The current generation of university students rank meaningful work and a healthy work life balance ahead of other considerations such as salary and benefits when it comes to choosing careers.
The Think Future study surveyed 4,750 Irish university students between the ages of 18 and 25 who are part of the so-called Generation Z. Despite feeling well supported by their college during their degree courses, over half (59%) of them do not yet have concrete career plans for post college life.
According to KPMG partner Darina Barrett, this shift towards “profit with a purpose” reflects a changing business world. “There has been a shift in the way many businesses see their roles in the world in the past few years, with companies moving beyond profits and focusing on creating a positive impact”, she notes.
“Generation Z are choosing organisations that share their personal values. Due to the digital age, Generation Z have more technological resources and more exposure to people of diverse backgrounds across all divides making them more aware of the world’s social change issues, therefore corporate citizenship has become important to Generation Z.”
Another key finding was that 92 per cent of respondents want a career that “makes a difference”. This is also important to KPMG, says Barrett. “For us, making a difference is about how well we can reflect our corporate values in our communities. These values are inherent in our employees and we want this to influence how we work with our clients and communities. We have a deep desire to use our skills and solutions to help people outside of our organisation.
“Employers can commit externally to diversity by for example joining the 30% Club, whose aim is to promote better gender balance at all levels within an organisation”, she adds. “Over 150 employers, including KPMG, have already joined the Irish chapter of the 30% club. For example, KPMG partners with Enterprise Ireland in supporting Going For Growth, an award winning initiative that encourages female entrepreneurs and supports them in achieving their business goals. Through peer support, Going For Growth seeks to overcome the challenges experienced by many female owner managers from increasing confidence to supporting them in achieving their growth goals.”
Indeed, gender diversity is increasingly important to students with the Think Future research finding that females are more likely to be attracted to work for employers with clear gender equality policies. “Appealing to the Think Future mind-set is about showing that your organisation is a business with a broader sense of purpose beyond profit and also offers good reward”, says Barrett. “Finding a genuine way to show students your credentials on gender equality and tangible efforts to increase social mobility is real evidence that success is not solely determined by money.”
KPMG director Rio Howley believes that it is now easier for organisations to demonstrate their credentials in this key area. “In many ways it is easier now, than before, to communicate gender equality policies. Using technology, social media, conferences and more, companies can both articulate their policies and have their female employees tell their story. The sharing of experiences can be tangible and real for Generation Z. For example in KPMG, we actively promote gender diversity internally by showcasing role models, providing training and support and encouraging flexible working options.”
Howley is quite sanguine in relation to the finding that three in five students have no concrete career plans. “There is also certainly a confidence to this generation”, she notes. “Many are relaxed about securing that first job and may take their time to decide. Others want to experience travel and put off that decision for a year or two - knowing that they can commence their career when it suits them.”
Darina Barrett believes information, or a lack of it, is also a factor. “A lack of knowledge about the broad range of career opportunities may inhibit students’ ability to make clear choices. Three in four respondents said that career specific talks would help them decide on the best career for them. Within KPMG, we host Ignite workshops which are designed to empower young women at a formative stage of their career development by fostering talent and sharing knowledge with female transition year students. Participants hear from a number of successful female role models, boosting the aspirations of the students taking part. We are a founding partner of IWish (Inspiring Women in STEM), an initiative to encourage female secondary students to pursue careers in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths) where there are traditionally lower levels of female participation.”
When it comes to the overall lessons to be learned from the research Barrett says that employers must adapt to the changing attitudes and values of Generation Z graduates. “Firm reputation is very important as this generation is concerned about more than landing ‘just a job’. They are influenced by equality in the workplace, corporate citizenship in the communities, opportunities to develop and further educate themselves, grow their career while maintaining time for family, friends and social activities.”
She believes that employers must also demonstrate that they offer career progression as well as allowing employees to maintain non-working activities and indeed supporting them in these endeavours. “For example in KPMG, we’re privileged to work with some of Ireland’s most dedicated charities and voluntary bodies, helping make a difference to those who need it most. Supporting these efforts to make a difference are some inspiring figures, ranging from in kind donations of over €880,000 per annum to cash donations of over €290,000 and employee fundraising of over €140,000. This is backed up by the passion and hard work of over 1,100 volunteers annually and almost 10,000 staff hours given by our people and supported by the firm.”
This article was originally published in The Irish Times on 18 January 2017 and is reproduced here with their kind permission.