Are you underestimating your grads?

 

How much do you know about Gen Z?

You’ll have opinions, granted. Based maybe on that ever-aloof niece or nephew you’ve got – the one surgically attached to their smartphone last Christmas. Perhaps some awkward staff kitchen conversations. But what do you really know?

The answer, according to a range of surveys, might well be “very little”.

Nothing exemplifies this more than a Forum study last year. The data paints two pictures – the myth and the fact:

Myth: Gen Z cares more about a company’s values than the job.

Fact: Just 3% prioritise a company’s CSR programmes when making applications.

Myth: They’re all raving technophiles.

Fact: Barely one in twenty see the latest tech as essential to the job.

Myth: They want the freedom to peruse social media at work.

Fact: 96% couldn’t care less – they’d rather be developing their skills.

In a previous post, we discussed the graduate soft skills gap. But it’s clear that a second gap also exists: the one between managers’ perceptions of Gen Z, and the reality.

When it comes to this group, we’re arguing that there’s a clear case of mistaken identity. Are your latest grads paying the price?

Counting the cost

Left unchecked, judgements of recent grads will have two profound business impacts:

Bias

Forum suggests that almost one in three managers believe their new grads will be resistant to authority, while 39% think they’re preoccupied with instant gratification.

Such beliefs encourage confirmation bias at the hiring stage, where the smallest detail (a look, or a specific word chosen) might unduly influence the whole selection process. This will inevitably hamper that process’s quality, and could well mean missing out on great talent.

And, beyond the hiring stage, these beliefs can easily harden into a generational ceiling for young graduates. It’s easy to see how this might hamstring your efforts to mould your next leaders, as well as increasing turnover costs. We’re seeing now that tomorrow’s success stories will be companies capitalising on Gen Z’s unique outlook.

Resource misallocation

As you try to attract the best talent, a misunderstanding of graduate priorities can lead to questionable investments. Cash spent on perks you thought would resonate, like free beer or an instagrammable office, may well be wasted if your new charges actually prioritise job security, or tailored development plans (spoiler: they do!).

Getting to know your new starters – beyond the stereotypes – is crucial to prevent high turnover and wasted resources.

Gen Z unmasked

We know that not everyone will feel the same about Gen Z. But the data’s available, and, when we look at what managers think Gen Z wants, the mood is clear. But that begs the question: what’s really motivating them?

Forum’s data showcases three priorities:

  • Salary (69%)
  • Work/life balance (40%)
  • Job security (39%)

While work-life balance might be a slightly newer development, a secure job with a steady salary hardly seems groundbreakingly ambitious. And, far from seeking “instant gratification” as mentioned earlier, Gen Z are clearly more comfortable putting down roots. The nomadic approach to work pioneered by millennials hasn’t stuck.

Instead, many appear to prize consistency over change. This can only benefit those companies prepared to invest in them at grad level.

If pressed, we’d tell you that Gen Z are a mischaracterised bunch – that they’re more like you than you think.

Who knows? Maybe that frosty Christmas exchange wasn’t a textbook display of Gen Z aloofness. Maybe it was just a response to yet another year of unwrapping Accessorize vouchers and Lynx gift sets…

Wishing there was a way to really measure your grads’ behaviour? To know them beyond the stereotypes? Try an assessment that sees more in every candidate. Arrange your demo here.

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