According to HR experts, there are currently four generations in the workforce: Baby Boomers, Generation X, Millennials and the first generation of Gen Z. While the workforce of today is culturally dynamic and wide-ranging in age, employers have to juggle vastly different expectations across these demographics. In the realm of recruitment, what has been the ‘standard’ procedure of engaging the older age groups, may not work for Gen Z.

We wanted to find out how this will impact the Southeast Asian business ecosystem as we transition from a millennial-dominated workforce to a Gen-Z one. To help us understand more, we spoke to Felix Tan from Skilio, who is currently part of the EduSpaze Accelerator programme. Skilio has worked with companies such as PWC, Shopback and Amazon Web Services.

These insights are based on Felix’s own experience as he is a Gen Z student entrepreneur who started Skilio in his freshman year in University. Together with two co-founders, Ho Zhi Hui and Dody Senputra, they have scaled Skilio to be one of the top Gen-Z focused HR startups in Singapore.

Could you explain some of the fundamental differences between today’s workforce and the upcoming Gen-Z workforce?

The Gen Z workforce grew up in a digital-first society, where they are exposed to mobile devices and high speed internet. Furthermore, growing up in periods of societal uncertainties like the finance crisis of 2008, COVID-19 outbreak, climate change, this has shaped the way Gen Z views work in the future. 

Gen Zs are said to crave authentic engagements due to the constantly-connected world they are in. They also strongly value diversity, equity and ownership in the work they do. 

In your experience what are businesses getting wrong with the hiring of Gen-zers?

One of the common pitfalls that businesses get wrong in the hiring of Gen Z is the lack of transparency in what they will be doing  and learning in the role they are hired for. Gen Zs have a strong motivation to prioritise skills and personal developments in the company that they work for. It does not help that the traditional job description today is poorly crafted to demonstrate the skill sets required or will be developed as part of taking on the role. 

In fact, our research with Gen Z jobseekers showed that 80% of them are unsure about the skill sets that employers are looking for from their job description. One Gen Z jobseeker mentioned that, “job description might not be all encompassing of what skills are really required”. In fact, according to the ASEAN Youth Survey done by the World Economic Forum found that youths attach high value to skills development and training when applying for employment. 

Therefore, we believe that one of the key factors being overlooked by businesses engaging the Gen Zs is the clear articulation of the exact skills required for each job position and what kind of skills they will develop as part of embarking on the role. 

Another pitfall is the lack of communication between recruiters and Gen Z applicants, this often results in Gen Zs feeling “ghosted” and therefore disgruntled at the process. Gen Z crave authentic engagements despite the digital hiring process. 

31.25% of Gen Z jobseekers that we interviewed also shared that their main challenge in applying to companies is the lack of response or follow ups from the recruiters. This makes them feel ignored despite putting time to apply for the company. Therefore, another way for businesses to attract more Gen Zs to their hiring process is to ensure prompt and authentic engagement especially after they submit their application to your job posting.

Are Southeast Asian businesses ready to adapt to the gen Z workforce?

The readiness of Southeast Asian businesses for the Gen Z workforce varies. We find that MNCs and fast-growing startups are generally more adaptable to the new workforce. For MNCs, they are usually more equipped with resources to look at transiting their workflows to be more Gen Z-friendly. For example, maintaining a TikTok presence to attract Gen Zs. For high growth startups, their workflows are generally still in flux and they are more adaptable to changing trends. Lastly, the most worrying trend will be the traditional SMEs who will struggle to attract Gen Zs to their business especially if they are in an industry that is unfamiliar to Gen Zs. Traditional SMEs will need to have a shift in mindset to embrace new methodologies to engage Gen Zs in their hiring process.

In your opinion, what should businesses do to ensure they can hire the best quality from the new generation of employees?

Firstly, businesses need to know that in order to hire the best quality from the new generation of employees, it has to start before they even apply to your company. Employer branding is therefore crucial to help build mindshare among Gen Zs to allow these jobseekers to appreciate what your business does.

Next, businesses can highlight the basic skills required for each job and also what skills they will develop as part of the role. This information is helpful in allowing Gen Zs jobseekers who are keen in your job positions to build skills tailored to that role. It also enables them to better appreciate how their skills will grow by joining your company. In this way, companies can use this skills-based job posting to pre-screen and attract quality candidates who have the right basic skills for the job. 

Lastly, businesses can consider streamlining their hiring process to increase its engagement with Gen Z jobseekers who apply to them. Although it might be difficult to manually respond to every applicant, recruitment teams can consider using automated messaging software to send regular updates to jobseekers to build that engagement.

What’s next for Skilio?

For Skilio, we have been focused on launching version 2.0 of our skills-based hiring platform. Our platform emphasizes on helping Gen Z jobseekers get hired for their skills. We are launching exciting features like a skills-based job portal and our “Apply with Skills” feature that enables Gen Zs to apply directly to any of our partner companies with their skills profiles. We believe that skills-based hiring is here to stay and will become increasingly popular with Gen Zs that value skills development in their career search.