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Young people don’t expect firms to be inclusive, they demand it

Michele Trusolino
soft skills

People are complex beings. And this couldn’t be truer than when it comes to new generations of smartphone-wielding, tech-savvy individuals. This new cohort has left a lot of business leaders and HR Directors scratching their heads. Article by Michele Trusolino, COO & Co-founder – Debut.

Born into a very different world to previous generations, their expectations when it comes to flexibility, diversity and equality cannot be ignored by businesses. In the words of LADbible’s head of comms,  “young people give a f**k” – and businesses must take note of this.

2018 marked the gender pay gap reporting roll out, this shone a light on the issue and unfortunately, it revealed many firms still have a long way to go in addressing it. Not only does a large gap reflect badly on businesses’ reputations, but another surprising negative impact is young talent being deterred from applying to work for them at all. 

Understanding millennials, Gen Z and beyond

LADbible’s Peter Heneghan pointed out that the new cohort is engaging the most with wider concerns on a global scale, such as plastic pollution as one example. In light of this information, LADbible adjusted the tone of its content to reflect this. 

Campaigns that promote social good are what LADbible has identified as most important to young people. Heneghan revealed that its core audience, 18-34-year olds, is interested in mental health, politics and the environment. 

The Guardian’s Nosheen Iqbal recently spoke with young people in a bid to understand what makes them tick and their attitudes towards all things current affairs. One respondent explained that she understood her future career wouldn’t be defined by one job and that she would have to take on jobs she wouldn’t enjoy in order to fund passion projects. In other words, a lifelong career at the same company has been replaced by the new reality of ‘side-hustling’, and young people are much more inclined to switch careers and jobs multiple times in their lives. This means the old way of managing, rewarding and incentivising people needs to change. For businesses to attract and retain young talent, they need to make a conscious effort to adapt their culture by empowering them to be entrepreneurial within the role or by having a strong social mission. 

In addition, Vision Critical reveals that this generation is made up of focused and liberal individuals. These people have never lived through a time when someone of any gender, race, or sexuality couldn’t become a political leader. For them, equality is more than a concept – it is a reality. Gen Z expects equality as standard, not just as a ‘nice to have’. Which is why it’s not surprising our research found 7 in 10 students view a company with a large gender pay gap as having a distinct lack of integrity and think it reflects badly on the business not to tackle the issue head-on. 

Unsurprisingly, 1 in 3 young women we surveyed said they would be completely deterred from applying to businesses with a large gender pay discrepancy. Therefore, potential top female talent is immediately lost from the get-go. And it’s not just women who think this, 64 percent of men view companies with large pay gaps negatively.

 Men occupying the best-paid positions in a company is nothing new, even where women dominate the workforce. But this new generation won’t accept the current status quo, and companies cannot continue to simply sweep gender pay issues under the rug. Firms need to take action that will contribute to closing the gap if they hope to recruit the next wave of brains.

Playing the blame game

Since the introduction of gender pay reporting this year, what has previously been speculated on has been exposed. Companies have complete control over how much they offer in terms of salary, so the gap is unforgivable by today’s standard. 1 in 4 respondents in our survey revealed a gender pay gap reflects a critical weakness in business, proving that companies are being perceived as archaic and outdated in many cases. 

Gen Z presents a fresh challenge for companies, especially those who already struggle to appease younger millennial expectations. These graduates are confident, motivated, and far from naïve. And the women of this cohort will not accept the existing culture of promoting men on potential and women on performance; they expect to be rewarded based on skill and merit, and not to be marginalised by their race, gender or socio-economic status. Their strengthened sense of community has encouraged many to speak up on issues like sexual harassment; the #MeToo movement being a prime example of this.

Ultimately, firms that don’t understand and adapt their approach simply won’t be considered a potential workplace by this generation. At a time when many British businesses are facing an unprecedented skills crisis and Brexit uncertainty, firms should be doing all they can do to attract young talent – not alienate it.

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