INTERVIEW: Clear development opportunities vital in attracting Gen Z to the workplace


Gen Z seems to be everywhere at the moment. With the second cohort of graduates born after 1995 gearing up to enter the workplace this summer, new expectations are starting to have a significant impact on the workplace.

We speak to Pavan Arora, Head of Talent Development at Acorn, about how this generation might impact employers and what Acorn is doing to ride the wave…


Everybody is talking about Gen Z at the moment – will they really have that much of an impact?

In a nutshell, yes, absolutely! The previous furore around millennials has barely started dying down, and yet here we have a whole new group of graduates with different expectations hitting the job market on a large scale.

This summer the second cohort will be moving into the workplace, and given this is the largest-ever working generation there’s definitely going to be a splash.  

What expectations are on employers to adapt to Gen Z?

Gen Z have various expectations which for many will truthfully be non-negotiable if they’re going to have any long lasting loyalty to employers.

It’s clearly documented that people will rarely stay in the same job for longer than five years now, and at Acorn we know that employers have to be smart with their attraction and retention strategies to ensure employees are likely to either last for those full five years and give their all, or want to stay longer because of the ethos of the company they’re working for.

What areas or topics are of particular interest to Gen Z?  

Current topics such as mental health in the workplace are gaining momentum, and for Gen Z having support in this area is of increasing importance. More and more, employers are implementing employee-led schemes such as Mental Health First Aiders, and whilst these are obviously not being put into place just because of Gen Z, initiatives are undoubtedly being influenced by the wants of this new and very vocal generation.

In your experience, what are Gen Z actually looking for in the workplace?

Support, training, genuine career progression and the relative freedom to express at least some creativity and individuality in how they operate is absolutely paramount.

Leadership visibility is also key – gone are the days when managers could ‘hide’ behind closed doors. Leadership within a company needs to be visible, preferably accessible and above all, inspiring. In today’s environment, senior management is held accountable on a higher level – where personal lives and choices can mean the difference between a company’s success and failure.

Accessibility is important too. Support schemes such as mentoring, one-to-one coaching and the like are a huge draw for a generation who want to progress sooner rather than later. Open-door ways of working such as this are no longer ‘nice to have’ but a ‘need to have’.

Acorn’s senior management team lead from the front. Very much present on a day-to-day basis and always available to discuss new ideas, the support they provide their teams is invaluable in terms of retention. We’re very aware that open-door ways of working are no longer ‘nice to have’ but a ‘need to have’ – and are incredibly beneficial to both sides.  

What challenges have you faced when it comes to attracting and retaining this generation?

A challenge for us is that recruitment is so often a misunderstood profession – not enough is known about the industry, which is something we at Acorn are working to combat. This has had an impact on people wanting to enter the sector, particularly when corporate and social responsibility is so high on the agenda for Gen Z, although the tide is turning as companies become increasingly transparent in their way of working.

The reality is that recruitment can truly be an amazing career – taking on a new role can be one of the biggest life changes people can go through, and in this industry, you’re able to support them through their career journey.

At Acorn we are firm believers in talking to individuals at an early stage. More often than not, we know that by the time people finish university they will already have career plans in place - and it’s rare that those plans will involve recruitment, so we like to get in touch much earlier down the line.

We regularly engage with higher-education providers such as universities, and have worked with several across Wales; including Cardiff Business School and the University of South Wales - talking to their students and explaining what a career in recruitment actually involves. The rise of technology has naturally had a huge impact on the recruitment industry and of course our own internal recruitment – we use the platform to show the benefits of working in recruitment and what people can achieve.

Like any other career, recruitment is not for everyone. It’s a high-pressured environment much of the time — but if somebody thrives on a challenge, doesn’t want the same day twice, wants to progress and have stable earnings sooner rather than later, this is a great sector to be in — meaning than the requirements for Gen Z needs are a natural join with the recruitment industry. 

What is Acorn doing, in particular, to stand out when it comes to attracting and retaining Gen Z into the workplace?

We’re gearing up to officially launch our new Recruitment Academy — a programme specifically designed to support new people in the industry with no recruitment experience, and provide some of the stability and visibility they are looking for in the workplace. 

The initiative offers a structured career progression plan from day one, laid out on paper and very achievable through targeted levels, meaning that promotion is very much within the participants' control. Going through the scheme helps individuals become fully trained specialist recruitment consultants; and continual training, support and one-on-one development is part and parcel of the course. The initiative has already been trialled and is proving a big success for us.

Compared to their predecessors, Gen Z wants to move up the pay scale much faster. This has been bolstered by the growing demand on secured earnings to become financially stable a lot younger in their career. People want to be able to move on to the mortgage ladder as well as climbing the career ladder — with progression a direct result of achievement rather than ‘time served’. This is something that the Academy offers right from the get-go – and we’re looking forward to seeing more people succeed in this varied and exciting industry.


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