Do you really know what tomorrows talent will want?

Author: Alistair Cox, CEO, Hays plc 

It’s around this time of year when swathes of fresh young minds are entering the world of work for the very first time. And as they embark on their search for that perfect employer, I feel acutely aware that those things that were once important to me when I was first entering the world of work back in the 1980s, are in many ways incomparable to what matters most to a jobseeker first starting out in 2018.

I’m also mindful of the fact that, actually, there are some things this new generation of talent will need and demand from an employer in the future, which businesses aren’t currently aware of, and maybe can’t yet comprehend. I believe a lot of this will stem from the fact that this generation will work for a longer period of time than any other generation that came before them. As such, the ‘job for life’ is a concept that seems unfathomable to them - for most, quite frankly, this isn’t even on their radar. Instead, they are far more likely to experience what many call a ‘multi-stage’, or ‘portfolio career’. All of this will have an unprecedented impact on their future needs and expectations around their careers and their employers – how can it not?

I can’t predict the future, but I do think it’s our duty as forward-thinking employers to start to think about what these future generations will need from us. We must work to try to anticipate those future needs, and this may mean we’ll need to change the way we’ve traditionally done things.

So, below, I’ve listed a few of the ways I expect these demands to shift and evolve over time. Admittedly, you’ll notice that many of these are relevant to all those who are currently working, no matter how long they’ve been working for. But, I do believe the changing world of work that our future generations will be faced with will accentuate the need for these things even more:

Their work will need to seamlessly blend and complement their personal lives

Today’s new generation of talent are likely to be working well past historic retirement ages, potentially well into their 80’s. Just think of all the pivotal life events they have ahead of them. And that length of working life is obviously not all going to be smooth sailing.

So, to guide them through those tough times, they are going need to work for employers who will offer up the support they’ll need along the way. It is for this reason that they increasingly expect their work to blend with and complement their personal lives - otherwise work is just not sustainable, enjoyable or effective in the long term.

This will require a monumental shift in mind-set for employers, and believe me, I know how hard that is to do. As employers, we now need to be looking at our employees and their lives with us with a longer term view. What can we do now to provide the support they will need over the coming years?

This goes much deeper than providing the obvious perks such as gym memberships and private healthcare, although all of those things are important. It’s also about training your managers to effectively spot and help support mental health problems in the workplace, providing additional childcare support, greater flexible working and more opportunities to refresh and update their skills. All of these things will help their professional and personal lives work in better harmony together in the years to come. Employers who find that balance will likely keep their talent longer.

They’ll want more freedom and fluidity throughout their careers

As I have said, there’s no escaping the fact that today’s grads will be working for longer. And because of this, they’ll also lead less linear lives, both personally and professionally. By this, I mean that it’s likely that today’s talent will go through various career stages and it will become increasingly common for these stages to follow a non-traditional pattern.

For instance, one person may take his or her career in one direction throughout their 20s, then decide to re-educate and upskill in order to allow them to switch paths in their 30s, only to set up their own business in their 40s, then retrain again in their 50s. And, throughout all of this, they will have taken a sabbatical, relocated, got married and had children.

Gone are the days when the same person will do the same job, or a similar job for their entire careers. And again, from an employer’s point of view, accommodating what some would call the rise of the ‘multi-stage’ or ‘portfolio career’ requires another shift in mind-set and in traditional processes and procedures. After all, the traditional three stage life as we know it - education, work, retire; will soon be replaced by a far more fluid, flexible and somewhat unpredictable path.

For example, more movement (whether inside or outside of your organisation) will be the new normal - how does your organisation tackle this now and does your approach need to change? How are you currently assisting your employees in upskilling and recreating themselves? Is this celebrated or frowned upon? And how can you retain talent against this new backdrop?

Digital natives won’t want to work for digital dinosaurs

We all know that technology is changing faster than ever before. Moore’s Law has held true for decades and there’s no sign of it failing now.

For those just entering the world of work, using technology in all its forms is second nature. It’s understandable then that they’ll expect to be able to come into work and have all the technology they need to be able to do their jobs, and do their jobs well. So, if they’re faced with anything but that, this could cause problems for you, particularly in terms of retention.

I’m not saying we all need to be the Googles and the Facebooks of the world, nor do we need to be a trendy new start-up which promises to be the next big thing. But we can work to make the right technology decisions for our businesses now and in the future, regarding this as an investment in productivity and people engagement as opposed to a pure cost of doing business. What’s more, we can also start encouraging lifelong learning now, and facilitate continued technology upskilling, as and when new technologies are introduced and optimised.

They’ll need strong leaders to help them navigate all this change

You’ll have noticed one key theme throughout all of my previous points – today’s new talent will experience lots of change both personally and professionally over a longer period of time. With that change will come a lot of uncertainty, and that will be unsettling.

As a leader of a business or a manager of people, you’ll be in a unique position to provide consistency and support, to help shape and influence the careers of future talent (and help nurture those careers). I think this generation may want to see you as their own partner or even advisor, someone who they can trust to help navigate these changes. If you can master that now, then I firmly believe you are far more likely to keep hold of the top talent who enters through your doors.

Admittedly, I don’t have a crystal ball, and the above future demands are by no means an exhaustive list, so please do comment below if you feel I’ve missed anything. I’d be particularly keen to hear from those just embarking on your first job – what’s most important to you, and do the above points resonate with you?

Thank you for reading! For more useful advice and insights about the world of work, visit our dedicated blog page here or click on one of the links below.