In his latest monthly column for the Western Mail, our Group Managing Director Matt Southall discusses the new generations hitting the workplace this summer...

After a couple of false starts, it seems that summer is finally getting underway and with the warmer weather will come the annual influx of recent graduates into the work place.

Every year, there are subtle shifts in what comprises each cohort of graduates and this year will be no exception. Summer 2018 will see the second group of Generation Z students graduate, bringing with them their own unique skills and expectations.

Gen Z is the term that has been coined for those born between 1995 and 2012. It is the generation that follows the much-maligned millennials. For some, the difference between those two groups may seem negligible but from an employer’s point of view there are some great opportunities with the new blood entering the workplace. And while you mustn’t pigeonhole a whole generation into a few generalisations, there are certainly some that ring true.

This new generation’s assumed characteristics include having a more open-minded and tolerant approach, a keen pursuit of a work-life balance that doesn’t necessarily tally with a traditional 9-5, and even greater tech savviness. Having been raised with PCs and tablets, they are even more technologically on the ball and this could increasingly unlock a whole new pool of talent and opportunity for businesses.

Like millennials before them, Gen Zers are more likely than ever to see the ‘job for life’ idea as outdated. Some attribute this to short attention spans but really, without the sort of pensions and benefits associated with long-service that companies used to offer, it is understandable that people will be more inclined to move, always on the lookout for the most attractive deal they can find. Couple this with more of an international outlook and more of an appreciation of the impact their lifestyles and workplaces have on the world, organisations now have to consider both their commercial brands and their employer brands far more deeply than ever before if they are to appeal to the most sought-after Gen Z workers.

Gen Z is also keen to move up the pay scale quickly, bolstered by the growing aspiration of becoming financially stable as soon as possible. People want to climb the career ladder with progression being a direct result of their achievement and contribution, rather than ‘time served’.

For employers, retaining good employees is always a practical consideration and businesses will find that they constantly have to find new ways to engage with their staff in order to engender loyalty and ownership. Admiral is leading the pack with this thanks to initiatives such as their share scheme and impressive staff parties regularly seeing them topping employee satisfaction surveys.

Another, more mutually beneficial way of earning this generation’s loyalty is through support, training, genuine career progression and the relative freedom to express creativity, individuality and entrepreneurialism in how they are permitted to operate in the workplace.

Support schemes such as mentoring and one-to-one coaching are a huge draw for a generation that wants to progress sooner rather than later.

At Acorn we’ve been developing our Recruitment Academy – a programme specifically designed to support new people in the industry with no recruitment experience and provide some of the stability, visibility and opportunity they are looking for in the workplace. 

The initiative offers a structured career progression plan from day one, complete with achievable goals and targets, which mean that promotion is very much within the participant’s control. Going through the scheme will help individuals become more specialist in the recruitment field; and continual training, support and one-on-one development is part and parcel of the course. The initiative proves to be a great success for us.

Ultimately, all generations are united in their desire and expectation to feel valued and any organisation that recognises this is likely to do better than those that don’t when it comes to attracting the best employees and retaining them.

Matt Southall is Group Managing Director of Wales’ leading multi-specialist recruiter, Acorn www.acornpeople.com