In this article, we asked a recent Waterloo co-op grad (and Gen Z'er), Negin, to share some of her insights about what she looks for in a job. Through her own experience in the workplace, Negin offers four key ways you can:

  • Improve your interview process
  • Use constructive criticism and positive reinforcement more effectively
  • Show young employees the larger impact of their work
  • Provide clear progression paths within your organization

Here’s your chance to learn some tips for recruiting and retaining young employees, straight from a fresh grad herself!

Let’s dive in.

(This article is a 5 minute read.)

Photo of Negin

Negin, Waterloo co-op graduate student 

Recently, we surveyed our co-op employers and asked them what their top challenges are with young talent in the workplace.

Employers identified their number one challenge as “attracting top young talent” and their second most pressing challenge as “motivating them”.

Graphic outlining the top 6 challenges employers experience when recruiting and retaining young talent. 1. Attracting young talent. 2. Understanding how to motivate young talent. 3. Managing performance. 4. Developing young talent. 5. Multi-generational workforce management. 6. Indentifying and managing goals of young talent.

And with 61% of Gen Z employees saying they would leave a job within two years given the chance, it’s no wonder employers face these challenges.

So why do young employees leave jobs? And what are some ways employers can unlock the secret to recruiting and retaining them more effectively?

Key takeaway from this article

Invest in young talent! Spend time and money doing this and they're FAR more likely to stick around.

  • Discuss long term career plans with them during the interview. If you dodge the conversation of promotions, pay increases, career growth or professional development, don't be surprised if they decline your job offer later on.
  • Provide more praise on good work and construction criticism when they veer off track.
  • Teach them the skills they need to be mobile in your company so they don't feel stuck in one role forever.
  • Give them "stretch roles" (ie: work that might be a bit beyond them, new or extra challenging).

1) The problem: Some organizations’ interview processes need an overhaul

Negin says: It all starts with the interview. Job interviews are like first dates. They’re a chance for us to get to know the company, our manager and our team members. If we have a negative experience during the interview (ie: you’re late, you seem like you’re rushing through things…etc), we’re not likely to accept a job offer later on.

Even once we’ve been hired, we’re still scouting things out for those first three to six months. If things don’t go well, we’re likely to start looking for a new job.

Here’s what Negin says you can do:

  • Treat the people you’re interviewing the way you treat your customers and prospects. Make us feel comfortable and valuable.
  • Discuss long term career plans with us. If you dodge the conversation of promotions, pay increases, career growth or professional development, don’t be surprised if we decline your job offer later on.
  • Include a team member in the interview. Then, as the interviewer, LEAVE - so the team member can share their experience thoughtfully and without pressure.
  • Realize that your new employee isn’t the only one on probation for the first three to six months - you are too. Treat us well, check in with us, live up to the “first date” (aka: the job interview) or “tinder profile” (aka: the job posting) expectations, or else we’ll leave because we haven’t tied down roots yet.

2) The problem: Not all managers understand how important positive reinforcement and constructive criticism are to me

Negin says: Throughout our whole lives, we’re graded on everything we do in school. We’re very used to receiving feedback. It’s become the norm for us.

When we (as fresh grads) hop into new jobs, we’re barely older than co-op students. But suddenly, the constant reinforcement stops. And we might not even know how much we need it until we aren’t receiving it anymore.

No, we're not looking for a shower of praise. Receiving praise and constructive criticism fulfills not only our need for reassurance but also our desire for benevolence.

Here’s what you Negin says can do:

  • Provide more praise on good work and constructive criticism when we veer off track.
  • Tell us how we impact our work’s culture.
  • Show us our Return on Investment (ROI) as employees: did we increase customer retention, improve efficiency, save a deal, spot and fix an error? Tell us!
  • Give out awards (like employee of the month).
  • Tell us how we bring the team together so we know how valuable we are.
  • Share your team’s “wins” with the company (sales teams tend to do this well but not many other teams do!).
  • Have senior leadership reach out and thank employees who make a difference – this is huge!

3) The problem: I don’t like being “boxed into” a role

Negin says: As jobs become more and more specialized, we fail to see the larger impacts of our work. Our boxes become smaller and smaller, but our generation craves impact. We want to give back and feel like we’re part of something bigger than ourselves.

Here’s what Negin says you can do:

  • Explain the customer life cycle to us so we see how our role fits into the larger customer experience.
  • If you sense we aren’t a good fit (or don't enjoy) our current role, offer internal movement or rotational job programs (WAY more companies should do this!).
  • Talk about customer stories. If customers rave about your product and how it makes their lives easier – tell us! It helps us feel some responsibility for the part we played in bringing that benefit.
  • Let us shadow roles in other departments. For example, if we work in marketing, let us shadow a sales call (and vice versa).
  • Give us the skills we need be mobile in your company so that we don’t feel “stuck” in one role forever.

4) The problem: I need to see clear progression paths in the workplace

Negin says: As a student, from elementary to high school to university, there’s always a next step. This is especially true for co-op programs, which create a pattern of four months on, four months off. We know that at the end of four or eight months, a life change is coming.

Doing the same job without a clear progression path is difficult because there’s no end in sight. Even if we enjoy our current role, we want to know what the next step is for us. Some roles have very clear progression options (like sales), but other roles don’t - especially in larger, more established organizations.

Here’s what Negin says you can do:

  • Give us “stretch roles” (ie: work that might be a bit beyond us, new or extra challenging).
  • Let us take on specific project work (so we can see something end-to-end and then move on to another project).
  • Even if the role is inherently not project-oriented, give us a side project and let us take the reins. (This fulfills our desire for self-direction because we guide ourselves and orient the project in a way we enjoy - and this motivates us).
  • Ask us what our professional goals are and help us create roadmaps to get there.
  • Be clear with potential career progression opportunities: if we do exceptionally well in our current role for a few years, what’s next?
  • Be clear with potential pay raises. For some reason, this is kept ‘hush hush’ at some companies. Don’t be one of them! Money does motivate some people (and is seen as a sign of performing well).

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