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Getting smart: taking an innovative approach to connecting with apprenticeship, graduate and early careers audiences

By Chatter, on 12th February 2024

With 2024 picking up pace, we’re keeping a close eye on something else that’s not showing any signs of slowing down: the number of new Generation Z candidates entering the workplace. In fact, they’re set to make up almost 30% of the global workforce by the end of the year - even overtaking millennials and Gen X.

Yes, that surprised us, too.

But why does it matter? Well, we’ll tell you. If you’re hiring for apprenticeships, graduate roles, and other early career opportunities, there’s a pretty good chance that your candidates will be Gen Z candidates. And, as the first true digital first generation, it takes some smarter thinking to truly engage them.

Here’s our take on how to do just that. 


But first, who are Gen Z?

The short answer is that they’ll almost certainly be the people behind the next big TikTok trend: Gen Z storming the workplace. En-masse. 

The long answer probably isn’t quite as fun to read (or watch). Though some definitions differ, we’re generally talking about those born between around 1997 to 2012 - the oldest of whom are now 26 or 27 years old. 

But whenever they were born, the key fact to remember about this group is that they grew up in a rapidly evolving digital world. As digital natives, they’ve grown up not only around technology, but alongside it so they’re super internet-literate, adaptable, and comfortable both on-screen and behind it (although let’s not mention phone calls here). 

And in this digital-first world, with so much digital noise, all competing for the same audience’s attention, there are lots of different ways we can choose to communicate. Almost too many, in fact.

So, how do we get it right, so we can get to the right people? And importantly - why should we worry about getting it right?


Let’s start with the ‘why’.

If we do it right, and get our audiences engaged and excited about what we do and who we are, the people who join us in apprenticeships, graduate roles, and other early career opportunities today will lead us into tomorrow. 

Or, to put it another way, they’ll almost certainly be the future of most existing businesses. Including yours.


So how do we get smart with apprenticeships, graduate roles, and early career candidates?

The trick is in the four Rs…

Right message. Right way. Right channel. Right time. 

And when you marry all of these up, magic happens. Or at least that’s what we like to call it in the employer branding and talent marketing space…. you’ll find that you’re connecting with your audience, you’re keeping them motivated and engaged, and you’re bringing them along on the journey with you.  

We’ve done just that for some of our clients throughout that journey.


Innovative onboarding for graduate audiences

If you’ve been following some of the juicy insight we collected recently, you’ll know that onboarding is one of the least positive experiences in a candidate’s journey - a period even more important if it’s your candidate’s first role.

Because it’s not just their first experience with you. It’s their first experience of the workplace. 

We’ve delivered some pretty exciting work that solves this particular problem. One project that really sticks out was the Augmented Reality onboarding programme we created for Arriva’s graduates. 

We took a process that was crammed with necessary yet dull information, meetings  and formalities, and built an interactive experience that fully engaged their new graduates without compromising on the important bits.

We transformed their onboarding programme into a game – an interactive, augmented reality treasure hunt. Decoding cryptic clues revealed videos which sent the new recruits to managers they’d have to interview, gathering the information they needed.

The big idea was about turning their onboarding programme into a fully-immersive, office escape room. But instead of the end goal of getting out, the goal was graduates fully bought in. And the result was an 18% year-on-year increase in positive post event scores from the grads. 

It was a huge success for both the graduates and Arriva. The grads felt more excited, and inspired about their new journey, while Arriva felt they were able to get a greater insight into the team working abilities and skills of the new recruit

I guess you could say we gamed the system? (We’ll see ourselves out). 


Bringing Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion into early careers attraction

But it’s not all fun and games when it comes to engaging Gen Z, and other apprenticeship, graduate, and early career audiences.

They’re a generation that isn’t afraid to confront the serious subjects and call out inequalities. And they really care about what you, as an employer, are doing to make things better – especially for the environment, and Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion. 

We know diversity and inclusion is big on the agenda for most businesses, but did you know it’s even more important for this audience? 

Not only was Gen Z the most ethnically diverse generation in England and Wales in the most recent Census, 83% of Gen Z candidates said a company’s commitment to diversity and inclusion is important to them when choosing an employer in a Monster Survey

Diverse organisations are better at attracting the talent they need, especially when it comes to attracting Gen Z. So it’s absolutely something that’s vital to connecting with that audience. And we work hard with our clients to help them move forward in this space. 

Not only to attract Gen Z candidates, but because everyone deserves to feel represented and included in their workplace. 

Asda came to us with a goal to attract a more diverse graduate candidate pool, as part of expanding their tech data and fashion teams. And we helped them re-evaluate how they attract early talent in the future; focusing more on tactical advertising for roles as the opportunity appears, not just as part of a formal graduate intake. 

With a carefully selected multimedia strategy that integrated applicant diversity data and focused targeted advertising more specifically across certain functions, their graduate scheme got a 50% BAME hire rate. With an even female to male ratio. 

And we took all this best practice and rolled it out across all their early talent activity, to improve the diversity of talent entering Asda & George. 

But diversity and inclusion doesn’t just come into play at the recruitment stage, it’s something that matters across the full employee lifecycle. 

Inclusion is something that needs to be embedded in your culture. And through a campaign like the one we created for Sopra Steria (which won awards, we might add), you can create a workplace where everyone feels welcome. The In My Shoes initiative focused on creating a culture of inclusion, respect, and support at Sopra Steria building a workplace where everyone is comfortable being themselves.

Ultimately we helped them create a culture where people feel like they matter. And that’s what matters – not just to Gen Z. Not just to apprentices and graduates.

But to all of your people. 


Ready to work smarter? 

With innovative practices like these in place across an employee journey, any business will be in a much better place when it comes to connecting with apprenticeship, graduate, and early careers audiences – Gen Z or otherwise.

And all it takes is tapping into a team of real experts in the field (that’s us!), to unlock recruitment strategies that tackle even the biggest challenges. 

So if you want to hear more about some of this work, find out more of our juicy insight, or how you can engage the next generation of employees in a much smarter way – drop us a line.


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