It is now undeniable that we are living through a ‘Great Resignation’.
The demographic leading this charge, according to a new study from Adobe, is Gen Z (those aged between 18 and 24). This is despite youth employment, particularly in the US, taking a significant hit during the pandemic; the figures are only now starting to recover.
Research from more than 3,400 workers in the US, Europe, and APAC found that over half of Gen Z workers are keen to look for a new job within the next year – this is a much higher proportion than any other generation surveyed.
Gen Z were also least satisfied at work: only 56% have a decent work-life balance and 59% are satisfied with their job overall.
So in this context, how can companies keep their young employees and attract other Gen Z staff to work for them?
Adecco has a solution
Global recruitment and employment agency Adecco is committed to ensuring the future of work accommodates younger generations, particularly at a time when COVID-19 has decreased opportunities.
During the pandemic, according to the World Economic Forum, an unprecedented number of businesses have gone under; more than 114 million people have lost their jobs, and countless others have had their working hours and salaries cut. This is despite furlough schemes being implemented across the developed world in a bid to prevent people becoming unemployed.
Therefore, according to Adecco UK & Ireland senior vice-president Niki Turner-Harding, “companies have an important part to play in helping build back better for the younger generation”.
She tells UNLEASH that younger employees must “have the support infrastructure in place to help them secure work in the future”.
To achieve this, Adecco launched an initiative called ‘Creating Brighter Futures’, one element of which is its ‘CEO for One Month’ program.
Launched in 2014, it takes places during June and July across the 40 countries where Adecco operates. The company even managed to keep the program going in 2020 and 2021.
Successful candidates shadow a country CEO or top-level executive – they attend meetings and learn how different opinions are managed and negotiated – and are given the opportunity to work alongside the Global CEO for Adecco for the whole of September.
How ‘CEO for One Month’ helps Adecco with talent attraction
Turner-Harding states: “CEO for One Month helps to provide younger people with the necessary experience needed to kick-start their career.” It also equips them with soft skills needed to thrive in the workplace, such as resilience, communication, time management and emotional intelligence.
According to Turner-Harding, these softer skills “are equally important as technical skills”, so it is crucial that companies looking to attract and nurture younger employees provide a “comprehensive view of what the world of work will look like and the tools they’ll need to thrive”.
Adecco sees many positives in fostering young people’s careers through the CEO for One Month program. However, Turner-Harding notes that encouraging younger generations into the workforce also brings new and fresh insight into “what drives the workforce of the future, such as sustainability”. This is why mentoring plays such a key part of the initiative; according to Turner-Harding, mentees and mentors learn a lot from each other.
This, in turn, helps Adecco get ahead of competition in terms of “talent and retention, particularly in the candidate-led market that we are experiencing”.
Perspectives of a 2021 ‘CEO for One Month’ candidate
Brandan Powell-Josiah, the UK’s CEO for One Month candidate for 2021, tells UNLEASH that he applied for the program as it is “a phenomenal learning opportunity” that was “invaluable for my professional development”.
Powell-Josiah adds that he was privileged to shadow multiple senior executives across Adecco’s business, including heads of HR, finance, legal and sales, as well as various individuals heading up different brands.
Like Turner-Harding, he emphasises that the soft skills he learned during the program were probably most valuable. “I was fascinated to learn about the softer attributes of leadership – communication, relationship-building, conflict-resolution, motivation – and the various approaches to each taken by different business leaders”.
“Observing these roles beyond their technical aspects has transformed my understanding of what it means to be a senior leader in a business,” adds Powell-Josiah.
He echoes Turner-Harding and notes that “reverse mentoring relationships” he developed were also invaluable.
Young people “can bring fresh insights and perspectives to the world of work, which ensure leaders are constantly and innovating and keeping in touch with the youth of today – something that is vital if they are to future-proof their business”.
He calls on all young people to grab the opportunity of such programs: “Too often, young people – especially from disadvantaged backgrounds – self-select out of competitive programs, assuming they will not get in.”
However, the worst case scenario is “you will receive brilliant feedback… making it a great opportunity to improve your employability skills”. In the best case, the candidate will go on to get the job.
Pivoting online during the pandemic
Clearly, the pandemic did not stop Adecco from being able to run its CEO for One Month programs across the world. In fact, the economic impact of COVID-19 – particularly on youth – made Adecco even more determined to continue the initiative.
“We’ve adapted it to be virtual as needed,” explains Turner-Harding.
“We were determined to ensure candidates received the same valuable interaction with key colleagues online that they would have had, had they been face-to-face with team members in the office.”
Thankfully, the 2021 scheme was able to go ahead largely in person, with social distancing in place.
Powell-Josiah is clear that being required to complete the entire program online would have been a huge disadvantage. When elements had to be conducted virtually, Adecco “went above and beyond” to ensure he didn’t miss out on any opportunities.
Adecco has taken the same approach with all virtual hiring and onboarding of employees, in particular younger talent. “When bringing young hires into the organization, we’ve ensured a strong onboarding process is in place. They’ve had the opportunity to get to know their team members and the organizational culture through regular video catch-ups”, adds Turner-Harding.
It is essential that companies can show younger candidates that they are technologically minded, able to use digital tools as and when necessary in order to attract talent, according to the Adobe study.
Adobe vice-president of document and product cloud marketing Todd Gerber states: “Technology is an important talent attraction and retention tool because many employees don’t have what they need to do their jobs effectively.
“Companies that have adopted a digital-first mindset have a recruiting advantage—they’re able to provide the tools that offer simplicity and that help to make employees’ jobs less stressful.”