen Z graduates as their primary source of human capital for years to come. Studies have shown there are differences, as well as similarities in work values between generations, and the comparison of generational values has the potential to strengthen working relationships (Lester et al., 2012; Ng, Schweitzer & Lyons, 2010). If HRMs can offer graduates desirable work experiences that align with what Gen Z values most, they might survive the intense competition for talent in the global labor market (Donald, 2023). Unfortunately, emergent research suggests that many HRMs are unprepared to offer work experiences that appeal to Gen Z graduates. Instead, the media reports stories of dissatisfaction among Gen Z graduates who ‘ghost’ (i.e., quit without warning) their employers (Benítez-Márquez et al., 2022; Gilchrist, 2019). Ultimately, the gap between Gen Z graduates’ work motivations and HRMs’ efforts to satisfy those threatens the sustainability of relationships between this generation and HRMs (De Vos et al., 2020).

This chapter proposes that career development professionals (CDPs) can play a crucial role in aligning Gen Z graduates’ work motivations and the work experiences that employers offer. The chapter focuses on those CDPs working in post-secondary education (PSE) institutions. Many students will begin their career exploration in PSE. Indeed, Gen Z is on track to be the most educated generation in history (Parker & Igielnik, 2020). While in PSE, most Gen Z students will interact with CDPs (Makela et al., 2014). Traditionally, CDPs have educated students about what HRMs are looking for. This has facilitated school-to-work transitions in several ways. However, shifts in the labor market now call for new ways of thinking about the role of CDPs (Buckholtz & Donald, 2022). This chapter proposes that extending the role of CDPs to include educating HRMs about Gen Z would further facilitate successful relationships between Gen Z graduates and HRMs.

The chapter is organized into two sections. The first section reviews the characteristics of Gen Z graduates, identifies their work motivations, and critiques employers’ efforts to satisfy those. The second section reviews the traditional role of CDPs, proposes an extended role that includes educating employers about graduating students, and offers examples of this role in practice. By the end of the chapter, the reader should have an appreciation and understanding of answers to the following questions:

  • 1.

    What are Gen Z graduates’ most important work motivations?

  • 2.

    How are HRMs trying to satisfy Gen Z graduates’ work motivations?

  • 3.

    How can CDPs help to align Gen Z graduates’ work motivations and HRM’s efforts to satisfy those?

Key Terms in this Chapter

Résumé Critiques: A service in which a career development professional reviews a client’s résumé. The CDP may wish to ask open-ended questions to improve skill identification and encourage clients to make edits to their résumé to highlight better the skills required for jobs of interest.

CDP: A career development professional is a trained career educator providing career coaching or counseling for clients.

Career Counseling: A service in which a trained professional provides one-on-one support to clients on topics related to their careers. This approach may take on a Rogerian person-centered or trauma-informed approach in which career topics discussed relate to fear, anxiety, or barriers to employment.

Career Coaching: A service where a trained professional supports clients seeking employment, often including skill identification and articulation, résumé and cover letter review, interview preparation, and career goal setting. This term is often used interchangeably with career counseling.

PSE: Post-secondary education involves study after secondary school and can also be termed tertiary education, higher education, university, or college.

HRM: Human Resources Managers are those involved with recruiting, hiring, onboarding, training, and managing workers in an organization.

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