Future Strong Episode 27 – Highlights from 2021 and recommendations for 2022

This episode of Future Strong saw hosts Nicky Garcea, Co-Founder and Chief Customer Officer at Cappfinity and Lindsey Pollak, New York Times Bestselling Author, Multigenerational Workplace Keynote Speaker and Cappfinity Brand Ambassador come together to look back at some of the highlights from the 2021 series, as well as providing their predictions for early careers recruiting in 2022.

What have we achieved?

Future Strong started out with the aim of sharing insight and best practice on all things Generation Z and the workplace of the future.  Through these discussions we’ve delved deeper into issues surrounding Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI), mental health, belonging and creating the right cultural change to attract and retain a diverse range of talent, but what are the specific key takeaways from 2021?

  1. The importance of over communication

Whether you’re a recruiter, a team leader or even a DEI professional, the time has come to be very vocal about who you and your company are.  Early career professionals want to work for companies that are explicit about their culture, what they stand for and the expectations they have for graduate talent.  As employees, they want company policies to be clear and for any changes to be communicated quickly.

  1. Engage with diverse talent as early as possible

All our guests were clear about what their organization is doing to increase diverse talent pipelines, and most have been working with graduate recruiters at colleges and universities.  However, Future Strong guest, Ray Reyes, Managing Director of Programs at The Opportunity Network took this to a new level, by explaining how his organization was working with students aged 14 and upwards to encourage discussions around diversity from an early age.

Companies with successful Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU) Strategies have built thoughtful relationships over many years.  In 2021, those in DEI and early career roles seeking to improve diverse representation in their companies, really had a seat at the table to build on the foundations they had created through their HBCU engagement strategies.

  1. Respond to the cultural change required to recruit and retain talent

It’s not enough to get diverse talent in the door, because everyone must be aware of the cultural change needed to engage and keep that talent happy in their career and the workplace.

Think holistically about the resources that a first-generation graduate might need.  If they’re working from home, do they have an internet connection or a quiet place to work?  Think too about the culture and representation of your current workforce, how will you ensure that diverse talent feels welcome and supported?  It could be as simple as having a mentor to speak up for them or promoting new sponsorship opportunities.  You must be ready to create an entire community of support.

  1. Come together in support of a shared initiative

Almost every guest could be referenced here, but we’d like to specifically consider Bob Atwal and the 1 Hour Project.  Nicky had the opportunity to mentor someone from a socially disadvantaged background this year and, is often the case, found she learnt more from them than they probably did from her.  There is, however, huge value for new talent to be able to connect with industry and have someone vouch for them to help with progression.

If we work together, rather than fighting for talent, support all organizations in developing new talent, create greater opportunity and share best practice and learning, then we will encourage all boats to rise.

What are our recommendations for 2022?

  1. Make mental health everyone’s job

The state of mental health is a global issue, but it’s especially important for companies with remote and hybrid workers.  Erica Keswin, Workplace Strategist and Author of the Rituals Roadmap, suggested that to ensure everyone is being looked out for, we should ask ‘how are you really?’   And make this a ritual or practice.

Leaders need to feel comfortable to talk about their own mental health and wellbeing.  It’s one thing to say as a company ‘we care about our employee’s mental health’ but it’s much more impactful to see this in practice and being spoken about by leaders.  If you tell people you care about wellbeing, but you’re burning out and not taking care of yourself, that’s going to send the wrong message.

Greater transparency on this is incredibly important and will help reduce anxiety for employees who want to seek support.

  1. Make processes as experiential as possible

Think about the small things that make work experiential and look for ways to bring these into your recruitment and assessment processes.

Jada Green, Candidate Experience Lead at Accenture shared how she used her phone to film and create a Rough Guide on what it’s like to work close to the Accenture office in Charlotte.  This was a small thing to do, at a time when candidates had to work from home, so missed out on the office experience.  This isn’t a high-cost thing to do, yet it really adds to the overall experience of early career professionals.

From an assessment perspective we’ve seen a much greater desire from candidates and recruiters to use experiential assessment in everything that they do.  Candidates want an authentic experience, and they want to feel close to the company’s culture.  This helps differentiate between organizations when they can’t physically walk in the door and don’t get to meet at a careers fair.

  1. Talk about career planning as life planning

Help students to think about the life ahead of them holistically, not just what they want their career to look like.  A student may want career advice, to take a gap year and plan a work placement at the same time.  So why not put all these offices together to make things easier for students.  This plays into the experiential learning we spoke about earlier.

First-gen students need even more holistic, life planning services as they look to navigate life away from university or college and plan their next move, often without the guidance of an industry mentor or guide.

Generation Z are an empowered group of candidates, and they are asking questions of all of us about what we’re doing to make workplaces more attractive and inclusive.

We are shaping what we want the future of work to look like for Generation Z. We care about this generation and what their input will mean for the future of us all.  We need to use this moment to take the best of what we’ve done in the past and bring in some of the new ideas that we’ve been able to pilot or experiment with during these unprecedented times.