Entry-level positions: how to ensure longevity

Entry-level positions: how to ensure longevity

Retention strategies for early-career employees

Expectations that entry-level employees are only looking to join a company for the short-term can ultimately cause a self-fulfilling prophecy. If employers see no need to invest in people because they expect them to leave, those employees will inevitably leave. Often, this expectation is false, making the outcome avoidable. When workers are happy in their workplace, with plenty of scope for career development, they are more likely to stay with a company longer.

Adversely, some employers may not incentivise early-career employees because they underestimate their options when moving on in their career. However, employers need to consider the current candidate driven market. As it stands, candidates are choosing employers and not the other way around. So, employers don’t just need to attract the best talent to their workforce. They need to have a plan in place as to how to best work with and retain each employee.

Evidence shows that “the most difficult employees to retain are those in entry-level positions.” However, recruitment is costly. According to research, the US retail industry lost “approximately 9 billion dollars to entry-level turnover.”

As such, employers should be implementing retention strategies targeted towards their entry-level employees. After all, a happier, more committed workforce provide a better service to clients, are “more productive and stay longer.”

Making the most of your early-career employees is clearly a win-win situation. So, we’ve put together some ideas of strategies you can implement to incentivise and, ultimately, retain your entry-level employees.

Set out a development plan

Implementing a development plan sets clear goals for employee growth. This gives the employee a set time frame to work within and gives their manager a method for supporting them in this development. It might be that the employee needs to upskill in certain areas to meet these goals. In this case, the company may be able to provide training.

Supporting employees in this way gives them the capacity to step up to greater responsibility when the time comes. It will also mean that you haven’t left it too late to train and upskill them to the correct standard. In turn, investing in your employees gives them a sense of being valued. It also increases productivity as “people are generally motivated by self-development“.

Implement a mentorship scheme

Mentorship provides a safe space for employees to go to for advice, development and encouragement. Knowing who they can go to when they have questions means they don’t have to risk feeling awkward and remaining silent instead of speaking up. Research shows that “employees who experience mentoring are retained.”

These 1-2-1’s, in turn, create a culture of honesty and openness. As a result, individual employees feel able to thrive and have their voices heard. Mentorship also provides a positive framework for giving constructive feedback, enabling workers to improve in their job roles.

Create a positive work environment

A negative work environment permeates the entire workplace. Cultivating a company culture defined by openness can help to create a positive environment. However, there are other benefits you can implement to make sure that your work environment is somewhere employees want to return to every day.

Many companies are now implementing flexible working schemes. For example, flexible start and finish times, time off in lieu and the capacity to work from home. These benefits encourage job autonomy, trust and better work-life balance. When employees aren’t micromanaged, and their personal life is respected, they feel they have the freedom to take ownership of and do well at their job.

Provide opportunities for career growth

If the entry-level jobs in your company are stagnant, employees will be forced to move on so that they can grow and expand in their career. Providing them with opportunities to take on more responsibilities gives them the space to grow within your company.

Creating a plan for the growth of a role can occur before a vacancy even goes live. This approach allows the hiring manager to encourage candidates during the interview stage that this is a long-term position. When candidates know from the start that you plan to develop them you are likely to have a much better pick of candidates. As well as this, the successful candidate will know on starting the position that the company has a long-term strategy in place.

Compensate employees effectively

Compensating employees who are doing particularly well will let them know that they are valued. If you do not compensate them, they will gain their experience in your company. Then, they will take what they’ve learned somewhere else.

Small companies may not have the budgets of larger ones, but there are still benefits that can be implemented. For example, competitive rates for overtime ensures that employees feel their contribution is valued, especially when they work late.

Not all benefits have to be financial and providing your employees with a generous healthcare package can give them a sense of security. Or, a sponsored holiday can help build camaraderie and teamwork.

To encourage longevity from your early-career employees, you must provide them with a workplace which enables them to envision the rest of their career. If they are assured that their next steps will be taken care of within your company, they will have no need to look elsewhere.

As the saying goes, you only get out what you put in. Employees you invest in will invest back into your company. So, avoid the presumption that entry-level workers are looking to gain experience and move on. Value their contribution and make them want to stay.

Busting the myth that Millennials are work-shy

All four generations have been subjected to some pretty negative stereotyping over the years with Millennials – the generation born between 1982 and 1994 – coming in for some particularly harsh criticism it’s fair to say (and no I’m not a Millennial!). Millennials, also known as Generation Y, have often been dismissed as workshy, irresponsible and unable to stand on their own two feet with an over inflated sense of entitlement. But more and more evidence is coming to light which disproves this idea that millennials are workshy and in fact have a work ethic at least as strong as their older counterparts.

Echoing Talent Works’ own Gen Up research, a new report shows that across the globe seventy-three percent of young adults aged between 18 and 34 work more than 40 hours a week, and nearly a quarter work over 50 hours a week. Twenty-six percent globally are working two or more paid jobs.

A young adult in India works an average of 52 hours every week, making them the hardest working millennials.  Millennials in China, Mexico and Singapore are not far behind, working an average shift of 48 hours. Next are millennials in Japan and the United States, they notch up an average of 45 hours per week. Australia and the United Kingdom are closer to a standard working week with their shifts coming to 41 hours on average.

In short, and as the chart below shows, millennials across no less than fifteen countries work over and above normal business hours 40-hour week.

But they want to be rewarded for their effort. Millennials prioritize three things when choosing where and how they work: money, security and time off.

Conor Cawley of Tech.Co comments “… one fourth of millennials around the world are working more than 50 hours per week…I’m sure you are more than capable when it comes to mathematics, but that’s 10 extra hours per week! In what world could these industry workhorses be considered lazy?”

“Apparently, three fourths of all millennials are already working more than 40 hours per week, a standard set by the ‘hard-working’ generations of the past,” adds Cawley.

All of this of course reflects Talent Work’s own Gen Up research. If you’ve read any of our earlier blogs or heard us speak at The Firm conference last month in Manchester, you’ll know that Gen Up has found that of all the generations it’s the younger generations that are the most relaxed about working outside normal hours. Only 14 per cent of Gen Z (born 1995 to 2009) and 35 per cent of Gen Y strongly disagree that they should be on call evenings and weekends compared to 39 per cent of Generation X and 37 per cent of Baby Boomers. Looked at another way, Gen Z is at least twice as likely as the older generations (Gen X and Baby Boomers) to strongly agree that employees should be contactable evenings and weekends. Gen Y is as likely to strongly agree as Baby Boomers. When we asked the different generations to describe their ideal culture and atmosphere at work, hardworking featured in the top three attributes for all generations, including the younger ones.

But the younger generations demand frequent reward and recognition (not necessarily monetary rewards) in return for their hard work. We found that members of Gen Z are five times as likely as Baby Boomers to think rewards should be given out weekly, while more than half of Gen Z and Gen Y think rewards should be given out monthly, compared to less than half of Gen X and Baby Boomers.

Graduates who work in banking and investment give new meaning to the hard-working but reward-hungry Millennial. Hazel Shearing of The Sunday Times wrote recently about how many of her friends who graduated from Cambridge in 2015 work in banking and work extremely long hours. One such friend who graduated in June has just joined a team where the average working day is 8.30am to midnight! He rarely gets away before 10pm on a weekday.

“I just use my house for sleeping. I get back at 1am … I just go to sleep for six hours then I’m up again. I shower and head out the door at 7.30am”

Several of her friends have joked about “the magic roundabout” – corporate slang for the routine when a taxi takes you from work to home in the early hours of the morning, waits for you to shower, then takes you back to the office for another shift.

Interestingly, some of her friends see long hours as a natural extension of university life. “At Cambridge you’re never off the clock, you’re constantly working. Now I may stay late but when I leave the office I can turn my phone off and not think about it”, said Lauren who works in an investment bank.

They are on huge salaries though – many are on starting salaries of at least £40k (versus a median average full time UK salary of £27,600). For someone not five minutes out of university that is pretty amazing. Whether the high pay is worth the long days is another question though. But there’s enough young graduates out there who clearly think it is. According to The Cambridge Careers Service almost one in ten students work in banking and investment, the third most popular choice for alumni after health services (13.6%) and IT (10.2%).

By 2020 Millennials will make up over a third of the global workforce. Thanks to Gen Up and other research, we now understand that contrary to the lazy label, this increasingly significant section of the talent market is as hard working as their older counterparts but more demanding of frequent recognition. Given this, there are a number of things employers can do to successfully attract younger candidates:

  • Incorporate in their employee proposition how they define “going the extra mile”. Everyone has their own definition but how does their company define it
  • Provide evidence on their careers website and social media of when employees have been rewarded for going above and beyond
  • Emphasise the frequent recognition, not just monetary recognition

It will be interesting to see how employers respond.

Information Sources

“Millennial Careers: 2020 Vision”. Facts, Figures and practical advice from workforce experts. ManpowerGroup

“Got the graduate dream job …in the office till 3am”, Hazel Shearing, The Sunday Times, 30th October 2016

The Regional Complexity of Youth

Understanding the different generations in the workplace today is fast becoming a top priority for UK employers, especially now there are as many as four different generations working alongside each other. Studies like our own Project Gen Up are making great strides towards understanding the multi-generational workplace, but recent research from accountants EY reminds us not to forget that each generation can be complex in itself.

EY found that young people have hugely contrasting economic fortunes and experiences of the labour market, depending where they live, with youth unemployment rates contrasting greatly from region to region. Youth unemployment ranges from 18.3 per cent in North-East England to 11.2 per cent in the East of England. While more than quarter of 16 to 24 year olds in Bradford, Middlesbrough, Swansea and Wolverhampton are unemployed, just 8.2 per cent of young people in Coventry (only an hour’s drive from Wolverhampton) are unemployed.

“Youth unemployment rates have fallen from the peaks we saw during the recession,” says EY’s chief economist Mark Gregory. “However, a stubbornly high number of young people remain excluded from the labour market.”

Youth unemployment is subject to far more regional variation than the overall rate of employment, which makes it a generational issue. For instance, young people in the East Midlands find it significantly harder to find work than their older peers. In Leicester, young people find it particularly tough with the youth unemployment rate there being more than double the average for all workers at 23.6 per cent.

This report from EY reminds us that each generation is complex and multifaceted. Widely contrasting economic fortunes and experiences almost certainly means that within the younger generation there are varying skills and skills gaps, levels of experience, levels of morale and engagement depending where they live.

If anything the differences in fortunes within the younger generations are predicted to grow as we enter a period of economic uncertainty following Brexit.  Mark Gregory argues that a period of weaker economic growth may well exacerbate the situation: “History has shown us that young people are more exposed to economic volatility and industry restructuring than the population as a whole.”

While recognising the common thread of priorities and expectations that define each generation is important, we must not lose sight of the differences that exist within each and fall into the trap of generalising too much and losing the nuance that is required.

The generations are complex and that complexity requires a sophisticated and differentiated approach to attraction and engagement. The younger generation, with its widely contrasting experiences of the labour market, has a particularly strong and compelling need for a tailored employment package.

High levels of youth unemployment in certain parts of the country have caused significant levels of debt and feelings of anxiety and social isolation amongst some sections of the under 25s. Research by National Debtline called Borrowed Years, reveals that 37 per cent of 18 to 24 year olds are in debt, owing on average just under £3,000, excluding student loans or mortgages. Added to this, The Prince’s Trust has found that 40 per cent of jobless young people are experiencing mental health problems including suicidal thoughts, feelings of self-loathing and panic attacks as a direct result of unemployment. Unfortunately, acute prolonged anxiety of this nature does not disappear the minute a job is found – for many young people the anxiety and lack of confidence lingers long after they join the workforce.

“Unemployment is proven to cause devastating, long-lasting mental health problems among young people. Thousands wake up every day believing that life isn’t worth living, after struggling for years in the dole queue”, says Martina Milburn, chief executive of youth charity The Prince’s Trust.

It’s imperative employers respond to the regional complexity of the younger generation and all its associated challenges. There are several things employers could do. Employers could:

  • Include as part of the remuneration package, short term interest free loans to help young people pay off their debts
  • Reach out to young candidates with taster days
    • These could really appeal to young candidates who lack confidence and feel they have hurdles to overcome
    • An opportunity for young candidates to engage with candidates from a similar background
  • Encourage young candidates to share, link, chat with similar candidates – this will speak to those who have been suffering from feelings of social isolation
  • When recruiting focus on attributes rather than technical skills to avoid missing out on high potential but currently inexperienced young candidates
  • Showcase the employee wellbeing programme in recruitment communication – could really appeal to young candidates suffering with anxiety
  • Open up apprenticeships to include not just recent graduates and school leavers

The most important thing for employers is to continue to understand the different generations but not over simplify them. For the younger generation recognising their regional complexity is key. Failure to adequately segment and differentiate the employment package to reflect the complexity and nuances of each generation is a recipe for mediocrity.

Are Baby Boomers being forced to cut short their working lives?

Much has been written about the ageing workforce and how more and more people plan to work past official retirement age. But what is less known is that a small but growing number of Baby Boomers are being forced to cut short their working lives to care for elderly relatives. Independent research suggests this is having a lasting impact on Baby Boomers’ confidence levels and skills – findings that are echoed by Talent Works own research. With the number of carers in Britain predicted to reach 9 million by 2037 more must be done to raise awareness and understanding of the cost of caring on older workers.

By 2020 half the UK working population will be over 50. One in five UK workers definitely plan to continue working past official retirement age and only 12 per cent of UK workers do not intend to work past the age of 65. But behind these statistics there exists a growing number of workers in their 50s and 60s, who are being forced to give up work just when their experience and knowledge is at its peak.

An inquiry by the charity Carers UK which ran from 2013 to 2014, found that growing numbers of workers in their 50s and 60s are being forced to take early retirement, to give up work or reduce their hours to care for a relative.

  • 1 in 5 people aged 50 to 64 had caring responsibilities.
  • 3 million people had given up work to care for a relative.
  • 3 million had reduced their working hours to care.
  • Just over a fifth of carers aged 55 to 64 had taken early retirement.

Unfortunately, many of those who are forced to cut short their working lives are forced to do so because of a lack of understanding and flexibility on the part of their employer, research for the inquiry showed. Many Baby Boomers who took part in the Carers inquiry described “sticking their heads above the parapet” to tell colleagues and managers they had caring responsibilities and might need flexibility. A fifth of carers said they had given up work because of workplace issues round getting flexible hours or a lack of understanding from their employer. For some, the lack of understanding and flexibility on the part of their employer had seriously affected their mental wellbeing.

 “Trying to cope with everything, mostly on my own, no unbroken night’s sleep, employers not understanding my position at all. I eventually suffered a breakdown.”

Returning to work after taking time out to be a full-time carer is equally difficult and fraught. Many struggle to get back into work and to earn as much as they did before they took time out to be a full time carer. Research for the inquiry also showed that former carers lack confidence and skills when they are ready to return to work.

“Companies just don’t hire at that age; I will never get those earnings back”

The lack of confidence and skills former carers reported when they were ready to return to work is echoed in Talent Work’s own Gen Up research. An extensive and ongoing programme of research into the multigenerational workplace, Gen Up found that only 32 per cent of Baby Boomers feel well-equipped for the world of work. But they are keen to plug the skills gap, even willing to accept that there are things they can learn from younger colleagues: when Talent Works asked Baby Boomers if they were comfortable having a younger boss, 68 per cent said they were very comfortable. Only three per cent said they were not at all comfortable. Like their younger counterparts the Baby Boomers we surveyed had a preference for an open plan office that is conducive to learning from others.

Baby Boomers are often portrayed as the lucky generation who were fortunate enough to experience that perfect mix of free higher education, free healthcare, affordable mortgages and final salary pension schemes. But the “lucky generation” hides a small but growing number of Baby Boomers who are being forced to cut short their working lives to care for elderly relatives. Many Baby Boomers lack confidence and don’t feel well equipped for the world of work. Former carers especially lack confidence and skills when returning to work, enough for it to be a barrier to re-entering the workplace.

We need to raise awareness and understanding of the very real challenges many Baby Boomers face and adapt to those challenges. High on the list of things employers must do is provide the training and development programmes that will address Baby Boomers’ lack of confidence and plug their skills gaps. Employers will not get the most out of this fundamental section of the workforce if they don’t adapt the way they treat older workers.

Millennials in the workplace

Before I write anything else I’m sure many of you have made assumptions about me in your head (don’t worry we all do it) – I’m lazy, want to make my way to the top quickly without putting in the effort, am constantly in need of feedback before I can do anything else, and all I want is to work from home. I can promise you none of these are true – although I do really like feedback (positive or negative – there’s an invitation to the comments session at the bottom if ever I heard one).

These stereotypes are damaging, not only to me and other people in my generation, but to the workplace as a whole. This is why at Talent Works International we launched GenUp – we wanted to know what makes the different generations tick, what motivates them – and our results are already starting to show us that these stereotypes need to be broken. Because as with most stereotypes there’s a lot about them that’s factually inaccurate.

As we fully launch into our research we are already uncovering some realities that might be different to what we initially thought. I’m not just talking about Millennials here, as self-centred as we might be – I mean about all generations from Baby Boomers to Gen Z. So what stereotypes are we already proving to be inaccurate:

Older generations don’t resent having a boss that’s younger than them

While you might think that people would be a little wary of being managed by someone younger than them – this is far from the case – 95% of the people we surveyed said they’d be either ‘somewhat’ or ‘very comfortable’ having a younger manager. This increases with age of respondent as 97% of Baby Boomers (68% of whom selected ‘very comfortable’) would be happy with a younger manager, and are probably the most likely to have this occur to them.

Older generations aren’t out of sync with technology

This probably isn’t true for every individual (I’ve seen my dad try to work the DVD recorder) but most people of all ages (85% in fact) are at least somewhat comfortable using technology to communicate at work- that includes Skype, video conferencing, and webinars, which I have personally seen stump a few people in their twenties. The percentage of people who are comfortable using technology does drop from 88% of under 21s to 79% of 51-70 year olds but this isn’t as considerable a difference as we might have anticipated. There is no way to avoid technology now – despite technophobic director Paul Greengrass recently saying social media isn’t his thing “I don’t know how to do it. I don’t have any interest in it.” And blaming this on his generation “I’m not of the generation that does it. I was one of the last people I knew to get a phone.” – he still has a phone, probably a smart one at that.

Millennials aren’t lazy

Even if Martha Stewart says so! And it’s not just the American household name who thinks this – there was an infographic making the rounds on LinkedIn recently which listed the cons of millennials as “lazy, unproductive, and self-obsessed” – a damning image of a whole generation indeed. Although younger generations are less enamoured with the idea of working overtime unpaid (no-one is particularly happy about this – overall 68% of respondents disagreed/ strongly disagreed that they should be prepared to work unpaid overtime), younger generations aren’t as disapproving of always being contactable via phone or email at evenings and weekends.

What do you think, is there truth to these stereotypes or do you think by allowing them to be entrenched in our mindsets that we are damaging our experiences within the workplace?

Older generations in the workplace

The UK workforce is getting older, a lot older. It’s estimated that by 2020 half the working population will be over 50. Yet Talent Works has uncovered evidence which suggests employers aren’t doing enough to nurture and develop this increasingly fundamental section of the workforce.

Some of the figures showing the trend towards an older workforce are pretty staggering. Independent research shows that as many as one in five (22 per cent) UK workers say that they will definitely continue to work past official retirement age, and only 12 per cent of UK workers say they would not work past the age of 65. Not surprisingly perhaps, money worries dominate people’s reasons for choosing to stay on past retirement age. Nearly two out of three British workers expects to be working beyond 65 because they will not have enough money to retire. Another 13 per cent believes they will keep working to provide financial support for their children and four per cent say they will be helping grandchildren.

“The recent recession has no doubt taken a toll as employees accept that their current savings and pensions are unlikely to cover the cost of retirement, but improvements in health also mean that people are able to work longer,” said Paul Avis, marketing director of Canada Life Group. 

 “The younger generation have been particularly hard hit by the recession, and wise to the fact that they will enjoy a less generous pension scheme and have a longer life expectancy than their parents or grandparents,” Paul Avis.

Not all older workers stay on through necessity. Just over one in four (26 per cent) of those who think they will work beyond 65 say they will do so because they enjoy working and are afraid of getting bored if they stop – that’s a significant proportion of older workers choosing to stay on because they genuinely want to carry on contributing.

But Talent Works’ Gen Up research, an extensive and ongoing programme of research into the multigenerational workplace, suggests employers are falling short when it comes to providing the training and development that will allow older workers to maximise their contribution to the workplace. This is despite older workers very much wanting to work hard and add value. Our research found that only 32 per cent of Baby Boomers feel well-equipped for the world of work.

Research by healthcare insurance provider AXA PPP found a similar story. Surveying 2000 employees and 250 employers, AXA found that only 25 per cent of over-50s had been on a training course in the last six months. 27 per said they hadn’t had the chance to learn new things or develop workplace skills at all in the last year. Only 15 per cent had discussed career progression with their line manager in the last six months.

James Freeston, sales and marketing director at AXA PPP Healthcare, says:

“It’s crucial for employers to have positive, constructive career discussions with all employees. Our research suggests that this is dropping-off for the over fifty age group and, as such, employers risk leaving this important segment of their workforce feeling under-appreciated and marginalised.”

A “reverse mentoring” programme is worthy of serious consideration. This is when younger workers share their knowledge and insight with older workers. When Talent Works asked Baby Boomers if they were comfortable having a younger boss, 68 per cent said they were very comfortable. Only three per cent said they were not at all comfortable. Older workers are clearly willing to accept there are things they can learn from younger colleagues. As such, reverse mentoring could be a highly effective way of plugging the skills gaps amongst older workers.

Also central to motivating and engaging older workers is effective communication. But Talent Works has found that older workers think employers are not communicating well enough. In fact, they think communication is managers’ main shortcoming. 46 per cent of Baby Boomers we surveyed said they wanted weekly updates but only 29 per cent said they received weekly updates. Only three per cent of Baby Boomers would appeal to their manager to resolve a conflict situation. Can we be sure this isn’t a communication issue?

Providing the right training and level of communication for older workers will do more than keep older workers motivated and engaged. Our research shows that older workers are very willing to work hard and add value. Baby Boomers are willing to go the extra mile and have a clear notion of what that entails. For a Baby Boomer, going the extra mile primarily means doing the best you can, working outside normal hours and giving more attention than usual to customer needs. A hard-working environment is among their most desired types of work environment. When asked to describe their ideal culture and atmosphere at work, six out of ten (62 per cent) Baby Boomers put hard working in their top three, and just short of one in three (32 per cent) ranked hard working their number one culture and atmosphere.

By catering to older workers’ training and development needs employers can capitalise on this work ethic and ensure older workers’ remain productive.

 “By maintaining a positive relationship with older workers, not only are employers more likely to keep them fully engaged in their roles, they can make the most of their experience and knowledge – ensuring they remain valued, motivated and productive throughout their working lives”, James Freeston, AXA PPP Healthcare.

Older workers – hardworking, keen to add value and willing to learn from younger colleagues – are becoming an increasingly significant proportion of the UK workforce but many report feeling ill-equipped for the world of work.  To attract, retain and make the most of the older workers who are set to become so fundamental to the UK workforce, employers must invest in more training and development specific to older workers, and embrace reverse mentoring – and do so quickly. Just four years from now half the working population will be over 50.

Information sources:

“UK employees expect to work past 65”, http://www.hrmagazine.co.uk. Jenny Roper, APRIL 23, 2015

Over 50s are being neglected in the workplace”,  Amie Filcher  Tuesday, April 28, 2015 www.hrreview.co.uk

“Developing talent in the over 50s – are we doing enough?”, www.trainingjournal.com, Lyndon Wingrove, 11 March 2015

“Pensions: two-thirds of UK workers expect to work past 65 because they can’t afford to retire.” Zlata Rodionova , 2 December 2015

GenUp – Diversity and Inclusion

I’ve been researching diversity issues for the past 7 years. My Masters concentrated on cultural studies and transnational issues, looking at Paul Spickard’s Almost All Aliens, Bhikhu Parekh’s Rethinking Multiculturalism or Andrew Gable’s Britishness: Perspectives on the British Question. In 2016 this is surprisingly topical again as issues around Britishness and what it means to be English, Welsh, Pakistani-British or even European have been on everyone’s mind these past few weeks. In my PhD studies I concentrated on representations of identity constructions in Postcolonial cinema – as interesting as this may seem, the practical implications of this research are rather limited, even if you include face-to-face interviews and fieldwork.

A little over a year ago I then braved the “real world” and found an employer that allowed me to apply the research skills I developed working in academia to corporate research. They took me on board – European passport, academic experience and “Graduate+” mentality and offered me the chance to gain qualitative market research experience. Employer branding. Little did I know when I started here that this field, as narrow as it may seem to some, has a direct link to diversity and inclusion sitting between this discipline and branding and marketing. What had started out with reading Benedict Anderson’s Imagined Communities now continued with Richard Mosley’s Employer Brand Management, proving that it is vitally important to recognise how diversity and inclusion impact recruitment and retention strategies, and in turn, how this affects the bottom line.

Diversity in the workplace

Research shows that a diverse workforce is more productive. Our own particular research, working with Ericsson on Women in Tech, with BNP Paribas on their Diversity and Inclusion Week and with The Army on recruitment of people with diverse backgrounds – to name but a few – reiterates this. However, the research also shows that people believe diversity and inclusion are matters that go beyond gender, sexuality, skin colour or whether or not someone’s parents were born in a different country. A case in point here is the latest generation of female rights activists – such as Emma Watson and Lena Dunham who prove that they care passionately about equal rights and equal opportunities, despite the perception that Gen Y cares less about these issues.

Recognising diversity as the one factor that unites the entire workforce means looking at any point of difference and identifying how this could be used to make the workforce stronger. Looking at age and generational differences and similarities brings a new perspective to the table: diversity is not just a question about background or gender, but also about the time spent at work and the times in which we grew up have shaped our identity and made us into the employees we are today.

Talent Works International’s first in-house commissioned research project, “Gen Up” focuses on generational differences (and a lot of – often unexpected – similarities). How do Gen X, Gen Y and the Baby Boomers differ from Gen Z in the workplace? And how should employers react to this to enhance employee satisfaction and through that increase productivity?

A diversified employment proposition appears to be the key for this in a time when jobs for life are less and less common – only few people expect to stay in their role until retirement age in today’s job market. This makes it more and more important to not just promise candidates great development and team-working opportunities – good candidates will leave in the pursuit of this – but to acknowledge the different expectations of the employer. What, then makes you a great employer for all ages?

Diverse doesn’t mean different

Our research has shown that Gen Z want more feedback from their line managers than the older generations and they are more concerned about team development. This is understandable, judging that they still need to find their feet in the workplace and a great way to do this is by becoming part of a team. What is surprising, however, is that they are much more inclined to work out of hours or to accept having to do this on a regular basis. They are therefore not the lazy kids many sources make them out to be – they probably recognise the sacrifices they have to make to be successful in their careers. And they have not yet experienced an unsatisfactory “work-life balance.” Equally as surprising is that Baby Boomers are unsatisfied about the communication they receive from their line managers. Just because they are older, doesn’t mean they don’t still want to develop.

The message to employers here is clear: offer training and development opportunities to all your members of staff! Be inclusive and look past their seniority (age and job role) and embrace diversity. We can all learn from people with different life experiences: the Senior Manager who is reminded of how her career started, the graduate who benefits from having career-heroes that help him move up the ladder or the mid-career manager whose team has flexible hours and excels through their diverse backgrounds that are complimenting each other, a fact that benefits him or her as much as the team and the business.

Communication is the key to unlocking any generation’s success – and all generations prefer face-to-face communication by a large margin. Additionally, they agree that open-plan offices, regular updates from line-managers and an open and friendly office culture. That said, Baby Boomers don’t value good communication as much as the rest – probably because they have learned to live with what they’ve got and see self-motivated and flexible colleagues as more important when looking at the ideal employee. Baby Boomers are also more in favour of individual offices than other generations, which might be a historic afterthought or an indicator of more senior roles that require a certain level of privacy.

Flexibility is key

Gen Up Flexi work 1

Another fact we’ve learned over the years, and which has come through very strongly in Gen Up research, is that a flexible approach to work has a direct impact on retention and productivity of high quality talent. Regardless of seniority (again, age AND role), everyone prefers flexible work patterns and see working from home/remote working options as important when thinking about attractive employers. Offering a mix of working individually and in a team stimulates employees and enhances productivity. Similarly, getting along with work colleagues is extremely important to all generations, with around 90% of all generations agreeing that this is either “very important” or “fairly important”. Gen Y respondents were more interested in workplaces that offer on-site childcare than respondents from other ages, which is unsurprising given that they are more likely to be faced with childcare issues than the other respondents. This, however could be seen as the gateway to flexible working.

Seeing how the generations share views on the workplace, from remuneration to office culture, but also recognising the differences, means it is important to speak to all of them, and to make them all feel included. Whether this is through different tones of voice in your messaging or through offering the different generations opportunities tailored to their preferences. Even if all of them have similar expectation of the workplace, the way of getting there might not similar. Recruitment messaging therefore should be targeted yet should also focus on the differences and similarities – embracing these to enhance employee satisfaction and ultimately productivity.

Diversity at Talent Works International

I’m speaking from my own experience here. I’m working in a team that bridges three generations and we work very well together. We have found a way of communicating that works for all of us and we value individuality and benefit from it. None of this would be possible without our employer giving all 8 team members the opportunity to grow and still respecting our individuality. Even though we might not be a very diverse team in the traditional “gender, sexuality, ethnicity” sense of the term, my European passport being the slight divergence from the norm here, we are diverse in regards to age and attitude. We embrace this diversity and our individuality and we give each other space. This research has given us the opportunity to think about what our colleagues might think about the ideal employer, the ideal work environment and whether or not phones at work are acceptable (between 72% and 83% of respondents agreed here). In order to be an inclusive employer, companies should embrace age diversity and recognise the potential of a diverse workforce in every sense of the term.

The research will shortly go into its second phase focusing on the employers’ perspectives on the different generations, expectations, shortfalls, wants and must-haves. We already know that diversified messages are becoming more and more important when thinking about recruitment and retention. It would be great to see what you think of these issues. Do you agree? Are you surprised? Would you like more information on this?

Talent Works International offers a wide range of possibilities for employers to engage with the research and further enhance knowledge about making each workplace more productive by embracing diversity in all its forms and being more inclusive. We also deliver workshops, webinars and talks on this, as well as working with you and your employees on how to maximise the mechanisms already in place within your company.

The rules of engagement

To better attract and engage the young, employers need to tap into the millennial start-up culture and trade in millennial currencies, so says Samantha Bond of Northstar Research writing in the International Journal of Market Research. Northstar recently conducted a study exploring the appeal and mentality of millennial start-up culture, which suggests that failure on the part of employers to tap into the millennial mindset could see countless young employees opt out of conventional employment, resulting in employers losing a huge cohort of top talent. Quoting a 2014 global survey by Deloitte, Bond found that 70 per cent of millennials see themselves working independently in the future.

Bond argues that many millennials are tired of waiting for companies to meet their expectations. Rather than traditional monetary incentives, millennials value passion, purpose, flexibility, transparency, collaboration, trust and autonomy but many employers are just not delivering on these things. So many millennials don’t plan to stay employed forever but instead plan to eventually set up on their own.

As someone who works in the recruitment communication industry helping employers grapple with the challenges of attracting and engaging talent through research, I was obviously keen to understand what exactly Bond thinks employers need to do to avert the “talent drain” and what a millennial start-up mentality actually involves.

Bond’s research suggests a two-fold change is needed in the approach to attracting young talent. Employers need to adapt and they need to learn new rules of engagement. They need to tap into millennials’ emotional drivers (in other words they need to strengthen their emotional intelligence). They need to bring millennials into the recruitment process. They need to utilise the psychology of belonging – provide a sense of togetherness and belonging. And they need to create an authentic and flexible working environment.

Specially, employers need to implement the following:

  • Company mission. At the heart of the business must be a company mission that invigorates and inspires
  • Inspirational CEO. The company mission must be embodied by a passionate and inspiring CEO who speaks with authenticity, conviction and drives change
  • Community and collaboration. Employers should aim to create a community – one of passionate, inspirational and collaborative individuals
  • Recruitment. Cultural fit should be the first screening criteria. In the spirit of teamwork, Millennials should be involved in the recruitment process – they will help employers authentically communicate reasons why millennials should join
  • Entrepreneurialism. Invite new recruits to take risks and make an impact. Create opportunities for young employees to establish themselves as industry influential by taking part in industry-wide initiatives such as speaking at conferences and entering industry awards. Encourage young employees to put forward new ideas and drive change
  • Autonomy and flexibility. Promote a results rather than hours focussed mentality. Trust young employees to be autonomous and follow their own working style
  • Transparency. Avoid a hierarchical approach to information sharing. Be transparent with all levels of the organisation. Young employees will feel trusted, valued and emotionally invested as a result.

millennialsWorking in the recruitment communications and insight sector, I know just how challenging attracting and retaining high calibre young talent is for employers. That 70 percent of millennials say they can see a day when they decide not to be employed anymore and work independently instead really brings this challenge home.

A more up to date 2016 survey by ManpowerGroup quotes a lower but no less sobering proportion of millennials planning to go it alone and walk away from the security of conventional employment. Questioning 19,000 millennials across the globe, Manpower discovered that more than half are willing to consider alternative employment options in the future, with 34 per cent thinking about self-employment.

Mara Swan, executive vice-president of global strategy and talent at ManpowerGroup, sums it up perfectly for me: “Employers need to listen up and get creative…we need new ways to motivate and engage employees”

Unfortunately, with people being what they are – creatures of habit and resistant to change – there will be some employers who talk about the issue but then sweep it under the carpet.  But for those who are willing to adapt and try and learn from current and aspiring millennial entrepreneurs, a great opportunity awaits to better attract high calibre young talent.

Generations leave referendum differences at the office door

Some say the recent EU referendum result, in which young voters overwhelmingly supported Remain and older voters backed Leave, speaks to a growing rift between the young and old in Britain – a nation divided on age lines. That younger and older voters had very opposing views on whether or not to stay in Europe is plain to see. But a recent study by Talent Works International cautions us not to over-state the generational divide. Exploring attitudes and perceptions in the workplace amongst four different generations recently, Talent Works discovered that different needs and expectations sit alongside many areas of common ground between the different generations. When it comes to the workplace our research suggests there is more that unites the generations than divides.

First let’s look at the EU referendum results. An age breakdown of EU referendum polling shows that 75 per cent of people aged 18-24 claimed they voted for Remain. A majority of people age 25-49 also backed Remain, at 56 percent. By contrast, just 39 per cent of those aged 65 and over voted to stay in Europe. These results led to claims that baby boomers were “screwing the younger generations over yet again”. Many young voters took to Twitter and Facebook to vent their anger and considerable frustration with older people:

“70% of youngsters voted to remain. Hope their parents remember that when they are dribbling in their retirement home”

“Baby boomers screwing the younger generations over YET again.”

“Brexit proves that the generation of people today aged 40-70 have awful thoughtless politics and undermine the young worldwide.”

“The older generation has decided upon a future that they won’t even be a part of and young people will have to deal with this.”

“3/4 of young people voted remain, that tells you something about what we want from our future, but now you’ve screwed with it.”

“Thanks granny.”

Polls conducted for the London School of Economics reveal that almost half of voters aged 18-24 cried or felt like crying when they heard the UK had voted to leave the European Union. Out of a sample of 2,113 British adults, 32 per cent said they cried or felt like crying when they heard the result. This proportion went up to 47 per cent among 18 to 24 year olds. When asked how they felt towards people who voted to leave the EU, 67 per cent of young people said they felt angry, 72 per cent frustrated and 61 per cent disgusted.

With the marked difference in voting between the young and the old plus the strength of young people’s negative feelings towards older people following the result it’s not hard to see why there is talk of a rift between younger and older people in Britain.

However, Gen Up – Talent Works’ extensive, ongoing research programme exploring the complexities of employing multiple generations in the workplace has discovered that when it comes to the world of work younger and older generations are united more than they are divided. The workplace, unlike the polling booth, is far from in danger of collapsing into inter-generational conflict.

We’ve discovered many areas of common ground between the different generations that employers can capitalise on:

  • A shared appreciation of the importance of teamwork
  • A shared preference for an open plan office
  • A shared preference for face-to-face communication
  • Similar reward and remuneration preferences

For instance, we’ve learnt that almost six out of ten Gen X workers surveyed were very comfortable having a younger boss. This proportion rose to 68 per cent amongst Baby Boomers.  In fact, only five per cent and three per cent of Gen X and Baby Boomers respectively were uncomfortable with a younger boss. 83 per cent to 88 per cent of each generation – Gen Z, millennials, Gen X and Baby Boomers – count at least one work colleague as a friend. All four generations share a dislike of instant messaging in the workplace – those in favour range from zero from the oldest workers for company news to a peak of just 6 per cent from the youngest for communicating within teams. Contrary to expectations, the oldest and youngest generations are equally intolerant of personal phones in the workplace – 28 per cent of Gen Z workers are against the use of personal phones in the workplace, just two per cent short of the proportion of Baby Boomers who are opposed.

The EU referendum result has left Britain feeling like a nation divided – a nation divided along age lines. A nation where 16 to 24 year olds feel screwed over by the older generation. This is why it’s so important employers build on and emphasise the many areas of common ground our research shows exists between the different generations in the workplace. In these difficult times it’s vital employers reach out to all generations and create opportunities for different generations to work together and get know each other inside and outside work. Doing so will deliver benefits for employers too by driving performance, innovation and teamwork.

In these difficult times it’s vital employers remind us of all that unites us.

Information sources

“EU Referendum Results: Young ‘Screwed By Older Generations’ As Polls Suggest 75% Backed Remain”

‘Thanks, Granny’. www.huffingtonpost.co.uk. Louise Ridley. 24 June 2016

 “Britain’s youth voted Remain”

www.politico.eu. Hortense Goulard. 6/24/16, 9:03 AM CET