A quick article written for INLLEN, where I provide communications services on a contract basis.
George Orwell wrote that “each generation imagines itself to be more intelligent than the one that went before it, and wiser than the one that comes after it.” Generation gaps have long been a bone of contention in the workplace but with the arrival into the workforce of the Post-Millennials, aka Generation Z – those born after the mid ‘90s – the generation gap seems more of a gulf these days.
In larger organisations, HR staff or employment agencies act as intermediaries by filtering applications – separating the wheat from the chaff as it were, to find the future employee capable of bringing the most to the organisation. However small business owners that are sourcing new entry-level staff on their own can find themselves facing Gen Zers seemingly at odds with their personal and business philosophies.
Bringing young people into the business has many positives just so long as you can harness the skills and abilities of your new employee. For the most part Gen Zers identify as being open-minded, loyal, compassionate, thoughtful and responsible. They also see themselves as being competitive, spontaneous, adventurous and curious about the world around them. Perhaps for business though, the real benefit of employing a youngster is that Post-Millennials are digital natives. Plugged in and empowered by the world around them Gen Zers offer many benefits to businesses and can address skill shortages you may not even be aware you have.
Some things to think about before, during or after the application process is underway.
Where to advertise – A boosted post on your company’s Facebook, LinkedIn or Instagram account if you have them will reach your target audience far better than a printed ad in the paper. Consider contacting local schools’ careers practitioners to share your job ad. If you run a café or bricks and mortar retail store you’ll find the old sign-in-the-window job ad works wonders. Talk to your family and friends to let them know you’re looking to employ someone. There are plenty of free online job listing sites such as our own www.jobsforyouth.com.au jobs portal should you be offering a role in Melbourne’s CBD or inner north, as well as government portals such as https://jobsearch.gov.au. If you’ve got an entry-level role it’s probably not worth paying to run ads unless you’re in a specialist industry looking for an entry-level employee with the right skill set. And finally, you may be entitled to financial and other support from the government for employing someone. You’ll find details on this at the government’s Job Search site above.
‘Experience Required’ – We’ve all heard the stories told by disaffected young people about how even entry-level positions require experience and if you can’t get an entry-level job you won’t ever gain experience. Rather than letting a talented, capable and job-ready young person flounder in this Catch 22, consider throwing them a lifeline by thinking in different ways about their experiences. Have they been on student committees? Been involved with clubs? Volunteered with community organisations? Worked summer jobs or helped out around the family business? All of these activities develop skills and aid employability and could mean the applicant is ideal for the role – they’re just waiting on you to give them their break. Another advantage to employing an ‘inexperienced’ job seeker is that they come with no baggage and you can train them to do the work your way. Additionally, young jobseekers have often undertaken employability-related training so there’s a skill base for you to develop.
Social media – We were all young once. If a search of your potential employee’s Instagram account reveals a penchant for nights out on the town and a few drinks too many perhaps that’s not a huge deal if that behavior won’t affect you or your business’ reputation and/or lead to lost business. Remember, Post-Millennials are digital natives – as quick to pick up their phone and Tweet their activities as older generations were to share their Saturday night exploits with their mates. Many young people don’t understand that what they post publically can impact their employment and often don’t even see it as an issue. Once you’ve secured your new employee you can talk to them about your expectations and how their digital footprint might impact on the business and then put some rules in place to protect you both.
Some things to consider during the interview:
Interviewee Anxiety – Think back to your first job interview straight out of school. Were you nervous? Did you stumble over your words? Did you take too much time to answer a question or perhaps get sidetracked? Job hunting is scary and it’s hard work. Facing a prospective employer in a one-to-one or the feared panel interview is positively terrifying to most youngsters. Think about weighing interview performance against potential and give entry-level applicants the benefit of the doubt. Focus instead on their skills, abilities and values and whether they’re the right fit for your business.
Where do you see yourself in five years? – Let’s be honest, this is one of the hardest job interview questions to answer and is one of the most dreaded interview questions any of us face. And for youngsters just entering the workforce it’s essentially null and void given that Post-Millennials will chop and change jobs multiple times over the course of their careers. You are not going to employ someone in an entry-level position and see them retire 30 years later with a gold watch. Those days are over and while you might dread having to employ an entry-level employee, train them, skill them and see them take flight that’s what will happen so get used to it and focus instead on what your potential employee can bring to the table in the here and now.
Know your rights. Know their rights – Employing people is governed by reams of legislation and this includes what you can and can’t ask when conducting an interview. You are required by law to avoid discrimination and the details on this can be found at the Australian Human Rights Commission website: https://www.humanrights.gov.au/quick-guide/12081
Generation Z’s best and brightest bring to the table heaps of energy, digital literacy, creativity and flexibility. As a business owner you can help ease youth unemployment by giving young people access to the workforce and at the same time refresh and reinvigorate your business, closing the generation gap one employee at a time. And we’ll all be wiser for that.