How to recruit and retain the next generation of talent

19th May 2017

If you think the next generation of employees are going to be just like Millennials, think again.

Generation K, as we call them, are aged between 15 and 22, and they are fundamentally different from their older siblings. They are more agile, creative and autonomous than Millennials, and also more anxious, cautious and pragmatic.

Every day more of these young people are entering the workplace, forcing organisations that have only recently adjusted to the needs of Millennials to again ask questions about how they engage, recruit and retain young talent.

Weber Shandwick has partnered with Professor Noreena Hertz, the leading global expert on this group of young people, in an exclusive collaboration to help businesses and brands understand Generation K better. (If you are wondering, the “K” stands for Katniss Everdeen, heroine of the dystopian Hunger Games books and films: the archetype of Generation K).

Generation K’s world view has been shaped by the global war on terror, the ongoing recession and two decades of continuous digital disruption. Professor Hertz’s research shows exactly what a challenge – and opportunity – they present for employers:

  • Only 6% trust big corporations to “do the right thing”.
  • They are anxious, about existential concerns such as inequality (69%) and climate change (64%), and about their future: 85% worry about getting a job and 71% worry about debt.
  • They are socially engaged. They volunteer more, campaign more and give more to charity.
  • They are creative, visual, and fiercely individual.
  • They value physical experiences and friendships over virtual ones.
  • They are used to getting information fast and to having continuous conversations. Emails are out for this generation, as are yearly appraisals.

From these insights, it’s clear that being an attractive employer to Generation K is probably going to be far harder than being a brand that Baby Boomers, Gen X, Gen Y or Millennials want to work for, and stay with.

So how do you find an exchange of value that satisfies the future needs of your business with the demands of the next generation of employees, who are making a number of existing business challenges more pronounced?

Take the issue of trust. The only way that Generation K will trust corporations is if they can demonstrate that they are on the same page, for instance by being more vocal about and taking a principled stand on issues that Generation K cares about, such as equality, diversity, and climate change. This is well beyond CSR.

A further challenge for most businesses is the need to satisfy several generations of workers at the same time. This has big implications for the way that we think about Employer Branding issues like recruitment, performance and benefits management and retirement.

We are already seeing an evolution in the way that our clients are thinking about their employer brand, and this will be accelerated by more of Generation K moving into the workforce.

In fact, the notion that an organisation has one employer brand is coming to an end. It’s being replaced by the realisation that companies need a portfolio of employer brands, with a range of employer value propositions that have distinctive appeal to the different groups of employees they want to recruit and retain.

Crucially, this portfolio of employer brands needs to remain authentic, consistent and coherent with each other and with what the organisation actually does in the world and how it treats its people.

In other words, in trying to appeal to Generation K, we need to think more like them. If we think with more agility and creativity about employer brands. we can make work better not just for Katniss but her older siblings, parents and grandparents, who are all still in the workplace, too.

For more on how we can help you engage and attract Generation K talent, click here