Future-ready workforce series: Recruiting the next generation of talent

Wednesday, February 3, 2021 12:00 pm - 1:00 pm EST (GMT -05:00)
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The COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted workplace culture, accelerating the need for strategic initiatives focused on managing young talent. Key HR concerns like recruitment and talent retention have been altered dramatically. To keep up, hiring programs and HR strategies must be agile to best position your organization ahead of uncertainty.

This presentation was the first event in a new multi-part Future-Ready Workforce Series from the Work-Learn Institute, designed to share how employers are attracting and recruiting young talent in today’s challenging market. With access leading research insights and perspectives from University of Waterloo experts, as well as student and employer guest speakers, this session shared what is changing in the world of work. It also highlighted how organizations can recruit for an equitable and diverse workplace, attract the right candidates and strengthen remote recruitment strategies for continued growth and success.

Recruiting an equitable and diverse workforce

Our workforce is becoming more global and diverse, presenting new opportunities in the workforce. Young talent and immigrants will soon make up a large part of the labour market demographic, technological advancements and artificial intelligence will create new jobs and remote work will become more common.  

In order to adapt, organizations must think about how to establish a more diverse, inclusive and equitable talent pipeline. They can do this by unlocking untapped talent pools through blind recruitment, unconscious bias training, and looking beyond Canadian experience requirements for credentials and experience.

Organizations can learn to better navigate cultural differences and foster equity, diversity and inclusion in the workplace to become appropriate allies and advocates.

Assess the barriers that might be stopping your organization from initiating change and consider the long-term benefits of equity and diversity in your workplace, such as a strengthened ability to anticipate change, be innovative and meet or exceed financial targets.

You need to invest in your employees. The economic and financial benefit, including the normative benefit, is really positive...and I think there's a way to unlock that for businesses if they are really determined.


Learn more about Dr. Bessma Momanis' research

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Attracting the right candidates

Job opportunities that highlight how candidates can learn, make an impact and link academics to work have been found to enhance job attractiveness for Gen Z talent. By adding these signals to job descriptions, co-op students and other young candidates are able to reframe how they see themselves in the role – without requiring organizations to rebrand or change their own values or offerings.

Want to increase the number of applications you receive on your job posting? Along with articulating the type of tasks required for your open role, try reframing your job descriptions and interviews to reflect some of these key themes:

  • Company culture
  • Programming language (if applicable)
  • Food and games
  • Employer values
  • Compensation
  • Opportunities for career development

By focusing on sharing your strengths and the tangible and intangible benefits you can provide, your potential candidates can get a better sense of the unique and positive experiences your organization might have to offer.

The subject matter of the work really matters to me, including the roles and responsibilities that I’ll be able to take on. If the work is clearly highlighted and I know exactly what I’m going to be doing… it’s so important. You can realistically work anywhere and have a good time, but at the end of the day, co-op for me is about what I’m actually going to be taking on.

Matthew Olsen, fourth year Arts and Business co-op student,
University of Waterloo

Matthew Olsen

Matthew Olsen, ARBUS student

Strengthening your remote recruitment strategies

Over the past year, many organizations have shifted their operations to safely enable staff to work remotely. This shift has not only challenged the way many of us do business but has also forced us to look more closely at the ways in which we recruit skilled candidates.

For the first time, many organizations are looking for ways to proactively collaborate to build their talent pipelines from remote locations, placing a heightened importance on technology to find creative solutions to complex recruitment problems.

Now, more than ever, its also important to recruit candidates with the skillsets required for a remote work environment including communication, initiative, self-direction, time management, adaptability and familiarity with teleconference software.

Fortunately, a remote workforce creates new recruitment opportunities. Talent pools are no longer limited by location, meaning recruiters have access to talented candidates on a global scale – including different time zones, countries, or rural or low-income areas. And with workplace accessibility challenges eliminated, recruiters may now have skilled candidates who might have previously faced challenges commuting to work or accessing facilities – including persons with disabilities and neurodiverse individuals who may not thrive in a traditional work environment. In addition, remote work might see more caregivers and retirees are applying for jobs they wouldn’t have otherwise considered due to personal commitments or availability.

One of the things that we try to do is look across all of the data we are getting about our candidates. Did they reach out to us individually? Did they write a cover letter? What did their resume look like? How was the first conversation that we had with them? How did they do during the programming test? Our questions are a mix of evaluating them for their job skills and ensuring they going to fit into our organization… and we’ve had good success recruiting remotely by doing all of those things and building up that experience.

Jeff Wentworth, Co-founder, Curvegrid

Learn more about why Jeff Wentworth, co-founder of Curvegrid, hires Waterloo co-op students internationally

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Improving how you recruit the next generation of talent

We’ve reviewed how recruitment is changing in our increasingly complex world of work – and highlighted the ways it might impact how your organization manages and develops young talent.

Luckily, there are some tips to help you rethink your recruitment strategies to strengthen your talent pipeline:

  1. Explore how to build a more diverse and inclusive workplace by creating a diversity promise… and delivering. Consider how diversity and inclusion training can help you uncover unconscious bias, look beyond Canadian experience requirements and reinvest in workplace-directed language training.
  2. Be open about your culture, values and work during recruitment. Review your job postings for language that appeals to next gen talent and use interviews to reinforce your culture, values and the meaningful ways in which students can make an impact.
  3. Reimagine your ideal candidate – including what they might need to succeed remotely. During recruitment, look for skillsets that support a remote work environment, such as adaptability, resilience and technological agility (e.g. ability to use video and teleconferencing software). Expand your candidate search to access untapped talent pools that would have otherwise been limited by location, time or accessibility.

Discovering new ways to recruit top talent can create opportunities for you to be better prepared for a complex future workforce. Future-proof your organization by attending the rest of the future-ready workforce series for more exclusive insights designed to help strengthen your talent pipeline.