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Finding the right recruitment formula to attract Generation Z

HR survey finds companies across Europe are aware they'll have to move beyond traditional hiring methods

“They call Generation Z the “truth generation”.’

“They call Generation Z the “truth generation”.’


The Great Place to Work Institute carried out a study into hiring practices in more than 900 organisations in 13 European countries. The results revealed that more than 80 per cent of structured recruitment processes were based on classical methods, with fewer than 10 per cent adopting advanced analytical measures as part of their hiring steps.

While there was widespread appreciation for how technology can be applied to recruitment, it seems that traditional methods are still preferred by organisations across Europe. However, as Generation Z makes up more and more of the workforce, there was an expectation among respondents that they will be applying methods more suited to these candidates with much greater frequency in future.

Looking at recruitment tools used, the survey found that 41 per cent of HR professionals are already working on managing candidate experience. Employer branding is increasingly becoming an important part of organisations’ strategies to attract talent and reduce employee turnover. Some 45 per cent of HR professionals said they are already marketing their companies to desired job seekers while another 40 per cent reported that developing an employer brand is planned for the next two years.

Applicant tracking tools seem to be gaining in popularity with 40 per cent of respondents using some of these software solutions and another 38 per cent planning to invest in them in the short term.

Social media is used not only for recruitment but also for building and augmenting the organisational brand. Just under 60 per cent of HR professionals expressed trust in social media as a recruitment tool.

In terms of satisfaction with the recruitment process, just 53 per cent said they found a “time to hire” of one to two months acceptable, while 63 per cent were satisfied with a fill rate of 90 per cent.

According to Na Fu, associate professor in human resource management at Trinity Business School, these high level statistics tell only part of the story and further analysis is required to uncover their full value. “HR professionals talk about their satisfaction with various aspects of the hiring process,” she says. “I ran predictive analytics on these survey results to look at what makes for more efficient and effective hiring practices.”

Analytics are becoming more and more popular, she adds. “There are different levels of analytics. The basic level is descriptive which tells you the findings. The next level up is predictive analytics where we look at those findings to see what more they can tell us. We looked at the indicators, technologies, channels, and other methods such as social media and so on and asked what are the key factors that could impact hiring effectiveness. We looked at which factors are really important for efficient and effective hiring.”

Her analysis found a number of factors were positively related to satisfaction with recruitment effectiveness in terms of time taken, cost and filling rate. These factors included having a dedicated employer branding strategy in place, succession planning for key roles, the existence of centralised assessment centre for recruitment, and internal hiring policies.

Negative factors

Interestingly, the use of external recruitment agencies, consultancies and executive search companies emerged as a negative factor which impaired recruitment effectiveness.

Other negative factors were the use of contact finders to identify candidates’ email addresses online, having a centralised talent acquisition centre of excellence that recruits for multi-sites or multi-geographies, and having a vacancies page on the company website but nowhere else.

“In terms of objective data on time-to-hire, word of mouth reduces it and a centralised talent acquisition centre of excellence increases it,” Fu adds. “Putting talent acquisition all in one place is really negative for hiring. If you have one assessment centre that can be positive. If you only have one website and don’t use any other medium, that is negative. The biggest organisations combine the web with other tools and channels to advertise jobs. Organisations use so many traditional and digital tools in hiring but don’t know what is positive or negative. This is something to think about. Each organisation should run predictive analytics based on its own context. The results from these 900 organisations will provide food for thought. They should use more tools and ways to hire and they have to think about what is effective or not.”

Patrick Flood, professor of organisational behaviour at DCU Business School, makes the point that organisations should look at how traditional hiring methods can be improved, noting that the validity of traditional interviews is just 20 per cent.

“It gets it wrong 80 per cent of the time,” he says. “If you use case studies the validity increases to up to 80 per cent. The Irish civil service has historically used this tool where candidates are given a case study and then make a presentation on their analysis. This gives a sense of how they deal with complexity, the fit of the candidate to the workplace, how open, responsive they are and how they tolerate or accept ambiguity. It also demonstrates their ability to defend their position in a cogent way. It increases accuracy of the process enormously.”

He also cautions organisations against being too quick to embrace new technologies.

“You need to be very careful in the use of artificial intelligence (AI),” Flood advises. “It needs to be overseen by people with experience and the capacity to decide who is likely to be a good candidate. Methods such as competency-based interviews are best when it comes to selecting best candidates. AI also risks damaging the candidate experience.”

That said, the emergence of technology and its influence, and the dependence Generation Z and future generations will continue to place on it, means that a more blended and integrated approach to recruitment will need to be implemented.

Organisations will also have to pay particular attention to how they recruit and retain members of Generation Z and their predecessors from Generation Y. “Reports from McKinsey and Deloitte talk about Generation Z becoming 20 per cent of the workforce after 2020,” says Fu. “Organisations are going to be at their most diverse ever in terms of age. They will have all generations from Baby Boomers to Generation Z.”

The youngest of these presents particular challenges, she adds. “They call Generation Z the ‘truth generation’. They do not just accept what they are told, they ask why? Communication has to be clear and provide explanations for the policies of the organisation. They care about values and are passionate about issues like sustainability and the planet. They want their employers to share their values. They also want to keep learning, and organisations need to provide them support and development opportunities and a place where they can continue to learn. The boundaries between learning and work are not that clear anymore. People want to learn from their peers and their line managers.”

However, Flood points out that younger generations may not necessarily be all that different to their forerunners.

“We did some research work on Generation Y in the Irish drinks industry recently. Millennials in that context are not so different in terms of expectation – they want a good salary and a good benefits package, interesting work, and opportunities to grow. But they are also interested in engaging with managers to talk about work, the way it is done and organised. This is very positive. It allows organisations to hear the voice of their employees before they decide to move on elsewhere and before a turnover situation develops. But they will move on if the job gets uninteresting.”