Lloyd Humphreys, Principal Product Manager for Data and Analytics, Tradeshift, tells us about the importance of investing in relevant technology to assure your business remains attractive to potential recruits.
Gen Z is different, they say. The newest entrants to the workforce have a strong preference for ‘experiences’ over possessions, possess a burning sense of social justice – and have absolutely no interest sitting in a job that doesn’t equip them with the technology to keep their skills sharp.
Before Covid, these expectations might have led to little more than a wry smile from HR departments. But as the pandemic fades, businesses find themselves facing a ‘Great Resignation’ as workers reappraise what they want from their careers. This is especially strong among younger employees, with multiple researchers finding that anywhere between half and three quarters of Gen Z workers are planning to change jobs next year.
Cue a scramble for top talent, fuelled by offers of better pay, more benefits, and greater flexibility. But are workplace yoga sessions, free fruit and work-from-home really the best way to attract the brightest and best of Gen Z? Could the answer be something more fundamental: the technology employees use to do their jobs?
Gen Z cares about how technology transforms the job spec and opens up new avenues for autonomy, responsibility and job satisfaction.
A survey conducted by Dell before the pandemic found that an astonishing 91% of Gen Z respondents say that the technology offered by an employer would determine their decision when choosing between similar job offers.
It’s not just younger workers, either: research from Hays Recruitment found half of all employees would be attracted to an organization that shows a strong commitment to investing in technologies such as automation.
Employers are beginning to realize this too, with over a third actively touting their investment in Digital Transformation as a way to reel in talent during the interview process.
For an illustration, let’s look at a line of business that’s rarely if ever been at the forefront of technological investment or innovation: accounts payable (AP). This is a department notorious for keeping antiquated technology long after its expiration date, and which in many cases remains reliant on paper-based processes long after the rest of the organization has gone fully digital.
It’s remarkable that in the third decade of this digital century, the proliferation of paper remains one of the biggest challenges facing AP, with Ardent Partners finding that almost a third of professionals cite it as a major concern.
Attracting Gen Z to AP is a tough sell at the best of times. The job is difficult, repetitive and workers can only use mandated tools. There’s little opportunity for innovation or autonomy because the scope of the role is necessarily limited by the systems already in place.
Things are very different when a department embraces modern digital tools that are customizable by design.These enable a business to move to a truly community-based model of employment where anyone can contribute ideas for new applications, workflows and other tools – or even code them themselves.
Instantly, every employee gains a whole new perspective on work: it’s no longer something you do for a paycheck or to satisfy your line manager but becomes an occupation where your contribution – to your colleagues, your department and to the wider business – is limited only by your skill, imagination and ambition.
Many companies like to talk about how they’re changing the world, and Gen Z are savvy at distinguishing between those that mean it and those that don’t. If a business can show they are using technology to reimagine roles and give workers responsibility and agency, it will make younger people sit up and take notice. And it will do wonders for an even bigger bugbear of recruiters: retention.
Multiple studies have highlighted the line between employee dissatisfaction and burnout. If people lack the tools to do their job efficiently or spend most of their time processing manual inputs like a stoker shovelling coal into a boiler, they won’t get the notice or praise that makes such a difference to morale. Instead, they end up feeling like robots whose job is simply to keep the wheels turning.
Compare that to workers who are allowed – or better, encouraged – to write a bit of code or suggest an improvement to operations, and then see it adopted by their department. There’s no feeling more satisfying or re-energizing.
In the post-pandemic landscape, Digital Transformation has become an imperative as businesses look for new strategies, operating models and innovations to take them forward.
If a business doesn’t think Gen Z has a contribution to make towards that mission, they’re not going to have much luck enticing them to join. So consider what your next job posting will look like: will it simply contain a list of responsibilities and requirements, or will it be a call for new recruits to take a central role in shaping the future of your company?
With the right technology, you can ensure your business is the most attractive to any candidate – today and for many generations to come.
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