Hello PPMA members and friends
Last week our friends at Penna hosted a great Round Table debate about the challenges facing public sector in attracting ‘Generation C’s’ the 16 – 25 year olds. Following this, the Gen C team at Penna have produced a thought provoking article, that we thought you would all find interesting and helpful in gaining a greater incite into what we need to be doing to attract and engage with young employees.
“Many organisations believe 16-25 year olds aren’t ready for the workplace. But we think you’re just not ready for us…
Many people will be familiar with the zombie phenomenon thanks to films and TV Shows such as Shaun of the Dead, 28 Days/Months Later and The Walking Dead. Zombies are depicted as a mass of slovenly-looking, inattentive and inarticulate monsters, focused only on feeding off the knowledge and efforts of others. Working as an inter-connected faceless whole, the zombies in the films have gradually evolved to become faster, more socially connected and much more intelligent when it comes to getting what they want.
But let us introduce ourselves. As youngsters born after 1989, we’re the first generation to enter the workforce having grown up with technology and social media involved in our every move. We’re not usually painted in the most attractive light. Common stereotypes include us being slovenly-looking, inattentive and inarticulate monsters, focused only on feeding off the knowledge and efforts of the ‘greatest generation’. Sound familiar?
However, we believe that it’s actually our differences that’ll make us valuable assets in the workplace. While some might perceive us to be lazy, the technology we rely on has allowed us to become more connected and efficient in the workplace (Pew Research Centre, 2010). We’re known as Generation-C.
So why should – and how can – recruiters attract us and subsequently leverage our potential?
What makes us attractive as a workforce?
Gen-C are often seen as lacking loyalty and having poor work ethics due to our job-hopping tendencies. In fact, we’re more career focused than any previous generation (CIPD, London Business School), and we find it more important to gain the experience so we can build our careers, rather than stay in a ‘job for life’ as older generations did. As cited by Harris (2012), a study by the Corporate Executive Board shows that we’re more motivated to achieve well-defined goals. This is partly because we’ve grown up with video games, where goals are completed in order to move onto the next level, as well as the emergence of social media and blogging, where we strive to attain more followers and interactions (Harris 2012).
The diet (Consumption of advertising campaigns).
According to a report by the Office for National Statistics, Internet Access – Households and Individuals (2013), 36 million adults in Britain (73%) accessed the internet every day in 2013, up 20 million from 2010. And us 16-24 year olds lead the pack in many ways.
89% of Gen-C accessed the internet every day in 2013. We’re using it to stay connected and receive information from our peers, with 93% of us using social network sites. These networks allow us to metaphorically use each other for support to get our food content, much like the modern zombies from World War Z. And ultimately, we don’t just want it faster; we want it instantaneously.
When zombies first graced the silver screen, they reflected the living dead slaves in Haitian mythology. It’s similar to many consumers from decades ago, who aimlessly believed advertisers’ word as gospel. It’s what allowed them to sell Mrs Winslow’s Soothing Syrup to mothers, even though it contained morphine, codeine, heroin and opium (Hubspot) – which kind of makes today’s Coca-Cola look OK in comparison.
Now, like the cause of zombies in 28 Days Later and World War Z, consumers are no longer the living dead, they’re infected by viruses. Campaigns spread across social networks, where users – especially Gen-C’ers – pass on the messages to people in their network. However, just like Nicholas Hoult’s Zombie in Warm Bodies, we’re becoming more self-aware, intelligent and emotional when faced with viral advertising. Because of this, it’s important to us that brands communicate with authenticity.
So what is there to learn from this? Well, when you want to advertise to Gen-C, you can’t ignore Social Media. Because the most effective way of communicating with us is through the channel we love the most. Secondly, we’re not the passive zombies of the past, but active ambassadors – or protestors – of your organisation. And that depends on how authentic and honest you are in your campaigns. If you don’t live the values you preach, then you won’t provide the food we want. As The Walking Dead’s Rick and Glen learnt after they covered themselves in the blood of the infected to blend in: When the rain comes, the zombies will turn.
What attracts us to
go in for the kill apply to organisations?
Believe it or not, compensation isn’t our main motivator for applying to a job – only 15% of our fellow Gen-C’ers cite this as the most important factor (Pew Research Centre cited by Harris 2012). Instead, we place much higher value on being given the opportunity to progress in an organisation (PwC 2011), and consequently on the range of training and development opportunities that will enable us to do this.
When applying for jobs, some research shows we don’t tend to use our time very effectively or with structure. Everything is done quite randomly and without a process, which means that the job search seems very overwhelming. We tend to have a scattergun approach as we panic and tell ourselves that we can’t find anything, so we apply for as many jobs as possible. It’s similar to the soulless consumers portrayed in Dawn of the Dead, who walked aimlessly from one victim to the other with no real structure, just trying to feed off as many victims as they could find. We do this because we tend to view looking for work as a frustrating and demotivating experience, with unclear recruitment processes and employer expectations. This is why application processes need to be quick, clear and simple. (CIPD Research Report – April 2013).
We also feel that our lack of previous experience is a barrier to getting a job. We’re locked in a vicious circle where employers ask for experience to gain work experience (CIPD – Research Report – April 2013).
Some employers are starting to realise that harnessing Generation-C can create a competitive advantage. Having grown up through the rise of the internet means we’re more socially connected and technology-enabled than any previous generation, which opens up a multitude of business possibilities (Angie Peacock, CEO of the People Development Team). We have a desire to be in control of our own lives, we’re content with complexity and we want to work in more creative industries that are less restricted by rigid social structures. And like the collaborative zombies of I Am Legend, we’re always working together but keeping our (professional) options open.
Environmental (Workplace and Careers)
In order to maximise our full potential, we believe employers need to understand our values and how we operate in the workplace.
Employers have criticised us for lacking basic workplace skills. A recent survey conducted by the British Chamber of Commerce (BBC, 2014) of 3,000 firms found nine out of 10 thought school leavers weren’t ready for employment, and more than half said the same for graduates. Three-quarters of the companies surveyed put the situation down to a lack of work experience, and more than 50% said young people did not have even basic skills such as communication. However, are our skills not as well developed as generations before us, or have we just evolved to communicate in a faster, more effective way? As a generation who have grown up with information literally at our fingertips, it’s simply not as important to have this information in our heads. We know that if we have a question, Google will always have the answer. This is similar to the zombie vampires in I Am Legend, who knew their weaknesses (the sun), and utilised their strengths (in numbers) for when they needed to attack.
There have also been allegations that we are “hard work” and challenging to manage because we require constant feedback and training and development (CIPD, 2013). But is it wrong for young people to want to better themselves? Particularly in a time of high youth unemployment, it’s imperative we work hard to stay ahead of the game and add value to our employer organisations. Research conducted by Penna and CIPD (2009), on the differences between the four generations in the work place, found young people are very focussed on their career and really value opportunities to grow and develop. In particular, Gen-C are interested in being given specialist skills training and ample opportunities to grow ‘on the job’. In 2013, CIPD found that feedback is crucial for young people in terms of their engagement and long-term development, but it’s something employers struggle to provide.
It’s time to change.
It’s clear employers and young people are failing to understand each other, both throughout the recruitment process and in the workplace. Recent research by CIPD (2013), Acas (2014) and Wozedu (2014) has particularly focussed on the mismatch between employers and young people’s expectations. Considering that youth unemployment stands at more than three quarters of a million, and the potential benefits young people can bring, there is clearly a real need to eradicate any misconceptions between the two groups and for them to find a way to work together effectively.
It’s a problem. Particularly when a high percentage of millennial’s currently in the workplace feel they’ve made some sort of compromise to get a job in what’s been a tough economic climate (PwC 2011). It shows that rather than employers taking advantage of what we can bring to their organisation, they’re making us fit into their mould. But we’re not the ones who should be worried, because we can easily do it for ourselves, and many have. For the first time in history, the tools for us to do it are there, and usually free or very cheap. We can start are own YouTube channels. Create our own magazines. Sell our own products on Etsy. The list goes on.
It’s well documented that the attributes we have as a generation give us an entrepreneurial flair unlike any previous generation. And all those ideas, innovations and insights could benefit most organisations if people weren’t so worried about the way we talked during an interview. So, like, it’s time to literally get over it. Because, as in nearly every zombie story: very few will survive the endemic, unless they learn to adapt.”