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Young graduates surveyed

19 March 2009

Young members of staff want ethical employers and training, and will work for less pay if treated well. South African graduates are less fussy than their global peers, however. This is according to research due to be published by PricewaterhouseCoopers later this year.
While 61% of employers worldwide say they have challenges recruiting and keeping young employees, new research shows that the young - far from being the self-centred job-hoppers employers depict them as - are idealists who want ethical employers.

In a key finding in a world in which economies are collapsing under the weight of the corrupt, 88% of young staff say they want employers with corporate social responsibility (CSR) values that reflect their own. Additionally, 86% would consider leaving an employer whose CSR values no longer reflected theirs. Argentina (94%), the US and Brazil (both 92%) have the most idealistic graduates (SA 86%). An employer's policy on climate change is seen as important or very important by most graduates globally (58%) but only 46% of SA graduates believe this to be important.

The Millennials

Training and development is the most highly valued benefit for "Millennials" (as these young graduates are called) in the first five years of their career - with one-third of respondents electing this as their first-choice benefit (aside from salary). This is three times higher than those who chose cash bonuses. In South Africa, the respondents' first choice was flexible working hours, with training and development second and financial assistance with housing third. The study found that 98% of respondents stated that working with strong coaches and mentors is important to personal development.

The “Millennials at Work” research to be published by PricewaterhouseCooperslater this year is based on survey responses from over 4200 graduates in 44 countries.

"It is critical research," says Liza van Wyk of major Johannesburg-based management training organisation AstroTech. "We can see among those we train, that the young and the talented are perhaps the most idealistic employees the world has seen since the anti-establishment youth of the 1960s and 1970s. While today's young people are more likely to dress smartly and aspire to a good car than the hippie generation, they are engaged with the world and are very concerned by a wide spectrum of issues.

"But, while many companies pay scant attention to training, or are cutting training budgets in this economic climate, it is actually the key to keeping talented staff, it is an inexpensive investment with long-term positive profit implications."

Van Wyk said: "We run a career and self-development in-house course and find that people are motivated to do the very best they can for themselves.

High psychological motivators

Survey results and employee-retention statistics are increasingly showing that psychological motivators are ranked higher by people than financial rewards.

"Motivators which often get ranked before pay are: challenging work; a pleasant working environment; respect from management and colleagues; ability to spend sufficient time with family; training and development opportunities; flexible working conditions; a leader one can look up to and have a good relationship with. And 'values; is a word that increasingly crops up."

The PWC findings show that while global opportunities and robust corporate responsibility are critical to the “Millennials”, they expect to be predominantly office-based, work regular office hours and have a small number of future employers. "This is not much different to what their parents, grandparents and even great-grandparents wanted," Van Wyk said.

What is different is a deeper desire for corporate ethics and values-driven societies, and a belief that talented staff will - at some stage of their career - work in a foreign country.

In the PWC survey, Indian graduates showed the greatest appetite for working overseas (93%) compared with 62% of those from the Netherlands. Some 80% of all respondents want to work internationally. In South Africa, 93% believed they would work across geographic borders with Western Europe and the USA being the preferred destinations, and while only 38% cited English as their first language, 83% expect to use English at work.

Technology is key

Three-quarters of all respondents (SA 73%) believe they will have between two and five employers in their lifetime. Millennials view technology as key to socialising and networking, with 85% as members of a social-networking site, such as Facebook (SA 61%). Of the SA respondents, 100% have a mobile phone, 52% have an iPod/MP3 player, but only 12% have a hand-held computer (eg Blackberry).

Van Wyk said: "If organisations invest in employees they will quickly see who is an asset and who is a liability. An asset to the company will stand out according to his or her performance and application of the knowledge, skills, behaviour and attributes of what he or she has learned. An asset to the company is an individual who is a lifelong learner and who will take accountability for their own development. Our career and self-development course also helps organisations ensure they have the right person in the correct job, often under-performance is a factor of inappropriate advancement. The right skills training and career evaluation can prevent costly errors."

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