3 Things to Consider When Supporting the Next Generation in the Future of Work

There is much talk around the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR) and the future of work. There are advances in technology that allow us to change the way we approach work – people are now working more flexibly, working from home or remotely. However, 4IR brings with it new technologies (artificial intelligence, machine learning, the internet of things, robotics, etc.) and with this comes the potential to create jobs that we haven’t even thought of yet. So, changes to the way we work will happen, if they aren’t already taking place, and it is wise to start thinking about this now. What does this mean for businesses, and what does this really mean for the younger generation who will shortly be entering the workforce? How can you support the next generation of workers in their transition into the future workplace? 

The Careers and Employability Service at the University of Nottingham have been actively researching and improving our knowledge on 4IR and how it might affect future jobs, so that we are able to share this with our students here at Nottingham. From undertaking and sharing our own research into emerging technologies, to hosting a half-day conference for students on the types of roles already available, we are incorporating our knowledge of future work and skills into careers education for our students. More broadly, we are looking at our curriculum to ensure that we identify and articulate the professional competencies that students develop through degree-level study, which will prepare them for the future of work. As my role predominantly involves working with students to support them in finding work opportunities, preparing applications and transitioning into the world of work, here are three things that I feel it is important to be aware of when recruiting and developing the next generation.  

Mind the (Generation) Gap 

We have a new generation coming through the system that has the potential to change the way that the world of work operates. The World Economic Forum report around the future of jobs states that 65% of children entering primary school today will ultimately end up working in jobs that don’t yet exist. Also, this new generation of workers will be the first to grow up entirely in the technological era. They are used to technology advancing at a rapid pace – compared to the much slower pace a decade ago. It was interesting to come across this article and video by Deloitte that shows the similarities and differences between millennials’ and Generation Z’s opinions about the workplace. Loyalty to their place of work is less important to the new generation, with 61% of Generation Z compared with 43% of millennials expecting to leave their workplace within two years. Flexibility and diversity are more important for the new generation, with both generations looking to their employers to help them develop their so-called “soft skills” (which tend to be more important than the term suggests).  

Many schools and universities already incorporate soft skills into their learning to help students develop a broad skillset, but once they complete their structured education, students are looking to their employers to help them continue their learning. Thinking about your current professional development opportunities and whether they include the development of soft skills (particularly those mentioned earlier in the World Economic Forum report) would be a great place to start in ensuring that your workplace is supportive of the next generation.   

Mind the (Skills) Gap  

In 2016, the World Economic Forum identified the 10 skills that you will need to thrive in the Fourth Industrial Revolution. Many of the skills exist in the same list from 2015; however, the priority order of the skills has changed, and there are some new ones that suggest much more emphasis on soft skills and entrepreneurial/creative thinking. As new technologies disrupt the way we work, humans will have to be more adaptive to the way that technology changes our lives – in some places, this will happen sooner rather than later. 

We recently held the Science and Technology Careers Fair at the University of Nottingham, and we asked our exhibitors which technologies are going to have the biggest impact on their sector in the next five years. Many of their answers included the need for applicants to have coding skills and machine learning, while AI was also something that featured highly on their lists. However, one thing that stood out to me from these conversations was a company that stated the need to attract, retain and train staff by ensuring that their HR and staff review systems offered instant feedback on training needs and development. With technology and roles changing rapidly, it seems increasingly more sensible that conversations about staff development requirements happen more frequently than once a year. By encouraging staff to take stock of their current skills and abilities, it becomes easier to work out where the skills gaps are. If your business is moving rapidly with new technologies, consider whether you will need to provide training to help your staff move with the changes (e.g. coding courses, self-awareness, etc.) 

Recruiting for success  

Traditional recruitment methods such as CVs, application forms and interviews are the recruitment tools that we are most familiar with during job searches. They are a useful way of measuring the amount of experience a candidate has in a particular area. They can also demonstrate how a candidate has the transferrable skills to successfully deliver in their role; however, these methods do not often provide the opportunities for candidates to demonstrate their skills. Interviews rely on the candidate providing examples from past experience, but they do not always provide the recruiter with a clear idea about how the candidate reacts to workplace scenarios. If we are looking for candidates who can demonstrate the future skills that are mentioned in the World Economic Forum Report, are these recruitment tools the best way of demonstrating emotional intelligence, creativity and entrepreneurial thinking?   

As a careers professional, I am increasingly aware that the processes that some graduate recruiters are using are changing. Gamification of the process is starting to become more common to assess a candidate’s situational judgement, level of risk, etc. Hackathons are becoming more common as a way to measure a candidate’s team working, creativity and entrepreneurial thinking skills. Moving away from traditional methods to a recruitment process that enables the next generation to demonstrate their suitability for your roles could open up a new pool of talent for your business. 

Of course, these are only a few of the ideas that we have been exploring at the University of Nottingham. The long-term impact of 4IR is still uncertain; however, keeping the changes in technology and generations in mind when planning for the future would be a sensible way forward.  If anything in this post is of interest, or you would like to discuss further, please do get in touch.


Kathryn Moss - https://www.nottingham.ac.uk/careers/

Kathryn is currently employed as an Employability Officer at the University of Nottingham with a particular focus on supporting students from the faculties of Science and Social Science. Mainly involved in organising careers events to help students to find and apply for work experience and graduate roles and supporting through one-to-one appointments.

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