03 February 2022 16:42:46 IST

Here comes Gen Z: Why organisations need to hire freshers more

Knowing how to nurture Gen Z talent can drive real change in organisations. Source: Getty Images

Gone are those days when organisations would hire new graduates assuming they are blank slates and can be trained as per their business needs. Today’s graduates are more skilled, innovative, tech-native, curious, and ambitious. According to a new study by a research firm, GFK, 51 per cent of Gen Z students and professionals want organisations to hire based on skills that are needed today. Flexibility, transparency in communication, pay parity, and time off to learn and upskill are some of the many things that this generation’s students and fresh hires demand from employers.

While the revenue model and the people that drive the business remain at the core of organisations, I strongly opine that the new graduates of this era have a lot to offer than just freshness to the mix. In my tenure as an HR leader for 20+ years, I’ve led several experienced professionals and fresh graduates and here’s how I think fresh graduates will set themselves apart in comparison with experienced professionals:

Hiring for resilience

The upcoming set of graduates have experienced one of the worst couple of years known to mankind. At an age where they would’ve wished to experience collaboration, compassion, and learning in person, they were forced to do it virtually. By experiencing something that they wouldn’t have anticipated as they entered into the world of graduation, they have moulded themselves into resilient yet flexible individuals, who are ready to soak up knowledge. As a result, they are more inclined to take the risks than more experienced pros would like to.

Tech natives

The World Economic Forum predicts that 97 million new jobs will be created by 2025 because of Artificial Intelligence (AI) and automation. Every organisation today is becoming more digital because clients want to offer more customisable, user-friendly, and simplified experiences to their consumers.

A lot of traditional jobs and skills have been lost and as a result, the development of IT literacy has become a necessity among students. As reported in an article by Simplilearn, DevOps engineer, AI engineer, cloud architect, blockchain engineer, Internet of Things (IoT) architect, data scientist, and product manager are some of the top ten best-paying jobs in technology in 2022.

With the advent of edtech, students have access to these courses regardless of their graduation course. For example, a sibling of one of the associates in my team has landed a campus placement offer as a business analyst for a user experience role in a top IT firm despite being a bachelor in business administration. Organisations are hiring students for interpersonal, interdisciplinary, and multidisciplinary skills rather than the field of study.

Additionally, they are offering graduates incentives to learn a few courses, including product management, project management, JIRA, and design thinking to be ready with the relevant technical skills before joining the organisation.

There are several upskilling and reskilling courses on offer for ambitious students, and colleges are also willing to partner with these providers to help their students become future-ready. Simultaneously, there are many offerings for organisations that are willing to hire for the future. For example, LinkedIn, in collaboration with a global technology giant, has been helping 250,000 companies make skills-based hire.

I believe that more of these initiatives will give new graduates the confidence to follow their passion and focus on making informed decisions. Incentives to upskill and the willingness to expand their career ambitions will give new graduates an edge over experienced professionals who have too much on their plates already to make time for as much upskilling and reskilling as the next-gen workforce.

Sustainability at the core

The time for a more people-focused approach to creating a sustainable future is here. Organisations need employees who can break the traditional norms to come up with innovative ways to deliver on their Environment, Social and Governance (ESG) strategy. To deliver on this commitment, organisations need to reinforce the right behaviours, engage their people in the right manner, and build the right culture and mindsets.

While the more experienced pros may show some initial resistance to alter their attitude and beliefs that are needed for an ESG-focused transformation, the new graduates already know its importance and are brimming confidently with innovative ideas to deliver.The new graduates, with their fresh thoughts can help deliver on some of the key aspects of ESG, including creating a circular economy, regeneration of resources, an ecosystem mindset, and an approach focused on opportunities.

For example, climate change could be an opportunity to grow the bottom line. And, with the kind of exposure, emotional intelligence and compassion that today’s students have, they will be attracted to organisations that are seeking innovative ideas to embed environmental focus in their business’ vision.

Electric Vehicles, sustainably-produced fabrics, planting trees in water towers to regenerate water and more such innovative ideas are coming to the fore like never before. Clients, investors, and consumers are pushing organisations to create a sustainable future. And I see clearly that the new generation workforce has the vantage point into the future and the courage to question organisations on their antiquated ways of delivering on their commitments.

Engage for leadership

The graduates that organisations hire today are the leaders of tomorrow. Currently, at 39 million on LinkedIn, the count of students and new graduates is rising fast. As senior pros gradually superannuate and a lot of millennials turn into entrepreneurs, organisations must tap into the new graduates, engage them early, and incentivise them with personalised benefits to give them a sense of value and security in the organisation.

A bonus here is that these leaders of tomorrow cost lesser to hire and have time on their hands to adjust to their dynamics of the world with resilience, sustenance, inquisitiveness, and innovative mindset.

Diversity, Equity and Inclusion

Hands down, Gen Z is the most diverse set of individuals in history. The new graduates not only understand the importance of equity but also do not hesitate to question injustice. They want to work for organisations that have strong values around diversity, equity, social responsibility and inclusion.

With an increased focus on DEI over the last couple of years, organisations must tap into such compassionate individuals to sustain. While it is always good to have a good mix of experience and newness in an organisation, the confidence, courage, resilience, and passion to make a difference that the new graduates possess is on a different level.

I would like to conclude by saying that the world of work is becoming younger with each passing day. While the younger professionals may not know much about running a business, it is up to the organisations to weigh all the skills that these individuals can offer, provide them with personalised experiences, good work-life balance, and leverage their strengths for growing together.

 (The writer is Divisional Vice-President and Head, HR, ADP India.)