Engage young talent in a remote workforce

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You’ve gone through the process of writing a job description, sorting through resumes, interviewing candidates and hiring someone with great potential. Now what? How do you keep Gen Z engaged in this new remote world that COVID-19 has presented?

Engaging the next generation of talent is more than creating informal and social connections at work. You need to develop strategies to offer meaningful work as well as opportunities for continued learning and development. In the second event of our Future-Ready Workforce Series, we spoke with Chaitanya Bhatt, Director of Innovation at Loblaw. Bhatt discussed three key themes related to engagement and how employers can implement these in their organizations:

1. Onboarding young talent in a remote workforce

One of the first ways to engage with your newly hired talent is through your company’s onboarding process. Most companies, regardless of size, provide a personalized welcome message and 1:1 time with the manager. “[We] focus on the relationship that we want to build, or that you individually want to build, with the particular co-op student, and how we can help them develop [and be] productive in our teams,” said Bhatt. 

To determine the success of a student’s experience, consider both their performance while on the job as well as if the student would be a good fit for the company in a future role. Recent research from the Work-Learn Institute, not yet published, has shown a significant relationship between remote onboarding of students, their performance and their commitment to the organization. The time that an organization invests in remote onboarding pays off in terms of student performance and commitment.

2. Maximizing engagement through meaningful work

During awork term, there is a potential for tension between the goals of employers and students. Students want to contribute to the organization, but they also want to learn new things. Employers may have new students coming in every four months and if the work they receive is not straightforward, organizations need to spend more time and resources training and supporting each new student.

One simple way to resolve the potential tension between the goals of the employer and the goals of the students is to vary the complexity and criticality of the tasks.

At Loblaw, they consider three things when providing work to their Gen Z talent:

i) How the work fits into the larger picture of the organization. This includes outlining how the work the student is doing helps to drive the mission and vision of the company forward.

ii) How to help students find value in the work they do. The work provided should help students gain transferable skills that they can use to grow professionally.

iii) How some tasks, while menial, are vital to the organization. It is okay to acknowledge that some tasks will be considered “grunt work” but there will be other tasks that will be more meaningful to the student and the organization.

3. Tapping into Gen Z’s capacity for innovation

Studies show that Gen Z talent shares similar neurological traits to successful entrepreneurs and innovators. These traits include the ability to be creative, observant, curious and experimental. WxL research has shown that some of these traits, which are part of a "lifelong learning mindset", are associated with greater career success.

“The new generation of talent can really change the trajectory of a lot of businesses,” said Bhatt. “And there’s an unparalleled capacity for them, as digital natives, to innovate. Significant impact can be made if we channel their creativity, resilience and open-mindedness.”

Rather than seeing Gen Z as young people transitioning to adulthood, consider viewing this age group as an untapped source of social and economic potential. Design your roles to tap into the entrepreneurial and innovative skills that young talent can provide and they will be more likely to bring world-changing ideas to your organization.

You can be better prepared to navigate a complex world of work by rethinking strategies for onboarding and role design, unlocking the potential for innovation, and improving employee performance, satisfaction and commitment. Interested in learning more? Get further insights by watching a recording of the event.