The future of work

A changing employment landscape means recruitment consultants have to show their value to clients and candidates, reports Tim Gibson.

The world of work is changing. Expectations among the millennial generation are radically different from those of their Generation X forebears.

Not for these young bucks a job for life. Rather, they expect to make rapid progress through their chosen career path – and if they don’t, they’re more than happy to plough a different furrow.

According to a 2011 report by consultancy company PWC (Millennials at Work: Reshaping the Workplace), people born between 1980 and 2000 will revolutionise the employment landscape with their fresh attitudes and different expectations.

These include an openness to pursuing a number of careers in the course of their life, and an acceptance that they may still be working well into old age.

HR specialist Emma Kershaw, a director at Just Recruitment Group in East Anglia, says there’s another trend among millennials. Many expect to hold more than one job at any one time, because they want to retain control over their professional destiny, while gaining job satisfaction and a decent work-life balance.

“The defining mark of the new generation of people flooding into the workplace is their desire for flexibility,” Ms Kershaw observes. “They may want to work in a salaried post on a part-time basis, so they’re free to pursue a more lifestyle-friendly job in their spare time. For example, we have a staff member who works for us four days a week, then spends the rest of her time breeding horses.”

Now I have to say that none of this is news to me. Since the start of my working life, I’ve done a number of jobs at any one time. By the age of 16, I mixed freelancing for magazines with selling vacuum cleaners in Currys and washing up in a pub kitchen at weekends, all while studying for A-Levels.

It’s been a similar story ever since. I worked my way through seven years at university by writing for the local newspaper and various magazines. Then I blended tenured academic appointments with freelance journalism, teaching, and a bit of corporate consultancy. Not a day passes without my baby-boomer parents wishing I had a conventional career.

All of which begs a question for the likes of Ms Kershaw: if I were to contact her agency in search of work, how on earth would they know what to do with me?

“Our job is all about matching people’s skills with the right opportunities,” she tells me. “Increasingly, that involves more than simply cross-referencing candidates to vacancies. Instead, we’re helping candidates work out what they really want from their working lives. And we’re helping employers learn to be flexible, to make their vacancies as appealing as possible.”

This sounds simple, but it isn’t. While those of us in the midst of this easy-come-easy-go generation are, as we would say, totally cool with flexible career paths, a number of employers are still getting their heads around it.

“That presents companies like ours with an exciting opportunity,” says Emma. “In an industry that’s become increasingly commoditised, we can now provide genuine consultancy to our clients.

“We help them develop opportunities that appeal to prospective employees and make the very best use of their skills and aptitudes. This is an amazingly creative, innovative and fleet-of-foot generation. So it’s really exciting to be involved in shaping their professional future.”

Emma is right: that does sound like an exciting prospect for recruitment consultants. Enough to make me think I could try my hand in the industry. It would have to be in my spare time, mind you. I’m too busy launching a forest school to do it during the day.

© Copyright Just Recruitment 2018

If you liked this article you may like to read – Commoditisation and how to resist it

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