Traditionally, the introduction of a new generation has been exciting and innovative for the world of business. Following this pattern, Generation Z should be seen as a vital resource for recruiters and employers as they are the upcoming generation, brimming with ideas and technology know-how that proves essential in our digital-first society. Contributor Gemma Hallett, Founder – miFuture.
Yet, the statistics show that this isn’t necessarily the case and they aren’t always viewed in a positive light. Gemma Hallett, former Welsh international rugby player and founder of Gen Z employability app, miFuture, explores this and why this generation is critical to the development of business ecosystems and its survival.
Research shows that Generation Z is set to make up a staggering 24 percent of the global workforce by 2020. Yet, in the current recruitment situation, unemployment levels for young people aged 16-24 remains incredibly high, with many struggling to get on the first rung of the career ladder. In fact, recent statistics report that 808,000 young people (aged 16-24) are not in employment, education or training (NEET) in the UK, which equates to 11.5 percent of young people. Therefore, this is a situation which certainly needs to be addressed by businesses and recruiters alike. However, perhaps it isn’t always the lack of opportunities on offer causing the issues, but instead, it is the lack of understanding from businesses and recruiters in how to communicate with this new generation who have already proven to be an incredible contrast to their predecessors in terms of professional aspirations, expectations and even preferred communication mediums.
What’s in a name?
In the past decade, many businesses have spent much time researching and investing in the understanding of Millennials. Yet unfortunately, the same level of research has not yet been applied to their successors, and there has been plenty of confusion around the complexity of Generation Z. It has become a generation plagued by negative misconceptions around their work ethic and general approach to the world of work. The perception from older generations is that Generation Z is ‘lazy’ and ‘social media obsessed’, with many blaming the youngsters for their lack of career progression, pointing towards these attributes as the reasons preventing them from enhancing their career prospects or realising opportunities in the first instance.
Setting career goals
However, research shows that the reality is very much the opposite to this. Similar to the generations that came before them, Generation Z has clear aspirations for their future goals. It’s likely that they would have grown up during the financial recession of the 2000s, so would have noticed their parents experiencing financial struggles, which has resulted in their need for career security. Therefore, it’s likely that they’ll search for roles which have a clear progression path and the opportunity for careers with longevity. Also, thanks to the technology available at their fingertips, Generation Z is said to be more entrepreneurial than their predecessors. According to recent research, Gen Z is 55 percent more likely to want to start a business and recruit others in comparison to Millennials. Despite the perception of a low work ethic, this generation has a lot to offer whether they are aspiring entrepreneurs or enthusiastic employees, they’ll be consistently trying to enhance their knowledge and ultimately develop their skillset. Therefore, they’ll be a great addition to any business. Plus, research so far suggest that these individuals will be fiercely competitive and independent in their way of working, showcasing initiative wherever possible. These will prove increasingly important if they wish to achieve a flexible working structure, which is consistently noted as a main priority for this group.
Barriers of communication
Therefore, we need to consider that perhaps it isn’t the skillset of young people that’s holding them back, but the barriers to communication that they’re facing when trying to interact and engage with opportunities. Employers and Generation Z are not yet communicating in a streamlined way and it seems that many employers are still unsure of the best ways to reach this group. It’s crucial to acknowledge that Generation Z is the first generation to be born into a cellular world, where they’ve never experienced life without constant notifications and the requirement to be ‘always-on’. Therefore, mobile communication is almost a second nature to them, so it’s no surprise that 98 percent of Generation Z own a smartphone and use them as the primary device for searching and communicating, with 92 percent of them reportedly having some form of digital footprint, whether that’s through social media or beyond. This is why it’s crucial for businesses to ensure any recruitment opportunities are communicated through platforms that are mobile-first with accessibility as a primary focus. Also, take time to understand this generation and how they digest information and interact with it. For example, 73 percent of young people in the UK believe that messaging is more important than calling, suggesting a decline in the desire for phone conversations, yet 39 percent of Gen Z say that in person communication is the most effective, suggesting that they will not use technology as their crutch for all interactions.
Tech as the solution
We have all of this information at our fingertips yet there still appears to be a disconnect between recruiters, employers and young people. Arguably, if we want to appeal to this next generation, we must learn how to communicate opportunities to them in a way that is native to them. Recruiters only have eight seconds to reach Gen Z as they’ve become accustomed to prioritising and filtering information. After all, this is a generation which is bombarded with more notifications that ever before in an age of information overload, so it’s quite easy for any online job vacancy to be missed, especially if it’s promoted through a job platform that sends numerous alerts on a daily basis. Instead of communicating opportunities through these traditional platforms, employers and recruiters should be reaching out through more innovative technology. For example, now we have apps for that, like miFuture, which allow you to upload your CV and match to relevant opportunities with zero barriers to the application process, further aligning technology with the recruitment process. Utilising technology such as apps can truly showcase the companies that are thinking in a digital-first way, which will appeal to young people looking to immerse themselves in fresh opportunities. GoCompare and the British Army are just some of the forward-thinking organisations that I’ve been working with to prioritise engagement and recruitment of Gen Z.
What should employers be doing moving forward?
Ultimately, if businesses want to progress, they must embrace Generation Z, take the time to understand how they can be an asset to their business and actively seek to recruit this upcoming generation of aspiring professionals. Whether or not this fact has been realised yet by all parties, employers and Generation Z ultimately need each other in order to succeed. This relationship should be based out of mutual understanding and recruiters cannot expect to access the talent pool of the next generation without first making the necessary adjustments. That’s why, it’s essential to utilise the technology available and speak to these young people in the places that they are listening in order to recruit and nurture this digital-first generation.