The art of attracting and retaining GenZ workers

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Leading CHROs have their say on how best to attract and retain young people within organisations.

Attracting, employing and leading millennials and Gen Zs has been highlighted as a challenge for organisations in 2023 in numerous industry reports. Generally described as generations that grew up in a world of rapid technological advancements, social media and instant gratification, they have different values, expectations and preferences when it comes to work.

Recent figures from Statistics South Africa show that nearly 30 million South Africans are younger than 24. This means a large part of the market of the future are the youth of today and organisations need to make a concerted effort to understand what those values and expectations are in order to maximise their potential.

CHRO South Africa spoke to some leading HR executives on what they are doing in their organisations to cater for this talent sector.

FNB human capital executive Donald Khumalo says his organisation has become deliberate at looking at sustainable ways to assist youth and young talent in developing the necessary skills that will help them in the future

“Professional development and career mobility are a key retention lever for young talent and these opportunities are enabled through a variety of programmes in leadership development; support for ongoing studies, access to online courses through Udemy, as well as a broad spectrum of talent mobility and development programmes supporting career insights through mentorship and talent engagement initiatives.”

Sungeetha Sewpersad, Chief People Officer at Rand Merchant Bank says it is important for leaders not to use a one-size-fits-all approach, instead realise that certain policies and processes need to change or be adapted, recognising that the world of work has evolved and we are working in a multigenerational workforce.

“Creating opportunities for cross-functional work experiences and at the same time building teams which are multiskilled and collaborate laterally across the organisation, is what companies can do to be more people centric in their approach to Gen Z’s. Moreover, organisations can leverage off the skills that graduates and learners bring in a more holistic manner, by immersing them in roles that give them exposure to real time and authentic work experiences. Finally, as leaders we need to recognise that our workspace and practices has to adapt to suit the needs of the young millennials and Gen Z’s, i.e. funky workspaces, access to technology, instant gratification, short sharp bursts of comms, access to social media and introduce opportunities to have fun and bond.”

Young CHRO of the year for 2022, Phil Tshikotshi, who is the vice president – human resources at Startek, is of the opinion that leaders need to cultivate an environment that creates a sense of belonging and one that provides psychological safety for young talent to thrive. “Our organisation employs predominantly young people, so we have adopted flexible work models and revised our engagement initiatives to align with what keeps our younger employees motivated and engaged.”

Ross Pickford, head of people at Global Kinetic, agreed, adding that it is important for leaders to engage, interrogate and communicate with young talent in a way they understand: “When we are young, we come with energy and enthusiasm to prove ourselves. We don’t know what we don’t know yet, so how we share and take information onboard is critical. It is too easy to dismiss opinions and ideas as naïve, uniformed or arrogant.”

Mentoring is also an important part in fine-tuning talent, he says: “We mentor each other. You can teach an old dog new tricks, and you can pass wisdom and knowledge on to those who don’t yet have the experiences you have had. Information is everything, from how to structure pay packages, what to do with taxes, medical aids, and retirement planning – it’s as important as learning how to do the job at hand.”

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