For the first time in history, we now have five generations in the workplace. This brings with it both challenges and opportunities. In the past companies have competed for talent based on the depth and breadth of their benefits package, but for those entering the workplace today, flexibility in their role, technology and their own working environment are a higher priority.
This uncompromising focus has – rightly or wrongly – earnt generations Y and Z a reputation for being demanding and complex to manage. Whether you agree or not, if managed well younger employees can be positive agents for change, introducing new working practices that bolster productivity, engender knowledge sharing and promote collaborative working. With this in mind, it is important that managers are given the training and support to understand the emotional drivers that motivate younger generations and are well-equipped to nurture talent to the long term benefit of their organisation – a process that, to my mind, starts at the interview process.
Best foot forward
When looking at candidates, experience is often the go-to criteria for hiring, but with young people a different approach could yield the best results. Potential candidates may not have a wealth of previous experience in the same field to fall back on, so often it is examples of their behaviour and enthusiasm that should be used as key indicators.
Perhaps the candidate has led sports teams or held a position of responsibility at university or college? Although they may not know it, this displays a level of accountability and risk-taking, as they are willing to accept responsibility. No matter how much stability they are seeking, you still want to be hiring people who want to make a difference, so by looking for leadership in other areas of their life you can uncover a drive to take a chance that they may not even have realised themselves.
Training equals trust
Through training, coaching and mentoring you can appeal most effectively to young employees and potential candidates, offering a great incentive and an outline of their longer-term prospects. Development opportunities – whether through formal training programmes or on-the-job tasks and projects are a clear sign that you are committed to progressing the employee, and that the career advancement that is so appealing to them will also follow in time. If a company is going to invest time and money giving you access to resources and improving your skills, then the message is clear: you are going to be valued as an employee, and have a long-term future here. Both of these are crucial messages to relay to potential employees if you want to hire and retain the best young candidates possible – promote structure and progression, not just stability.
Investing in training and development doesn’t just benefit the individual employee either. Training can help foster great working relationships across teams, between newer and older employees and enable all employees to feel united behind the company vision and direction.
Flexibility and technology still hold weight
Flexibility and technology are enticing prospects for younger candidates, so these should also be an early subject for discussion. Many younger people are keen not only to use the technology that they are used to and comfortable with, but to bring new and updated methods into the workplace, enabling the wider company to benefit. Giving employees the ability and authority to make a difference to internal process is empowering, so can be used as a major selling point.
The final area to consider is flexibility. Contrary to popular opinion, potential employees of a younger age are not looking to change their working hours, but instead are seeking flexibility within their roles to perform a variety of tasks. Providing variety in a role helps them determine their career path as well and build key transferable skills. Enabling them to work on projects that interest and inspire them outside of their core role will benefit the company as well as ensuring an engaged employee who feels like they are learning every day. Once more, this is a great way to promote structure and ownership to them, as making their role varied and interesting highlights that you want them to make the role their own and work to their strengths, rather than being an interchangeable hire.
Taking the time for talent
Getting the cream of the crop when it comes to the newest talent pool of employees out there requires us to take a different approach – to interviewing, to training and development and to accountability – all of which drive the younger generations to commit to building a long-term career with your company. Helping managers understand the change in generational aspirations and desires is key to ensuring you engage and drive these employees in a way that is both beneficial to the individual and to the company.
By Dafydd Llewellyn of Concur