How do I engage with the graduates of today?
Here’s a question I am often asked by employers looking for help: “How do I engage with the graduates of today? They’re so different to when I was a young person”.
The question has been asked in desperation and exasperation, but things aren’t that bad.
Yes, today’s generation of school-leavers or graduates are different from the previous generations. Which generations haven’t changed?
But this should be embraced. I truly believe that employers who know how to engage with this new generation will see real benefits. Their workplaces will sing.
Before I wrote this piece, I asked some former St Paul’s School students from different fields of study for their views on work: What will they look for in an employer; what motivates them in work; and, what are their career goals?
Here’s a selection of their replies:
- “I want to find a job where I can use my skills and passions in an environment where I am valued and supported to grow.”
- “The most important qualities in an employer are drive, passion, honesty, trust, support and integrity. In short, similar values to mine.”
- “My hopes are for a job where I can learn from my employer/supervisor, where our skills complement each other.”
- “I’m looking for an employer who respects my independence, opinions and way of approaching problems.”
- “Feedback is invaluable, especially when starting out. It should be discussed with the employee how this is best delivered and how often.”
There was one thing missing from their replies – any mention of money or salary.
That was a more common driver for my generation. Get a steady job with a good employer, get a deposit for a home and start paying off your mortgage.
Houses feel out of reach for many in this generation, so their work isn’t focused on money.
The graduates of today have grown up as the most privileged generation we’ve known so their expectations are different.
They’re more confident, they’re not as submissive. They want to know that they are making a difference, that their role has purpose. They want to grow. They’re loyal, but if they’re not getting what they want out of their employment, they’ll look elsewhere.
Here are two areas I recommend that employers consider:
- Feedback is very important to this generation. They crave constructive feedback. They are willing to be mentored. If they feel as though they’re no longer learning, they will look elsewhere. Employers have to learn how to best give constructive feedback.
- There has been a shift in leadership expectations. This generation seeks leaders who will create a culture of trust. They want to be respected and valued.
This doesn’t mean that employers should let these new generations waltz through their careers without some pushback when it’s required. I know of times when a new apprentice has refused to sweep out a workshop floor at the end of the day because it’s beneath them.
It’s not beneath them and they should do it. Sometimes, explaining why it’s important and why it’s part of the job are more critical than just issuing the orders.
Young people can invigorate our workplaces. They’re skilled. They’re well equipped for success and they’re capable of solving complex problems.
They are a generation that we can be proud of and a generation we can work with.
Enjoy the opportunity.
Dr Paul Browning
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