Meet & Engage

Prove Your Company Principles to Attract the Best Young Talent

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This article was originally published by HR Gazette. You can view the original article here.

By Jodie Grove

Engaging and Retaining Top Generation Z Employees

There are many reasons to be cheerful about the generation now entering the workforce. They are ready and willing to work hard, with 58% of those in the Generation Z group open to working nights and weekends for extra pay, a far higher proportion than older groups. This is, after all, the group that has watched their older brothers and sisters struggle with the weight of student debt and their parents handle recessions.

They are also potentially very loyal as team members, contrary to their reputation. The Zapier Digital Natives Report found that Gen Z (the under 24’s) aim to spend six years at a company, while Millennials would stay for ten years if they were happy there. These are decent tenures, the kind that would satisfy any employer.

But there is a big caveat to this promising work ethic, and it’s all about shared values and positive social impact. Research shows that young recruits will swiftly reject a potential employer that doesn’t appear to uphold their principles, and this is becoming a decisive factor in trying to appeal to them.

A TNS/Monster study found that three-quarters of Generation Z would prioritize a sense of purpose over a paycheck. If they are going to commit to your organization they want to feel like they have picked a like-minded partner to devote all those late nights to.

Partly, this is because they have grown up in the digital age with information about corporate practices just a couple of clicks away. They can translate dissatisfaction about a company’s ethics into action very quickly and will avoid joining a company if there is any doubt about its values.

Anger over issues like the US election and climate politics has prompted a burst of activism amongst the young in the past few years and means that many expect their employer to share their moral standpoint.


Taking a stand

No surprises then that companies have been going the extra mile to build ethically purposeful goals into their corporate DNA – from Lego creating bricks made from sustainable sugar cane, to BMW educating Chinese children about the importance of road safety.

In recent years it also means that companies have to consider becoming vocal on hot button issues that they may have opted to stay silent on previously. A 2019 study commissioned by WP Engine found that 72% of Gen Z say they would actively consider buying from a company that took a stand on social issues that they care about – add in the effect of last year’s Black Lives Matter movement and this trend will only be stronger.

Employers who are serious about catching the attention of the brightest Gen Z talent must equally prioritize communicating their values within their recruitment activity. Since post-Covid, the vast majority of this work is now conducted virtually, talent acquisition teams have had to become much more creative about this process.

Given the crisis that has unfolded around us all, if companies can demonstrate that they offer recruits the chance to really feel part of something significant and socially positive, this is likely to be very attractive.

We’ve looked carefully at this area recently in an effort to help our clients use their virtual channels to more effectively project a sense of community and shared values to potential recruits. The key message is that you need to take time to think about how to clearly communicate your culture and where you stand on the issues that really matter to young candidates.

Before Covid, a visit to your offices and a chance to speak to the team and soak up the atmosphere would have given potential recruits a feel for your culture. The shift to virtual recruitment has created the opportunity for organizations to communicate their values in a much more structured and engaging way.

For example, rather than emailing a bland document listing your CSR values, you can organize a series of live online chat events for candidates that demonstrate where the organization stands on a range of important social issues. Events could be offered on how a business supports employees from the black community to promote social mobility, what it’s doing to root out gender discrimination, where it stands on mental health and wellbeing, or the environmental initiatives that it supports.


Passing the mic

But talking about your values is useless unless you can back it up with authentic action. Gen Z’s are adept at reality testing and they’ll want to hear examples of how your people live up to your values in the daily operations of your business.

This is where what we call ‘passing the mic’ comes into its own. Virtual channels like live chat are a great way to host events where you can literally pass that microphone over to selected current employees so they can talk about their own experiences.

This exercise is also a good way of working out where your organization stands in terms of its inclusivity policies. If you’re not comfortable, for example, letting one of your LGBTQ+ employees talk to recruits about how they are encouraged to fully be themselves at work, then maybe this is because your company still has some work to do in this area.

Nothing communicates culture better than personal experiences, so ensure that any online event includes a range of employees at all levels of seniority. Potential recruits will be reassured to hear from people that they can identify with.

Because relating is the key here, young people in the Gen Z group need to feel confident that they are joining a community where they can truly fit in. Get this right and they could stay with you for many years.

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