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As an organization focused on providing and building impactful work-based learning opportunities for students, an outcome “win” comes any time a GPS Ed graduating student accepts a job offer and hires on with one of our business partners. When this happens, all parties have done something right in helping a young person successfully navigate through career exploration toward a career opportunity.

But sometimes that doesn’t happen. Sometimes a student does not decide to stay with the business and lands elsewhere leaving everyone to wonder “Why?” or “What could we have done differently?” 

The idea of ‘recruiting’ is often seen as the efforts to build a funnel of prospective employees to apply, interview, and say “yes” to becoming an employee – and then the recruitment process is done. Wrong. 

“ALWAYS be recruiting.” 

Recruiting an employee isn’t done simply when they are working for you. It is your retention strategy. What are you doing to continuously recruit your employees to stay at your company/organization? What are you doing to prioritize them? Grow them? Appreciate them? Acknowledge them? Motivate them? Compensate them? 

Gone are the days of an employee hiring and working the next 20, 30, 40, sometimes even 50, years of their life at the same job. Rather than lament the days of old when “loyalty meant something”, it’s time to adopt an “always be recruiting” mentality to employee retention. 

“If I would have known he was unhappy I would have….” 

“I wish she would have told me she was looking for….”

“If I would have known she just wanted…”

How often do employers make the mistake of saying these phrases AFTER an employee (or work-based learning student) has made the decision to leave? Instead, if employers asked themselves the question, “If I knew he or she was going to leave us tomorrow, what would I have done differently yesterday and do differently today to retain them?” That perspective switch leads to a mindset shift of actively recruiting current employees in an effort to retain them.

Patrick Dolan, a national expert on workforce solutions at a recent presentation on “The Vanishing Workforce”, said that each company has A, B, and C level employees – with A and B level being those most valuable to retain. The closer an employee gets to being ‘A level’ the more important the recruitment efforts become. ‘A level’ employees have options and there is a chance they are being recruited actively or passively by outside forces.

Dolan stressed the importance an employer’s culture has on their recruitment retention strategy. Be the “employer of choice” through your culture. Culture is not a buzzword thrown around in senior leadership meetings. Culture is the way employees’ hearts and stomachs feel on Sunday night before they return to work. A company has a culture, whether intentional or not, – what is it and why is it that way? Is it helping or hurting the recruitment retention strategy? 

For employers who participate in work-based learning opportunities for students, it is important to identify what recruitment retention strategy is being communicated. Employers who participate in work-based learning have a unique opportunity to show high school students their recruitment retention strategy and what makes them an employer of choice. Certainly, it is worth noting that when working with those under the age of 20, life interests, situations, and challenges arise which may completely negate even the best recruitment retention strategy. But if an employer hopes to retain their on-site work-based learning students (especially those who project as having ‘A level’ potential), a few key questions (and answers) should be prioritized: 

  • Do you know who they are?: Teenagers are part of the Gen Z generation and are very different, and in some ways also very similar, to the generations that have come before them. Knowing what they want, need, and value and what makes them who they are is key.
  • Is your compensation (truly) competitive?: This is tricky because there is a cost associated with this, but compensation matters as a recruitment retention strategy and may have more value than trying to replace lost employees/knowledge/talent. Gen Z is a financially conservative generation who has seen past generations before them deal with financial hardship and debt, and they are willing to change jobs to pursue a higher-paying and more financially stable job. Is your compensation package and retention strategy showing them they are valued and that you are willing to pay at or more than their other options are?
  • Have you shown them their career pathway?: Gen Z wants to know how they can advance in their career and your plan for helping them get there. Don’t wait for them to ask you about this, be proactive in your approach to tangibly showing them the opportunities available.
  • What is your culture like?: As mentioned, you have a culture whether intentional or not. Is it caring? Is it inclusive? Is it supportive? Are they just another ‘number’ as an employee or do they feel a part of a team/family? Have you/are you intentionally communicating to them the fact you appreciate and value them as part of your company? What intentional steps do you take to make sure the answers to these questions are what you want them to be? Culture matters to Gen Z.
  • What is your why?: Purpose matters to Gen Z. What are you doing to make people’s lives better, affect the environment, support a social cause, etc.? If not the specific job/work, what is your company doing to support social/community causes?

Employers who consider all of these factors and see recruiting as an ongoing process will have happier employees, less turnover, and ultimately, a better bottom line.

Learn more about work-based learning and how you can become a GPS Ed partner by contacting us at gpsed.org/contact. We are committed to improving opportunity for all by integrating school, community, and the workplace.

Written By

Andrew Zimdars
Partner Services Manager
GPS Education Partners

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