Is the job market failing millennials and GenZ?

I have increasingly been meeting employers and managers who comment about the difficulties they are facing to recruit new people. The trouble seems to arise particularly when employers have to deal with the ‘millennials’ and the ‘Generation Z’.

The millennials were born between 1980 and 1995, while individuals in Generation Z were born in the late 1990s. According to the National Statistics Office, Generation Z accounts for around 7.5 per cent of the total Maltese population and are thus an important resource for the years to come.

What are the main challenges faced by recruiters when dealing with both cohorts? According to what I am being told, these have to do with a perceived lack of motivation. It is not uncommon to hear recruiters complaining about how the young generation ‘come with an attitude’, ‘have no values’, ‘want things their way’, ‘are only interested in the pay’, ‘are not willing to work overtime’, or that ‘they are lazy’. Employers complain of their high job mobility.

So are we, as HR professionals, really facing the reality of a lazy workforce, or are we instead failing to understand what motivates the millennials and the Generation Z. We must understand that new generations are aware that the ‘living to work’ mantra, which their fathers have followed when entering the job market, does not fit them.

Young generations are highly mobile, they are interested in developing their careers and do not hesitate to move to another job if they feel that they are underpaid or overqualified (I have yet to hear an employer say that they cannot recruit because they cannot find someone with the right academic background). Most of all, they know that they have a voice and most of them are not afraid of using it in order to be listened to.

There is, therefore, a clear disconnection between the young and old generation, with the younger workforce interested in positions that will allow them to thrive in an environment that is genuinely HR-oriented. It is time to understand that the young generation are ultimately the people who will be replacing the older generation.

So what changes are necessary for businesses to attract and retain the millennials and Generation Z?

  • Give flexibility and freedom and let employees prove themselves by focusing on results rather than on working hours. Some employers tend to attract candidates by offering flexibility, but they then make them feel guilty for working from home. Flexibility also refers to the fact that they should be empowered to use technology in their everyday work (there are still companies that block internet on their computers).
  • Recognise people and show them that they are succeeding in what they are doing. Most of all, train your top managers to be their mentors.
  • Provide constant feedback, listen to your employees’ ideas and empower them to grow and learn.
  • Create teams and allow people to work and share together.
  • Foster an entrepreneurial spirit among the employees and allow them to be creative.

It is true that it is likely that they are not ready to work harder for their salary and a younger workforce might mean offering a more competitive salary or one with greater benefits. Show them that as an employer you can help them reach their most important career goals – first understand what they are. They want a job that will create a meaning in their life – give them that.

Needless to say, all these opportunities foster better engagement but naturally it is not a one-size-fits-all. Aim for ensuring transparent processes and conduct annual engagement surveys. Never forget that your first clients are your employees, and that the enthusiasm and dedication they will show to their work will ultimately reflect positively in the service and products offered to the final user.

About the author(s)

Maria Zahra is Managing Director of SurgeAdvisory. She has over fourteen years of human resources and business advisory experience.

This article appeared in the 19 February 2017 issue of The Sunday Times of Malta.