Recruitment & Retention

Looking to Recruit and Retain Younger Employees? Speak Their Language

By Elizabeth Heubeck — October 09, 2023 3 min read
Older woman and younger woman looking at tablet computer.
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

The average age of a school administrator is 47, which places them squarely within the generation referred to as Gen X (those born between 1965 and 1980). In comparison, most teachers start their careers between the ages of 20 and 25, which puts them at the tail end of the Millennial generation (born between 1981 and 1996) or the early side of Gen Z (1997-2012).

But far more than a decade or two divides these age spans, according to social researchers and workplace experts. Generational divides are nothing new, but they seem more pronounced than ever today, these experts say. Social media is largely to blame for the hyped stereotypes associated with each of today’s generations. But rapid-fire technological advances and evolving family dynamics have also shaped the perspectives of people who belong to the generations most affected by them—in this case, Millennials and Gen Z. These differing perspectives are likely to spill over into the workplace, including schools.

Communication preferences are perhaps one of the most obvious, and important, generational differences with implications for the workplace. Administrators cannot be expected to change their own communication preferences, workplace experts say, but striving to understand and adapt to those of younger job candidates and employees can be good for both recruitment and retention. It’s all part of approaching employee diversity as an opportunity rather than a culture clash, explained Cindy Sims, the superintendent of Estancia Municipal, a 500-student school district outside Albuquerque, N. M.

Sims, speaking to a national audience of K-12 human resources administrators and other education leaders at the American Association of School Personnel’s 2023 conference here earlier this month, advised: “Ask others: What are their perspectives?”

Such generational perspectives tend to guide every aspect of employment: from how job seekers identify opportunities to how, once employed, they prefer to receive daily information. While not every person within a given generation shares the same communication preferences or, by extension, other traits typically linked to their age group, the following generalizations can serve as a guidepost of sorts for Gen X or baby boomer (born between 1946 and 1964) administrators aiming to attract, hire, and keep younger employees.

On recruiting: Meet Gen Z-ers online, where they are

Not surprisingly, tech-savvy Gen Z job candidates conduct job searches largely online. Indeed, LinkedIn and Google were the top three go-to preferences for job hunting identified by college students in a recent survey.

The majority of Gen Z-ers (74 percent) in a recent nationwide poll said they want to connect face to face. But that doesn’t necessarily mean in person. They said mobile-first video-interviewing technology with live and on-demand interviewing as their preferences.

The hiring process: Make it fast

With widespread shortages of teachers and other education professionals, job seekers tend to be in the proverbial driver’s seat. Additionally, Gen Z-ers tend to be accustomed to instant feedback; they’re also known for their very “portable” nature, meaning they’re quick to pivot from one job or location to the next, according to Chris Pash, the executive director of human resources at the Farmington Municipal schools in New Mexico. For these reasons, Pash advises employers who are interested in hiring a Gen Z candidate to act fast.

“Don’t say, ‘I’ll get back to you in three days,’” he said at the AASPA conference. “They expect to know right away.”

Day-to-day communication: Text and TikTok

While older generations generally prefer to receive general information via email, text is the preferred mode for younger employees, say workplace experts. If the communication involves more complex details, for instance, explaining a new employee policy, administrators may want to consider creating a TikTok video.

Although some school leaders may balk at this advice, consider this: Social media-savvy Gen Z’s and Millennials are routinely taking to Instagram or TikTok to create a quick lesson for their students on subjects as varied as the reasons behind the Civil War to long division. Given that younger teachers are increasingly imparting information to their students in this manner, it’s likely they would appreciate receiving it this way, too.

Related Tags:

Events

This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Student Well-Being Webinar
Attend to the Whole Child: Non-Academic Factors within MTSS
Learn strategies for proactively identifying and addressing non-academic barriers to student success within an MTSS framework.
Content provided by Renaissance
Classroom Technology K-12 Essentials Forum How to Teach Digital & Media Literacy in the Age of AI
Join this free event to dig into crucial questions about how to help students build a foundation of digital literacy.

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Recruitment & Retention What the Research Says 4 Keys to Building a Pipeline From High School to the Teaching Profession
A statewide career-tech program in Maryland shows promise to expand and diversify the pool of new educators. Here's how.
5 min read
Image of high school students working together in a school setting.
E+/Getty
Recruitment & Retention Opinion ‘Grow Your Own’ Teacher Programs Are Misguided
Such recruiting initiatives wind up prioritizing the needs of education systems rather than those of students.
4 min read
Image shows a multi-tailed arrow hitting the bullseye of a target.
DigitalVision Vectors/Getty
Recruitment & Retention Retention Is the Missing Ingredient in Special Education Staffing
Many special education teachers switch to other teaching positions. Districts are exploring ways to keep them in the needed role.
9 min read
A teacher putting her arms around her students, more students than she can manage herself. A shortage of Special Education teachers.
Nicole Xu for Education Week
Recruitment & Retention Signing Ceremonies Honor Students Who Want to Be Teachers
In a growing number of schools across the country, student-athletes aren't the only ones in the spotlight. Future teachers are, too.
7 min read
The advisers of Baldwin County High School’s chapter of Future Teachers of Alabama pose with the seniors who are committed to a career in education in April 2024. From left to right, they are: Chantelle McPherson, Diona Davis, Molly Caruthers, Jameia Brooks, Whitney Jernigan, Derriana Bishop, Vickie Locke, and Misty Byrd.
The advisers of Baldwin County High School’s chapter of Future Teachers of Alabama pose with seniors who are committed to a career in education in April 2024. From left to right: Chantelle McPherson, Diona Davis, Molly Caruthers, Jameia Brooks, Whitney Jernigan, Derriana Bishop, Vickie Locke, and Misty Byrd.
Courtesy of Baldwin County High School