Nicky Burridge, journalist

Companies in Hong Kong SAR and mainland China are changing their recruitment and development policies in a bid to appeal to Generation Z talent.

Like Millennials before them, Gen Z – those born after 1997 – have a distinctive outlook compared with older workers.

Gen Z talent places a high value on social and environmental credentials

While previous generations may have focused on remuneration and job stability, Gen Z talent places a high value on the social and environmental credentials of potential employers.

‘Corporate social responsibility is always one of the key considerations for young talents when making their employer selection,’ says Maggie Luk, talent acquisition lead – Greater China at Avery Dennison.

All about impact

Paul Choi, managing director and group head of human resources at Hong Kong Exchanges and Clearing (HKEX), agrees. ‘They want to have an impact,' he says. 'They are much more focused on the purpose of a company, and they want that to be aligned with their own values.’

As a result, HKEX proactively communicates the role it plays in driving Asia’s global capital markets, and the broader communities in which it operates, when it brings young talent on board.

Gen Z’s emphasis on this area has only increased since the Covid-19 pandemic, according to Janet Poon, deputy director, head of group human resources and administration, at Hang Lung Properties.

'Gen Z, who have always aspired to work with companies that are socially responsible, are now likely to put an even stronger focus on their performance in this area,' she says, adding that Hang Lung Properties has set ambitious sustainability goals and targets for 2030, which are linked to staff’s own key performance indicators.

'This allows our Gen Z staff to actively take part in contributing to a bigger purpose instead of just focusing on completing their own tasks,' she says.

Strong focus

Companies are also changing their recruitment processes to attract and appeal to Gen Z talent. Hang Lung Properties now puts a strong focus on interaction and engagement when interviewing for its management trainee programme.

Its signature recruitment event, TEAMs Day, is an activity-based assessment of candidates’ abilities to collaborate, lead and work as a team.

The CLP Group, a Hong Kong-based electricity company, meanwhile, has made its recruitment processes more digital-friendly and streamlined.

Glynis Shea, director – total rewards and governance for group human resources at CLP, says the response to the changes has been encouraging, with applications for its internship programme, including for finance and accounting roles, increasing by 30% compared with the previous year.

Rethinking space

With Gen Z sometimes dubbed iGen, it is unsurprising that its members have a strong preference for digital working.

Many companies have responded by allowing flexible working and introducing new digital tools, a process accelerated by the pandemic.

'We have been offering greater flexibility through piloting new policies, using more virtual collaboration tools and more flexible office configurations to enable agile teams,' says Glynis Shea, director – total rewards and governance for group human resources at the CLP Group.

Hang Lung Properties has also changed its physical space. 'We have introduced an open office plan that strikes the right social-private balance in a number of our mainland offices,' explains Janet Poon, deputy director, head of group human resources and administration.

'It is important to educate leaders and managers to appreciate the different generational mindset'

Desire to grow

Another feature of Gen Z talent that employers are having to cater for is their desire for continuous learning and accelerated career development.

'Young talents have a strong desire to grow,' Luk says. 'They look for a clear career development ladder and strive for quick and positive outcomes from work.'

To address this need, Avery Dennison has created the Global Organisation Leadership Development (GOLD) programme, which offers a two-year accelerated leadership track featuring functional training, leadership workshops and job rotation.

CLP, too, provides structured rotations and assignments. 'In our finance function, we encourage cross-team rotations to enhance employees’ exposures to different projects and functions, which benefits their long-term career development as a finance professional,' Shea says.

HKEX is rolling out new learning and engagement platforms, including iLearn, an AI-powered platform. Choi explains that these initiatives are not only aligned with Gen Z preferences; they also position HKEX well for the future.

For Hang Lung Properties, enabling employees to move across disciplines is also a vital attraction tool.

'We recently appointed an internal talent from a finance background to a management role in business operations to oversee a commercial project on the mainland in view of his strong performance and business acumen,' Poon says.

Flexible work

Companies are also making adjustments to the workplace to get the best from their younger employees.

CLP, for example, offers flexible working opportunities, carries out regular engagement surveys and holds focus groups, while Avery Dennison organises check-in meetings and town halls.

Choi points out that Gen Z has a different attitude towards seniority, viewing managers 'more as peers with more experience and responsibilities, rather than as a form of authority or power' while 'they are eager to be heard and to contribute to the business'.

To help managers to better understand Gen Z, HKEX has recently introduced an employee forum, HKEX Hive, to give younger staff the opportunity to contribute ideas and concerns directly to management.

For companies that want to create a platform for Gen Z to grow and thrive, Choi recommends taking the time to really listen to younger employees.

'It is important to educate leaders and managers to appreciate the different generational mindset and work with and around those differences in a positive way,' he says.

Further information

Read ACCA’s report on Gen Z and the future of the profession and find out more about career development at the new ‘Rethinking careers’ hub