How to create environments the youngest workforce entrants can thrive in
An article written by Matt Johns, Humankind, for Southern Cross, August 2018
As a consultant helping businesses create great Employee Experiences, I get to enjoy working with a wide variety of clients. From small trade businesses with a handful of employees through to multi-national corporates, manufacturing through to the financial sector – the diversity is immense. One thing that is very common right across this diverse client group is the tendency to think about employees as one single group. In reality there are multiple subgroups and mini communities that exist within any employee group.
One such subgroup is our younger recruits. According to Statistics NZ, in March 2017 15-34 year olds (popularly known as Generation Z and the Millennials) made up 40% of the NZ workforce and their turnover rate was 29.2% for 15-24 year olds and 20.6% for 25-29 year olds – high compared to a 16% turnover rate for the total NZ workforce. According to AON Hewitt, they seem to also to be the least engaged age demographic, which is cause for some concern1.
What is becoming clear, is that young recruits are now having a dramatic impact on the wider workforce. One reason for this is how prepared they are to act if they do not believe the organisation they are working for is authentic or purpose-driven. While previous generations of employees would endure some levels of dissatisfaction to keep hold of a job, these young recruits are far more comfortable to speak up or leave the business to find a more suitable working environment.
There are a number of other considerations to keep in mind regarding young recruits:
- They have almost become one with technology. Technological change is normal for them and they adapt almost instantly – this makes them extremely comfortable with, and almost addicted to technology. It also means businesses will need to step up to these new realities.
- Social media is an integral part of life. For many young recruits, this is simply the way they engage with their peers – everything happens online. Leveraging this would be a smart thing for businesses to do.
- Life decisions are being delayed by younger recruits, often because they are not affordable at their life stage. When the key events do take place, like moving out of home, getting engaged, getting married or starting a family, they will rightly expect their employers to actively support them throughout these.
- Money is important for them but not in the traditional way. Younger employees often have much higher student debt to deal with. So any support from their employers with financial planning will be well received.
I wrote an article earlier this year detailing the 10 Principles Behind Great Employee Experiences. Two of these principles are particularly relevant for this young group:
- Great employee experiences strongly reflects the employee’s identity
This principle is about understanding the individual’s beliefs and expectations. If you take the time both during the recruitment stage and after they are employed to understand what really drives and motivates the individual, you are far more likely to create mutually beneficial intrinsic motivation.
You can do this simply by having a conversation. Get to know their interests, the things they really don’t like and let them share their ideas.
- Great employee experiences are socially engaging
Social networks have been one of the most important factors in the wellbeing of younger people for generations. With Generation Z and Millennials – this has become amplified. The need to engage with other employees in a social context, both at work and outside of the workplace is crucial if you are to get your younger recruits to feel like they are part of a strong community with a shared purpose.
To achieve this, involve younger employees in the process of organising socially engaging activities (Oh, and a warning here – don’t try to design this on their behalf!!). These activities are likely to be a mixture of face-to-face and digital, as well as in office and out of the office.
If you can develop this foundation of social engagement and shared purpose, the benefits will be enjoyed by the whole business. To harness this, ensure you have spaces for teams to meaningfully collaborate and engage. Having rooms with a bunch of white walls to write on and some chilled-out furniture is a good start – don’t be afraid to lose the traditional boardroom style table.
While we often hear about how hard it is to engage this younger generation, the truth is that you just need to make an effort to understand them. What they want is a value proposition that is transparent and authentic, so why not start the conversation?
12015 Aon Best Employers Australia and New Zealand
Having worked in experience design and strategy for the past decade, Matt brings a unique perspective on what he calls, Employee Experience. Matt has worked with organisations across the world connecting business strategy with deliberately designed customer and employee experience strategy. He uses his diverse background to push leaders beyond the obvious to make clear, commercially astute, strategic choices.