Generation Z and the job market

Interview with BSB’s Principal in ‘Expat Time’ magazine

News 15 July 2019

BSB Principal, Melanie Warnes, was recently interviewed by ‘Expat Time’, an English-speaking magazine addressing foreign nationals in Belgium. The discussion was about Generation Z and what they expect from the job market as they begin to come of age.

The article aimed to explore what Generation Z, who have grown up in a digitalised world, want from their careers and from future employers.

Melanie stated that engaging with schools is a great way for employers to better understand what Generation Z value in their jobs and employers.

Read Melanie’s extract from the article below:

Melanie Warnes has worked in education for more than 30 years; as the Principal at The British School of Brussels (BSB), she has seen countless Generation Z students pass through the school doors. She says that engaging with schools is a great way for employers to better get a handle on the things Generation Z value in their jobs and employers.

BSB itself has an employer engagement strategy aimed at developing students’ skills for the future and to broaden their horizons in terms of opportunities, as well as to raise issues with students that are likely to affect them at some stage. The school has also organised expert panels about, for instance, how artificial intelligence will influence the job market. Warnes points out that these expert panels also contribute to the school’s mission of developing students as a whole, personally and socially and not just academically.

According to Warnes, there are a number of overall, general traits that distinguish this generation of graduates from their predecessors.

“They’re so much more aware than my generation was of ethical issues,” she says. “They will ask questions about things at a deeper level. If I was giving advice to companies, it would be around how well the companies are communicating their ethical position.”

She points out that students are, for instance, often interested in finding out who owns multinational companies, where investments are made, what the labour chain is, and what their environmental impact is. “They’re very interested in justice and equity,” Warnes says.

She adds that Generation Z workers also are looking for jobs that nourish the soul.

“They’re looking for fulfilment – not necessarily financial. Obviously, that’s important to some, but I think the whole well-being agenda is so much higher profile for this generation than it might have been before,” she says.

Students are much more mobile in both senses of the word, she says.

“Their aspirations are not necessarily in one location or one role – that’s one big shift.” In addition, they also spend much more time on their phones, and consume much more information on those devices than even the generation right before them, millennials.

“If you look at the stats coming out about how many hours per day this generation are on mobile devices and their smartphones, I think that’s still an underused way for employers to communicate with Generation Z graduates”, she says.

Warnes points out that some companies struggle to present themselves in a way that resonates with and appeals to younger people, and instead are sticking with tried-and-trusted recipes that worked with previous generations of applicants. She gives the examples of stories she sometimes hears from students after careers fairs.

“They have a positive engagement with a company representative and they come away quite fired up because they’ve had a really engaging conversation,” she explains.

“And then when they go and look more closely at those companies, they find that how the website is presented doesn’t really match the face-to-face they had with a company representative and they find it hard to see what might be relevant to them. So I think there is something there around the language used,” she says, adding that one way of resolving this mismatch might be to redesign company websites with some end-user feedback from Gen Zs themselves.

Read the full article on expat time’s website

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