Hays UK blog


Recruiting the next generation

By Barney Ely, Director of Hays Human Resources

Generation Z has grown up in a world where economic downturn has resulted in high unemployment in much of Europe. Members of this generation have witnessed their older siblings or parents struggling, which has affected their attitude to work, their ambitions, and their motivations. It has made them more self-aware, self-reliant and driven and they want to understand ‘why’ a company does what is does. For the digital-native millennials born from the mid-nineties upwards, the workplace is exciting but still quite daunting.

Many HR professionals believe Gen Z will disrupt the workplace more than Gen Y or Gen X ever did. They are realistic and goal-orientated innovators. Long-term loyalty is also unlikely because these young people will want different jobs during their career. The challenge is to find effective ways to accommodate and retain emerging talent, and a structured onboarding process is certainly a must.

Here are four ways to attract and retain Gen Z:

1. Ask your Gen Z employees what attracted them to the role

Using existing knowledge should be a given, but isn’t always applied to recruitment. Sue Warman, Senior Director, HR for Northern Europe and Russia for business intelligence and analytics firm SAS, says that while older workers are fascinated by their younger colleagues when recruiting from Gen Z, it is best to ask for help from those in the same demographic. “You cannot fake youth as an HR person,” she says. “It’s important to keep an open dialogue so you not only attract but also retain them.” For example, Sue’s company are doing a big push to get younger workers to recruit for them through their university contacts and social media. “I have seen how companies are using virtual reality and gaming at events. You have to speak their language and not be too corporate.”

2. Keep up and speed up

As a recruiter, you must be aware of what employees might be sharing on social media and adapt the benefits and rewards on offer to make them relevant. At civil engineering and construction company Costain, HR Operations Director Jenny Tomkins calls Gen Z the “impatient generation” and says that the immediacy these people demand in their lives extends to the workplace.

As a result, the company has shortened its graduate schemes from three years to two streams. There is still a longer route for those who need technical knowledge, but now a shorter path for those earmarked for management. “We want to be able to accelerate people’s careers if they are ambitious, but they still have to earn their stripes,” says Tomkins. “You also have to spot a young person’s strengths and potential early. We had one graduate who was going down the technical engineering route but was not doing too well, so we moved him into a sales role and he is flying.”

3. Don’t just offer them a job, offer them an opportunity

It is essential that you give this workforce a sense of purpose. For Gen Z, this job is more than just a pay check and they will be keen to see their hard work paying off. Consider how you can manage their expectation of progression within your organisation. By offering development, be that through promotion or through change of department, will pay dividends when it comes to retaining staff.

Rob Phipps, Chief People Officer for KFC Australia, New Zealand and Thailand, says an incredible 95 percent of its 35,000 workforce were born after 1996. “To attract and retain Gen Z, we need to help the people who make it up be the best they can be at work and in life,” he says. “We help them to make a difference to each other and to their communities. They also want to have fun.”

4. Train them beyond their job skills

With five generations in the workplace at once, there are bound to be challenges. For this reason, Gen Z will need support to understand workplace etiquette, and the values held by older colleagues. SAS employs 6,000 people across Europe and are hiring more apprentices as well as graduates.

Warman says there is an element of pseudo-parenting required by HR and line managers as younger people learn what behaviours are acceptable in the workplace: “They need to understand meeting protocol, how to manage their time and how to represent our brand. It means a big coaching overhead for managers, but Gen Z employees welcome a good manager they can look up to.”

Ensure you provide training beyond their job skills to get the best from them and minimise the tension between the generations at work. For example, at Hays we provide internal training to our employees about time management and personal effectiveness, showing that no matter which generation they are from, we can identify career goals and encourage mentoring within your organisation. This doesn’t necessarily mean older to younger but also the reverse, as someone once said; ‘you’re never too old to learn something new’.

As a recruiter or hiring manager remember that it’s not just about the motivation, but about how we manage differently in the working environment of the particular generation.

Request your copy of the Hays Journal: Issue 13 to read the full article on pages 41-43.

For more information or to discuss your employment needs in this field, please contact your local consultant.

About this author

Barney joined Hays in 1993 as a business graduate and is now Director for Hays Human Resources. Barney also has operational responsibility for Hays offices across the South of England, placing professionals in over 20 industry sectors covering everything from accountancy and finance to construction, IT education and healthcare.


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