By ignoring the adults of tomorrow, employers could be missing out on a wealth of talent they will need as recruitment challenges persist. Mark Fawcett explains how organizations can better engage and attract Gen Z.
With exam season now behind them, a generation of teens and young adults will enjoy a summer of well-deserved fun. But for many, there will be an underlying uncertainty about what’s next.
Whether they were GCSE, A-Level or Diploma students, they would have had a deeply difficult few years as the pandemic forced them out of the classroom and into their bedrooms, studying alone behind laptop screens .
The level of disruption to their education, confidence and performance cannot be underestimated. I have worked with young people for 30 years and during that time I have seen recessions, education ministers and employment booms and busts come and go, but I am sure these are the today’s emerging adults who have suffered the greatest negative impact on their lives. For many, the damage will last a lifetime.
And then, when you consider the impact of Brexit – which has upended the labor market and the prospects for working abroad – and the cost of living crisis, it is clear that this generation is phenomenally disadvantaged.
But as companies face a recruitment crisis of monumental proportions, young people aren’t the only ones facing an uphill battle. The future of every company depends on the quality of its employees, so when it becomes difficult to find the talents of tomorrow, tomorrow itself suddenly seems less certain.
If you want to attract Gen Z, it is essential that their perception of your business is positive. Last month, we released the results of our first Social impact barometer which analyzes, measures and ranks 100 major brands according to what 16-24 year olds think and feel about them.
The barometer is based on three years of employee, customer and future customer data, and rates brands according to their emotional connection with this audience, their role as a career player (from skills development to mentoring, coaching and employability), the role of brands in individual development (including well-being, equality and diversity), within the community and in sustainability.
How a company is perceived publicly is a combination of both corporate communications and consumer marketing, their involvement in the community, the benefits they provide to consumers, and how they connect and interact with people individually.
The value of these emerging adults as employees, consumers, and trend setters will increase tremendously over the next few years, so an HR manager who doesn’t consider everything from touchpoints to tone of voice to messaging and adding value, will miss the opportunity to protect their business for the future.
A company can take several steps to improve the way it engages with young people for maximum mutual benefit.
Adjust your recruiting process – and your attitude
Companies should seek to hire school leavers and provide on-the-job training. By welcoming young people early and offering them the opportunity to earn money while learning the ropes and advancing through the ranks, companies will in turn earn loyalty and respect.
Currently, the demand for skills development far exceeds the supply, with 83% of people seeking it and only 14% of employers offering it. Also, offer mentorship – and advertise that fact. Specify that in addition to training, incoming talents will be offered support in their handling of the position and in their professional career.
Be their cheerleader
Young people in a post-pandemic world are more anxious than ever and respond well to encouragement and positivity. By tracking and celebrating their progress, you’ll engage them in shared values and build their confidence, helping to deepen their emotional connection to the company. Perhaps follow their success online, offering a physical representation of their accomplishments and milestones.
Finding the balance between the old and the new
To research by We Are Futures shows that 44% of Gen Zers expect to change jobs several times before the age of 30. This means that companies must be agile and react quickly to the rapidly changing society in which we live. Be slow to respond and they’ll move on.
However, don’t forget the power of in-person, face-to-face interaction. With so much of life now happening behind a screen, memorable encounters offer more value and impact than ever before.
Be the change they want to see
The defining characteristic of this particular generation is its passion and principles. They care deeply about major issues such as sustainability and the environment, equality and diversity and they want to respect their employer – and be respected for their job choice. They value job satisfaction and they need to add value and make a difference.
This is a generation that values fairness and equality, and expects it from those around them, especially the big corporations that wield power and influence. By demonstrating that you share this expectation of a fairer world, and by living the verbal commitment you have made, you will resonate strongly with them.
This is a generation that values fairness and equality, and expects it from those around them, especially the big corporations that wield power and influence.
Authenticity is a central element. A digitally savvy generation, they are quick to dismiss ill-conceived or superficial attempts to jump on big issues and hot topics. Saying one thing and doing another is the quickest way to lose their respect while conversely, signing up for step-by-step processes and integrating them into every possible facet of your business will earn you respect at the shovel.
Attach your communications
The final piece of the puzzle is the one that ties all of the above together to deliver the desired results. Unifying all of your messaging across every element of your communications is essential because social media and digital communications mean that young people form opinions about companies from a range of brand touchpoints.
To date, most companies have separated their communications into three compartments: HR, talent and recruitment communications, consumer brand communications, and CSR and social impact information, all of which are shared across different channels. and with a different tone of voice, with little connection between them.
But by not integrating these three elements, companies are not making it easy for young people to engage with them. By establishing what you stand for and being there together, you will determine if they want to work for you.
It is essential that modern businesses do not live in the moment but rather protect their business for the future by paying attention to the changing attitudes, expectations and experiences of young people. If a human resources manager of even the largest company can begin to recognize and embrace these important changes today, they can begin to make positive changes tomorrow that will pay dividends in years to come.