Integrating Gen Z into the world of work - how to build a productive multi-generational workforce

Jeanette Sha

December 10, 2021

Sometimes called ‘pragmatic idealists’ or - as McKinsey would have it - the ’true gen’, Generation Z is characterised by a desire to do good, interact with companies who have passion and purpose and follow a career path which is meaningful and satisfying, rather than being driven by salary alone.

Today, author and global strategist Rachele Focardi joined Dimitar Stanimiroff, General Manager EMEA, Handshake, and Stephen Isherwood, Chief Executive of the ISE, for an exclusive webinar to talk about how employers can build relationships with Gen Z candidates and more importantly, how they can successfully integrate Gen Z graduates into the workforce.

Rachele Focardi kicked off the session by posing the idea that Gen Z is the first generation who chooses university degrees and college courses based on what they’re really interested in, rather than to drive career prospects and chase high salaries. They are also interested in holding organisations to account for ‘changing the world’ and making a positive contribution to society - and for giving them a role in driving that change. 

Unlike millennials though, research shows that Gen Z doesn’t believe in traditional CSR initiatives, worrying about ‘greenwashing’ or companies which talk a good game but aren’t truly committed to social causes. Perhaps this is why, says Rachele, 66 per cent of Gen Z-ers want to start their own company, believing that established organisations simply can’t give them what they want when it comes to powering positive societal change.

So companies need to show that they’re ready to change the world for good in order to attract Gen Z into the workforce. But how do they reach them in the first place - establishing those all important connections?

Both Dimitar and Rachele asserted the importance of interacting with students, not just as they graduate, but throughout their university career. Rachele tells us that students are prepared to skip college to take on work experience - but to avoid them having to make this choice, employers and universities need to work closely together to ensure students can access both education and experience in the workplace.

And when it comes to establishing contact, Dimitar reminded the audience that although face-to-face relationships will always be important, the pandemic has super-charged virtual connections - and indeed many Gen Z students now prefer to connect virtually, finding it easier (and often less intimidating) to do so. It’s important to meet students on their own terms, said all participants - and to harness platforms like mobile apps in order to connect with students where they are most comfortable.

This is particularly true for some currently underrepresented groups in the workforce. Dimitar pointed towards Handshake’s Virtual Recruiting Study which finds that women, people of colour and neurodiverse students find virtual career events and interviews to be less anxiety-inducing, easier to balance, and more accessible when compared to meeting with prospective employers in person.

Of course, inspiring Gen Z doesn’t stop once contracts have been signed - and when they’re established in a company, employers must work hard to harness the talent of this game-changing generation. Again according to Rachele, Gen Z employees might join but not stay at an organisation if they’re employed to do good and change things, but then face entrenched thinking from older colleagues. It’s imperative, says Rachele, that employers find a way to seamlessly integrate old and new employees to generate diverse and rounded workforces.

When it came to comments from the 100+ webinar attendees, from universities and employers all over the UK, it was felt that although it’s important not to stereotype generations, the melding of established and new thinking will now play a major role in either stagnating progress or catalysing change in the business landscape. It's a positive road ahead, said attendees, where universities, students and employers can work together to power change.

There’s plenty more to come on this topic too. At Handshake, we’re working  with our partners WonkHE, ISE, and AGCAS on a new report called Careers2032, which looks at what the graduate recruitment market will look like in ten years’ time. Click here to find out how you can get a first look at this industry report as soon as it’s available. 

To watch the recording of the Integrating Gen Z into the world of work - how to build a productive multi-generational workforce click here.