Corporate employers must change tack to succeed in the battle for generation Y and Z talent

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Generations Y and Z are not the like the generations that proceeded them in terms of how they think about work – this means that most corporate employers need to rethink how they recruit and retain people if they are to secure the best talent. These digitally connected generations are turning the world of work upside down.

Most South African employers are still following the same handbook as they did for recruiting baby boomers and generation-Xes. But growing up in a time of massive social and technological change means that millennials (generation Y) and centennials (generation Z) think about how they work and what they want from a work experience very differently.

Unlike previous generations, centennials (born from 1997 onwards) and younger millennials define success in the workplace differently to older generations. Rather than wanting to work hard, they also want to work smart so that they can achieve an optimal work-balance. And where generation X focused heavily on status, advancement and money, the newer entrants to the workforce are more passionate about the intangible emotional benefits of the workplace, including security, purpose and fulfillment. It also matters to them to feel that their employer aligns with their social beliefs and ethics.

This means that culture has become a vital part of what attracts the best young talent to an organisation. Organisations cannot simply say that they put people first or that they are good social citizens to attract high-calibre people—they actually need to live it in how they do business. As a company born in the idealistic early years of South African democracy, The Unlimited has millennial DNA and realised from the outset that the world of business and work were changing. There has always been the belief that the industrial paradigm is given way to new thinking and new ways of doing things. 

Young, technology-empowered people are looking for companies that are committed to more inclusive and sustainable ways of operating. They want to form part of organisations that have a purpose they can believe in and a culture that values them and enables them to be at their personal and professional best.  Companies need to stay true to its culture and values, with a focus on employees’ advancement, ownership and well-being. Like the millennials and centennials, we believe that work-; life balance is essential.

Asking people to sacrifice their health and family life for their careers is not only inhumane, but bad business. People with healthy work-life balance are more motivated productive and resilient They are also more like to stay with their employer. Corporate wellness and the satisfaction of its workforce need to be taken seriously. For e.g. there has to be staff gyms at key locations, with fitness classes, personal training and fun runs on offer. All employees should be asked to take on a physical annual challenge like an ultra-walk or a marathon to stretch themselves.

Ideally, employees must get a one and a half hour break over lunch to exercise, train for their personal goal, and eat a healthy meal. This ensures that there is no afternoon slump – each person returns to their desk fresh and energised for the rest of the workday. Companies need to offer people without tertiary qualifications entry into the world of work and provides them with opportunities for advancement. In most industries, it takes years to prove yourself. In doing so, staff are empowered to grow and learn in a highly stimulating and dynamic environment. Healthy balance is part of our culture. There is a need to not only only stretch people professionals, but also help them to be their best in every sphere of life.


Andrew Wood is the CEO at The Unlimited. He’s determination and passion for the growth of the Business, as well as seeing his people grow as Leaders with the Business has allowed him to thrive in this fast paced and challenging work environment.