World Youth Skills Day was observed on July 15th and celebrates the importance of equipping young people with skills for employment and entrepreneurship.
The challenge of equipping the next generation of leaders with the key skills for tomorrow has taken on even greater importance given the impact of the pandemic on young people. In fact, even before the pandemic, 267 million young people globally (aged 15-24) were unemployed, and missed both education and training that would equip them for employment. And the unemployment rate was higher for young women as a result of gendered expectations of unpaid family work. (1) The pandemic has further deepened this learning crisis, with millions of young people not developing the skills that will enable them to successfully gain employment, start a business, and engage in their community. Shockingly more than 1 billion students globally were affected by the school closures as a result of the pandemic. (2)
Given these alarming statistics, developing intentional and impactful strategies to recruit, engage and develop youth is of paramount importance to organizations committed to maximising the potential of the future workforce.
A critical first step for organizations when developing these strategies is to understand that ‘young people’ are not simply one monolithic group with similar characteristics and traits.
It is not only clumsy and facile to assume that Gen Z (born 1996 – 2015) population are simply an extension of Gen Y (Millennials) (born 1980 – 1996) (3) but this generalization can lead to real misunderstandings about their approach to work and their needs.
The dramatically different backdrops against which these generations grew up have significantly impacted who they are, clearly differentiating their approach to life and work.
Gen Y’s formative years coincided with the tech boom and relative prosperity of the 1990s. This contrasts with the profound economic uncertainty of both the 2008 financial collapse and the crippling financial impact of the pandemic, during which Gen Z came of age. Given these very different macro socio-economic environments a critical question is: how did these contrasting circumstances impact the outlook and mindset of these two neighboring generational cohorts?
However, given the fact that Generation Y and Generation Z are neighboring generational cohorts, there are similarities in their attributes.
The cultural forces shaping Gen Z's beliefs have created a generation that values realism, safety and security, and solving real problems. Understanding this reality, a key question for organizations is how can they most effectively nuance their brands and strategies to attract, recruit and engage the emerging generation of employees.
With this in mind, let’s turn to my book, Leading Global Diversity, Equity and Inclusion: A Guide for Systemic Change in Multinational Organizations and consider principle 4 Going Deep, Wide and Inside Out. As I write in my book, it takes intentionality and focus to embed Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) interventions at all points of the talent life cycle to not only reach out and attract the disparate generational cohorts, but also to engage and develop them once they are on board. To learn more about different strategies to embed DEI, get your copy of my book here.
Organizational initiatives to attract the next generational cohorts cannot be a series of discrete activities operating in isolation. Recruiting, developing and engaging your talent must be aligned and in the case of next generation talent, be grounded in the realities of what motivates and drives the younger generational cohorts.
There is abundant literature on gen Z and Y as organizations focus on the future workforce and intentional strategies to attract, retain and engage them is a highly competitive talent market. Remember that Gen Z and Gen Y are just two of the five generations, in today’s workforce. The others being:
Silent Generation (born 1927 – 1946)
Baby Boomers (born 1947 – 1964)
Generation X (born 1965 – 1980) (3)
As organizational leaders grapple with the demands and challenges of managing a multi-generational workforce, it is critical for organizations to develop purposeful strategies, based on research and insights, to optimize and derive maximum benefit from each generation. Stereotypes and assumptions of the future generations by the more seasoned generational cohorts, and vice versa, can be pervasive and insidious. It is unfortunately all too commonplace to see ageism (discrimination based on age) in the workplace. The primary victims of ageism work culture tend to be at the poles – the youngest or oldest workers. And this can lead to anger and a lack of trust which can hinder team performance by limiting collaboration and sparking conflict. (4)
Despite these consequences resulting from ageism, many companies fail to take steps to address generational and age issues. While many organizations have renewed their diversity efforts, only 8% of organizations include age and ageism as part of their DEI strategy.
Opening communication channels between generations to enable greater understanding and collaboration is key to developing an inclusive workplace culture where all employees, no matter their age, share a sense of belonging and are productive.
Top tips to encourage collaboration and understanding between generations include:
Ensure that that your internal and external brand are representative of people of all age groups.
Encourage a multigenerational employee resource group to foster collaboration, learning and to neutralize assumptions based on age.
Interrupt comments to describe generations - such as “youngster” and “old timer.” These microaggressions are insidious and can impact both perceptions of and actual productivity and performance.
Ensure that your benefits are tailored to multiple generations and are effective in engaging and retaining multi-generational talent.
To learn more about different strategies to embed DEI to help you to attract, recruit and engage the emerging generation of employees, get your copy of my book here.
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