Fi Generation Z

In the war for talent, are Gen Z being overlooked?   

The war for talent has never been more intense. In many sectors, there are simply not enough workers to meet demand. Yet still there remains one group of individuals who continue to be underrepresented in the workforce – Generation Z. This is often because many companies fixate on recruiting staff with an established set of qualifications and skills, and this can alienate a large proportion of the younger generation who have opted not to follow the traditional higher-education path.  

Interestingly, some companies are beginning to broaden their approach; PwC have recently removed their requirement for new employees to have a minimum of a 2:1 in their degree. However, does only considering the “graduate” population go far enough when there is still so much potential talent being overlooked?  

Tapping into Gen Z is a different prospect to recruiting the post graduate population. While companies are starting to broaden their recruitment criteria to take on traditional students (those that went into university/college), there are many non-traditional students (those who left college/high school but did not continue studying) who are not being considered. In the UK, 12.6% of ‘Gen Zers’ are unemployed according to Research Briefings , and this is without considering those potential non-traditional students who are working in the retail and hospitality sectors as an interim job. 

Additionally, Pew Research discovered that 57% of 18–21-year-olds who graduated high school continued into college/university in the US. This leaves 43% of Gen Zers as potential non-traditional students – which in terms of US population equates to approximately 17 million people; so, while many companies will continue to compete over the traditional 57%, the smart money will be looking at ways of targeting the untapped 43%.  

There are various socio-economic factors that influence this, but a consistent underlying theme is how the education system(s) encourage students to choose subjects they like. This helps improve the chances that they will excel and ultimately pass the final examinations with good grades. While this is of course good for the school/colleges ultimate ranking in the education tables, the unfortunate and (probably unintended consequence) of this key-performance-indicator-focused approach is that students often leave with a disjointed mix of qualifications that do not support any given career path. Subsequently, when employers remain focused on traditional qualification sets, they are missing out on this wealth of new talent. If companies want to tap into this pool, they should start relying less on specific qualifications and focus more on aptitude and attitude.  

Yet, a change in thinking is now becoming evident. As companies strive to find innovative ways to engage with this non-traditional student population many are offering educational assistance or, in the UK, degree apprenticeships. This fosters a genuine win-win for both the organisation and the employee, as by allowing them to study and work in parallel the organisation immediately bridges its resource gap, the employee gains the qualifications suited to their career path and both prosper from the requisite hands-on experience gained from working. 

These sponsored leaners/employees also build a strong affinity with the organisation as they are given the opportunity to grow alongside the business, which ultimately fosters a sense of loyalty. This allows for a foundation to be created for leaders to build real relationships with their staff from the start, which in turn improves retention rates in the long-term. 

This phenomenon is readily seen and proven with apprenticeships, as the National Apprenticeship Service’s recent guide found that 69% of employers said that employing apprentices improved staff retention.  

Attitude is not something you can train, so by offering recruitment opportunities to those who are eager to learn new skills, you will also be adding fresh, diverse and digitally savvy perspectives to your workplace culture.  

With September being the seasonal hotspot for taking on recent graduates, companies urgently need to re-evaluate their hiring criteria. Assessing whether a candidate has the right attitude to learn and develop to fulfil your businesses skill gaps will allow you to broaden your hiring prospects. By adopting an experiential learning approach, you will be able to take full advantage of this recruitment window and gain access to a largely untapped pool of talent. 

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