How to attract the graduates of tomorrow

How employers can attract the graduates of tomorrow

Even in spite of Brexit uncertainty, the high demand for talent means salaries are set to rise in 2020, and latest figures show that the average starting salary for graduates in Ireland has hit €30,000 for the first time ever.

But, with most industries fighting for the best talent, competitive salaries are no longer a USP for companies, but rather an expectation. So, what do companies need to offer the graduates of tomorrow?

Improved application processes

The graduates of today and tomorrow are commonly known as ‘Gen Z’, the first generation born into the age of smart technology. As such, their expectation for communication, information and quicker processes are arguably much higher than previous generations. Lengthy, difficult application processes will turn off Gen Z talent from the get-go and employers won’t even be aware of the talent they’ve missed out on. In fact, a study of UK businesses showed that more than half of HR directors had lost out on a qualified candidate due to a long hiring process.

It’s easy to forget that while employers are working towards selecting the best candidates, jobseekers are selecting the best places to work. And in today’s candidate-driven market, ‘selecting’ really is the right word here. Gen Z are walking into a job market that offers them plenty of choices, so they are no longer the ones hoping that they get picked. To some extent, they are doing the picking, and if they are going through application processes for two separate jobs, the company that stays in touch with them, keeps them informed of the next steps and keeps the process relatively short will win out in the end. Shortening your hiring process and keeping candidates informed will be key to attracting tomorrow’s graduates in the early stages of their job hunt.

Security and progression

For a long time, a discussion around value, purpose and meaning at work has been at the forefront of employers’ minds. To be fair, when it comes to appealing to the millennial workforce, this is still extremely important, with many surveys and reports putting meaningful work on an equal footing to high salaries. However, the graduates of tomorrow are Gen Z, coming in behind millennials and learning and building on these ways of working. It’s important to note that Gen Z workers still want to do meaningful work. In fact, a major US report on Gen Z showed that recent graduates are more likely to stay in a job for five years more if they feel their skills are fully utilised with challenging, meaningful work.

But in contrast to millennials, there is a pragmatic side to Gen Z’s search for meaning. The report also showed that 88% of 2017 graduates having considered job availability before selecting an area of study, showing that they want to future-proof their career as well as doing something meaningful. This isn’t a surprise, given that Gen Z graduates grew up in a recession and so, their outlook has been shaped by that added economic pressure. They’ve also watched millennials go ahead of them, seeking jobs that make them happy and give them the benefits, values and culture they wanted, but Gen Z workers are aiming to expand on that by adding financial security to their wish list.

An authentically good company culture

A good company culture is and always will be extremely important to all employees. According to the RECRUITERS 2020 Salary Predictions Guide, company culture was deemed the greatest staff retention tool in a company’s arsenal. Of course, a happy, collaborative and supportive culture are key areas that companies should be encouraging and using as retention tools for all workers. But as Gen Z employees head into the workforce in their droves, there are a few additional cultural elements employers need to think about: Flexibility, recognition and feedback.

Most leaders will be aware of flexibility becoming engrained in the workforce. However, it’s becoming so important and necessary that bringing a remote or flexible working policy can no longer be ignored and, having grown up in the age of smart technology, Gen Z will expect flexibility more than ever because the infrastructure is there to facilitate it. In addition to having flexibility as an option, Gen Z also want to know where they stand and what’s expected of them, which means employers who claim to offer flexibility must give strong, clear guidelines around what this means, and that includes a ‘work from home’ or remote working policy, rules around condensed hours or flexible working weeks and information about the equipment usage policies.

In a similar vein, the combined need for meaning, information and the ability to do their job well means Gen Z crave recognition and feedback. This doesn’t mean they’re constantly fishing for praise or reassurance. Remember, they’re a pragmatic bunch, so it means they need to know the work that they’re doing is worthwhile, that they will be rewarded and recognised for adding value to a company and that they will be able to receive helpful and actionable feedback that will enable them improve and progress.

An environment in which they are treated well

This may sound incredibly basic and can arguably be applied to all generations of workers. However, as the last of the traditionally rigid corporate infrastructures are hanging by a thread and newer, creatively-led, personality-driven companies are becoming front and centre, the way in which employers treat their employees needs to be closely examined.

Due to the society they’ve grown up in, Gen Z are arguably the most distrustful of big corporations and have seen how the employees before them have been mistreated. They’ve grown up in the aftermath of a global financial crisis. They have witnessed the #MeToo movement develop all over the world. They’ve watched the evolving technology they’re surrounded by slowly chip away at their right to privacy. They’ve seen the statistics around burnout and a lack of work-life balance as employers took advantage of millennials’ overworking tendencies. All of this experience coupled with a job-heavy market means Gen Z workers will have extremely high expectations for how they are treated by their managers, their directors and their company.

What does this mean for employers? It means the graduates of tomorrow can’t be bought with vanity perks such as free food or beer on Fridays if the culture in their workplace means they don’t feel respected. Again, this might seem both simple and obvious, but it’s far from either. In 2014, a Harvard Business Review study of nearly 20,000 employees around the world showed that more than half of employees didn’t feel respected by their bosses. On a smaller scale, more recent research in the UK, which surveyed more than 2,000 employees, showed that only 40% felt respected at work. The graduates of today and tomorrow are the generation that are pushing back on these behaviours, voting with their feet by leaving subpar work environments for better ones and, by extension, forcing companies to improve their processes. The companies that get ahead of the curve on this front and can prove that they treat their employees with respect will be the ones best poised to attract the graduates of tomorrow.

By Jenny Darmody

Jenny Darmody is the growth editor at RECRUITERS.

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