Gen Z – don’t be afraid of hiring the “digital generation”

Openness and agility are the watchwords when it comes to handling the digital nomads of Generation Z, according to a roundtable of leading cross-industry voices.

Organised by East Midlands-based not-for-profit The Mighty Creatives at the headquarters of full service marketing agency Cartwright Communications, the discussion pulled together a dozen experts from a wide range of industries to discuss perceptions of Generation Z and the role of creativity as a wider skill rather than as a specific industry.

Central to the discussion was the idea of how modern businesses need to adapt the way they approach the recruitment and retention of those in the Generation Z age bracket – typically those born between 1995 and 2010.

Dr Nick Owen MBE, who is the chief executive of the charity, framed the discussion with a quote about young people from Greek philosopher Socrates, which criticised the youth of his generation as being disrespectful, rude and lacking work ethic – tropes that often are used to criticise Generation Z today.

That theme of addressing some of the biases and pre-conceived ideas of what Gen Z can offer as employees was a constant discussion point throughout the roundtable, with Morgan Sindall’s Generation Z lead Karina Connolly sharing some of her insights from an extensive piece of research undertaken by the construction contractor alongside Gleeds and Henry Boot Developments.

“One of the first things we found was that the entire way we were marketing our business and the construction industry as a whole was just wrong for Generation Z – we were using the wrong tools to reach them and not speaking their language,” said Connolly.

“From our research, the key difference between Generation Z and previous generations has been how the alignment of values between the individual and the business is so important. Other generations have traditionally been happy with just a good, stable job, with the values of the business being secondary. That simply isn’t the case anymore, and employers need to be open and adapt to that.

“It’s about being open to those with non-traditional entry routes as well. Our industry has an image problem and is often perceived as dirty and poorly paid, so youngsters are naturally being encouraged to train elsewhere. For us, it’s about being able to see how we can harness Generation Z’s skills and help them retrain where needed.”

As well as voices from the private sector, the roundtable also heard insights from Alison Rashley, creative director of Nottingham-based TV Workshop – a drama group which is responsible for setting the likes of Vikky McClure, Bella Ramsey and Samantha Morton on their career paths.

She discussed the diverse career paths taken by former students, and how the creative skills that they learned at TV Workshop have helped with their soft skills.

“As proud as we are of those who have gone on to make a name for themselves on stage and screen, there’s only around five per cent of our students that go into acting careers,” said Rashley, “Our teaching isn’t about making people into stars – it’s about communication , about when to speak and when to listen, and softer skills.

“What’s important is ensuring that we listen and learn from Gen Z – they have a voice, and their lives are so different to our generation so we have to learn from what they have to say about now. They have a very different attention span, but it’s not their fault – they are used to having everything to hand.

“Let’s not knock them for that – let’s learn and embrace and understand it. My generation can be grumpy, but it’s about understanding their upbringing.”

The role of further and higher education was also a key point of discussion at the event, with contributions from both of Nottingham’s universities, as well as Nottingham College.

Richard Buckley, who is the college’s digital learning and innovation manager, shared his experience of working with the younger members of Generation Z, highlighting the shift towards creating better rounded characters.


“We have found that producing students with the right knowledge is actually now less important than those with the right personality and employability skills. This is something we’re taking more seriously as a further education organisation – Generation Z are articulating that they want to be developed as well-rounded young people, not just getting their qualification, as this prepares them more for future careers.”

The event was designed to generate further interest in the charity’s Mighty Employers network, which brings together likeminded organisations committed to supporting young people in vulnerable circumstances.

Nick Owen concluded the roundtable with a call to action to get more employers involved in the network and harness the training and partnerships available as part of it, leaning into how businesses need to think outside the box when it comes to working with Generation Z.

“We are still living through the long tail of Covid-19, and the seismic thing that will impact businesses is how we deal with the climate crisis, and from these we’ve picked up that what is so important is our relationships with our employees and our communities,” said Owen.

“Job security in 2024 comes from values. In the end, values matter and will help us move on as employers and we must align to employees.


“We need to get to a place where all businesses are more person-centred, and focused on aligning the strengths and weaknesses of employers and prospective employees.”

interested in joining our Mighty Employers Network?

Our Mighty Employers Network is a group of likeminded organisations committed to supporting young people aged 16-25 years old in vulnerable circumstances. Find out more about how you can join for access to support, training, guidance, and networking opportunities.

The roundtable was hosted by Tom Snee of Cartwright Communications, and was attended by: Belinda Morgan (Cundall), Alison Rashley (TV Workshop), Lindsay Harrison Grimes (Nelsons), Richard Buckley (Nottingham College), Karina Connolly (Morgan Sindall), David Brooks (Bond Bryan), Dee Folorunso (Wilmott Dixon), Emma Haydon (University of Nottingham), Hayley Ellis (Nottingham Trent University), Penny Hayton (Nottingham Trent University), Kerry Bartram (Equifax), Hope Pinto (Pick Everard).