Millennials now make up the largest generation of the U.S. workforce, but some 60 million members of Generation Z (born between born 1996-2010) are poised to hit the workforce in the coming years, transforming the nature of work forever.
These digital natives, who are already graduating from college, come with much different expectations about work and careers than previous generations — notably a strong desire for flexibility and professional development opportunities and a preference for companies that share their personal values. Organizations must adapt to these evolving demands to recruit and retain the top talent of the future.
We asked Karen Breaux, the Human Resources Director at Postlethwaite & Netterville, the Louisiana-based accounting and consulting firm that employs over 400 people in Louisiana, for some insights into recruiting recent college graduates. Breaux, who has more than 30 years of experience as a human resources professional, says the firm is transforming its approaches to meet the needs of an evolving workforce.
“We’ve changed some things that we used to do that worked for previous generations but now aren’t working as well because the population is changing,” she says. “Recruiting on campuses continues to evolve. We find ourselves having to be open to that change.”
Breaux shared three approaches Postlethwaite & Netterville is taking to connect with and retain the best and brightest of this emerging wave of young talent.
Share Your Culture
Breaux says accounting firms, including the large national firms, have always been actively recruiting on college campuses, and that is not changing with the most recent wave of college students. The firm still makes a concerted effort to have representatives attend all of the standard campus hiring events at universities in the Baton Rouge area and beyond. They have also created specialized recruiting processes for technical positions, designed to connect with students studying those fields at other universities.
It’s the message that had to adapt, Breaux says, because younger candidates are less concerned with basic information like salary and benefits and more interested in understanding how they will personally fit in with the organization. They want to understand what opportunities they will have to grow professionally and how they can connect with their colleagues and the company leadership.
“It’s not just about coming in — clocking in and clocking out — and giving the firm those billable hours,” she says. “It’s more than an occasional happy hour or a bowling event. It’s that you have an interest in me and the things that I care about, which ultimately translates into you caring about my future.”
Enlist Your Workforce
Breaux says P&N has developed what it calls a “campus ambassador” program that enlists a group of employees to engage with college students throughout the year. “We have always relied upon our workforce to help with campus recruiting, but over time, we saw a bit of a decline in interest from our people due to a variety of factors, like client and personal responsibilities,” she says.
The solution, Breaux says, was to create a more stringent application and interview process to find employees who were enthusiastic about campus outreach. The firm then provides the ambassadors specialized training to make their outreach even more effective. The chosen team members attend a series of recruiting events throughout the year, from job fairs to meet-and-greets to other meetings where they can give full-on presentations on behalf the firm. They are able to give a more personalized view of what it’s like to work for the company.
“Who better to tell our firm’s story than the people who work there?” she says. “It’s an opportunity for them to hear from those individuals what our culture is like — not just all the fun things that you get to do, but what kind of relationship you have with your supervisors, what it’s like to have a career with the firm, how long it takes to move from one level to another, what they can expect from a mentoring perspective.”
Invest in Internships
Breaux says P&N recruits heavily in the fall for its spring internships that run through tax and audit season, the busiest time of year for the firm, with some of those interns staying through the summer.
The firm holds intern events every year with fun activities like scavenger hunts, beach volleyball and social events at LSU’s Tiger Stadium to help build a sense of camaraderie among the team. “We think it gives our folks a good opportunity to have some downtime with to their colleagues, the people they are working with and learning from,” she says.
The internships are important, Breaux says, because the firm has put an emphasis on developing talent internally to supplement its experienced hires. “Long ago we took the approach that if we help them grow, we can mold them to meet our needs,” she says. “But we’re not under the impression that everyone who completes an internship with us will stay. We use our internship program as one avenue to help meet our hiring needs. It’s not the be-all, end-all.”
With its oldest members already graduating college and hitting the workforce, Generation Z is coming whether your organization is ready or not — and now is the time to start preparing your strategies to attract this new wave of talent.
Success Labs is a full-service, strategic organizational and leadership development company located in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. For more than 25 years our expert team of consultants has worked with hundreds of companies to explore their business potential and improve their company and cultural performance. Contact us to get proactive about your people strategy.