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Graduate Recruitment: Focus on Behaviour Not Skills for ‘Generation Z’


Graduate Recruitment: Focus on Behaviour Not Skills for ‘Generation Z’

by Craig Preston

Managing Director, IDG

Below is a reprint of an article our Managing Director, Craig Preston, was asked to write for the Association of Graduate Recruiters (AGR) magazine. You can find the original article here

A HR Director of a financial services organisation once told me that she hired people because of their technical skills and experience and then fired them because their leadership and team behaviours were poor. Time and again we see a focus on the development of technical skills but a lack of attention being given to high performance behaviour. Elite performance requires a combination of the two.

This month, organisations up and down the country have begun taking advantage of the new Apprenticeship Levy. Apprenticeships will be offered for a variety of trades and skills, primarily targeted at young, inexperienced joiners to the workforce. They will mainly be Generation Z, born after 1996.

Very different to the generation before, the Millennials, Generation Z were brought up during and after the recession, and are generally technically competent, diverse and well educated.

This is the generation that doesn’t know life before mobile phones and tablets. They are usually more focused, values based and willing to work hard. They are experts at building their personal brand through social media, but they are far less competent than ever before at doing the same through face-to-face relationships and by working on their behaviour.

Evidence shows that it is attitude and behaviour that ensures the success of a new member of a team, whatever their age or level of experience.

At IDG, we often conduct a simple exercise on programmes where we ask participants to think of the best and worst people they have ever worked for and to also consider who were the best and worst team members they have come across. Typical examples highlight issues around trust, empowerment, honesty and respect. Often the best leaders are reported to have, “Always had time for me”, “trusted me”, “honest and fair”, “led by example”. Great team members were said to be: “reliable”, “willing to share their knowledge and help others”, “challenge effectively”. In contrast, the worst were guilty of: “bullying”, “unreliability”, “taking credit for other’s work” and “being negative”.

This is just a sample of the factors identified but the crucial point from the exercise is that the differentiator between good and bad, without exception, is the way people behave. So, Generation Z have a bigger mountain to climb than ever before if they are to be successful at navigating their careers in organisations who don’t communicate in the same way as they do.

We run a programme for young joiners to a large technology company who specifically ask for us to make it low tech and focus on behaviour. They are more than capable technically. When the apprentices of the future are being developed, programme content and focus should also include leadership behaviour.

Too often new staff fail due to an inability to quickly become effective followers and team members. Unable to network, manage their reputation, collaborate, communicate, support and trust. It’s crucial to include the soft skills when putting apprentice development programmes together at any level.

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