What Your Young Workforce Really Needs

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By Joanne Mamo

By 2030, it is predicted that Millennials (born between 1981-1996) will make up 75% of the workforce, with Gen Zs (born between 1997-2012) following closely behind.

Having grown up alongside highly advanced technology, today’s young workforce has different perspectives and approaches to work in comparison to those of previous generations. This includes the tendency to be more open to considering new job opportunities which is likely attributable to an eagerness to seek greater career prospects, value alignment, and job flexibility. With their substantial influence on key factors such as motivation, engagement, and turnover, such generational differences indicate the necessity of the development of new attraction and retention strategies.

In this article, we present several actionable steps leaders can take to attract, retain, and support today’s young workforce.

What can organisations do to be considered as an attractive employer by the young workforce?

1. Leverage technology and technological skills

The young workforce consists predominantly of digital natives (those who have grown up surrounded by digital technologies). As a result, they may be motivated by the drive to enhance productivity through the application of new systems and technologies. Organisations may therefore focus on demonstrating a commitment to keeping up with modern technology, as well as an openness to creativity and innovation in order to attract the young workforce and encourage them to be engaged and stimulated by their work.

2. Actively care about wellbeing

Millennials and Gen Zs care significantly about mental health and wellbeing and are interested in a workplace culture where mental health topics can be discussed openly, and where supportive policies are in place. Organisations may therefore attract and retain younger generations by actively promoting a workplace culture which addresses mental health and wellbeing in an open, proactive, and supportive manner. This may include ensuring that staff is trained in recognising and assisting with psychological difficulties, as well as encouraging psychological self-awareness and self-care practices.

3. Promote an inclusive workplace

Having grown up in a world which is much more open and diverse than that of previous generations, young workers expect a serious Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DE&I) strategy. This means that organisations must demonstrate persistent individualized respect, recognition, and development opportunities. Organisations who fail to demonstrate commitment to DE&I may risk disappointing those who consider it as a non-negotiable element of the company culture.

What creates loyalty and involvement in a young workforce?

1. Being part of a workforce which champions transparency

Transparency is vital as it strengthens collaboration and communication. By increasing the visibility of organisational processes and projects through open communication and information sharing, organisations increase opportunities for meaningful contributions, involvement, and teamwork. In turn, collaboration and communication support the development of trust among staff members, leading younger and newer members to feel more valued, engaged and satisfied.

2. Being involved in decision-making

Due to their desire to have a significant influence on organisational outcomes, giving some degree of decision-making power motivates and challenges members of the young workforce. Organisations may work towards replacing a culture of fear and control with one of empowerment, where members of the young workforce are coached and encouraged to make good, strong decisions and to feel empowered to be part of the organisation’s future.

3. Being recognised and rewarded

Recognition of strong job performance through the provision of rewards or opportunities for development have been identified as being significant motivating factors for the younger generations. Organisations may inspire commitment and loyalty by developing embedded recognition programmes which involve continuous feedback, and which consider differences in preferences by offering reward or recognition customization.

How can organisations support the young workforce?

The COVID-19 pandemic began just as many Millennials and Gen Zs were beginning their careers and entering the job market. This led to high uncertainty regarding career prospects, progression, and stability. Organisations can offer support by encouraging and supporting the pursuit of skill development to increase workers’ internal locus of control (the extent to which they believe they can influence outcomes and events in their lives), sense of value and confidence in their abilities. Skills of particular relevance include technical skills (i.e., those which supplement or improve productivity or performance), stress coping skills (i.e., those which increase their ability to manage stressful situations), and emotional intelligence skills (i.e., those that enable them to better manage interpersonal interactions and relationships).

As discussed above, it is evident that attraction and retention strategies for the young workforce must differ from those developed for previous generations. Beyond the recommendations suggested above, leaders may further recognise the uniqueness of prospective and existing employees by seeking to gain valuable insight into their differing interests, motivators, personalities, abilities and needs through the use of professional psychometric testing, coaching and professional development programmes

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