Jobs and the Future of Work

A detailed guide to understanding and hiring young employees


Younger generations do things differently - and businesses looking to employ them must do the same. Image: Stocksnap/Burst

Bernadette Wightman
Managing Director, Banking and Financial Services, BT Group
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This article is part of: Annual Meeting of the New Champions

Global organizations today are faced with talent shortages, skills gaps and ageing workforces. To overcome these challenges, businesses need to look to younger generations - but what can companies do to attract and retain the best talent from among millennials and Generation Z?

Firstly, recruiters need to understand what makes these younger generations tick. Millennials and Generation Z (Gen Z) don’t buy, they rent - and this ‘sharing economy’ allows them to enjoy everything from music, vintage furniture, cars, designer clothes and even pets without the hassles of ownership.

Employees who subscribe to Spotify rather than buy albums, for example, or who share items rather than own them outright, aren’t interested in jobs for life - they are after experiences. The ‘gig economy’ of freelance or contract work appeals to four out of five millennials and Gen Zs. The average length of time an employee currently stays in a job is between four and five years globally.

Hiring young employees means Image: Deloitte

How it feels to be in the workplace today

Recent years have not necessarily been kind to employees entering the workforce. Following on from the baby boom years of economic expansion, lately we have seen growing economic inequality, while information technology that is supposed to bring us together is instead making us feel more isolated.

We have also seen a significant shift in trust, with a loss of faith not only in traditional authority figures and institutions but also more recently in peer-to-peer relationships. People have shifted their trust towards relationships in their control, particularly their employers. Employees who have trust in their employer will advocate for them, are more engaged, and remain far more loyal.

Understanding what millennials want from their employers

So how can employers attract younger generations into the workplace?

Firstly, by listening. Take a look at any survey of millennials, and what they want from their employers quickly becomes obvious. Topping the list for many is work-life balance. A recent study by YouGov found that millennials prioritise work-life balance over job security and pay when applying for work.

Travel and seeing the world were also at the top of the list (57%) of millennial and Gen Z aspirations, according to Deloitte's 2019 Millennial Survey. They also were more attracted to making a positive impact in their communities or society at large (46%) than having children and starting families (39%).

However, while pay might not be top of their lists when applying for work, dissatisfaction with pay, along with a lack of both advancement and development opportunities are the top reasons why millennials and Gen Z change jobs.

Hiring Young Employees to Future proof our organizations

Flexible and agile working and job-sharing opportunities are all ways of helping employees - not just millennials - maintain a healthy work-life balance. Many global organizations also support international assignments and job swaps as ways to ensure skills and business knowledge are available and shared where required, as well as being important tools to generate developmental opportunities.

Millennials and Gen Zs often start and stop relationships with companies because of the latters’ positive or negative impact on society. Organizations can make meaningful contributions through their technology, reach and people, whether that’s around climate change, environmental challenges or building better digital lives, for example. Businesses should build on that appetite to make a positive impact on their communities with local volunteering opportunities, wherever they are in the world.

And finally, savvy employers understand the importance of developing their staff for the future. Deloitte found that only about one in five respondents believed they have the skills and knowledge they’ll need for a world being shaped by Industry 4.0. It therefore falls to employers to help employees prepare for the future through skills development and training. As jobs become more fluid in the future, continuous retraining and upskilling can provide future-proofed skills to help staff change roles and take advantage of new opportunities.

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The other end of the generational spectrum

Millennials and Gen Zs make up more than half the world’s population and most of the global workforce, but companies need to nurture the top talent among older generations, too. They are often highly experienced members of the team who can help train younger workers.

From two-way mentoring programmes to hiring retired workers for short-term projects and testing ergonomic tools to reduce physical strain, there are plenty of ways companies can retain older talent.

Today is a great opportunity to capture the hearts and minds of younger generations. Businesses that invest in young talent now will be repaid through engagement, advocacy and loyalty - all of which are key ingredients in a future-proofed organisation.

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The views expressed in this article are those of the author alone and not the World Economic Forum.

Related topics:
Jobs and the Future of WorkYouth PerspectivesEducation and Skills
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