Jim Link, Chief Human Resource Officer at Randstad North America, recently paid a visit to Malaysia to speak with our clients on the growing number of ‘global citizens’, the changing expectations of workplace collaboration, and the impact the different generations have on the workforce.

We sat down with him to find out more about his viewpoints on the emerging Generation Z (born between 1995 and 2015), how digital will change the future of work and the power of social media.

managing expectations of the different generations.

1. what do you think employers need to do to have a multi-generational workforce that is collaborative and productive?

When the millennials  (born between 1981 and 1996) entered the workforce with their drastically varying expectations of what a job should look like thanks to the evolution of technology, HR leaders around the world were challenged and concerned about how it will work would evolve. However, the past years have only proven that workplace adaptation is both essential and possible.

Right now, the global labour market continues to constrict and technology has not only introduced new career opportunities, but has also enabled round-the-clock access to data, processes, and solutions.

Technology has made the world a smaller place in which to work, and given rise to what we call ‘global citizens’. The growth potential of an employee is no longer restricted to the resources they can tap into in the local office they work in, but rather, they see themselves as regional or even global subject matter experts.

Digital solutions such as online training platforms, web-conferencing and project management tools have made it possible for us to collaborate with our colleagues from other offices and countries in a real time. Not only do these digital solutions promote productivity and collaboration in the workforce, but they also help employees work smarter and cut hefty operating expenses.

Collaborative tools for businesses like these give employees a fast avenue to reach out easily to challenge each other’s ideas and learn from one another- something the younger generation greatly value as they work towards their career goals.

2. with generation Z talent joining the workforce soon, how can companies attract the younger generation to work with them?

There are two key ways companies can do to attract young talent - collaboration and sense of purpose.

People from Generation Z spend more time texting each other than actually picking up the phone to chat. They would expect the same level of communication efficiency at the workplace as they do outside of work so that they can easily reach out to their colleagues for advice or assistance. Through borderless collaboration, the younger generation is empowered to come together and create innovative solutions that can have a powerful impact on business and society.

The second is having a strong sense of purpose. On top of everything that they are doing, Generation Z employees want to feel proud of the organisation where they spend at least 35 hours of their week. When deciding which company to work at, the younger generation wants a meaningful career, to be happier and get more out of what they do. Simply put, as employees, we want to be part of something that is bigger than ourselves. It is the employer’s responsibility to encourage open communication by providing constant feedback (regardless of how well the job is done), and challenge their staff to work outside of their comfort zone, push boundaries and seek more interesting and efficient ways of working.

Millennials and Gen Z are looking for employers who can provide a range of varied experiences, not only on-the-job kind but also opportunities that can help them contribute to society.

3. what advice do you have for HR teams who are trying to promote a collaborative workplace?

In a nutshell, collaboration in the workplace should aim to achieve better productivity. The beauty of a collaborative workplace is that it is unrestricted by age, geographical borders and years of experience. A young HR executive from Malaysia should be able to reach out easily to the regional head of HR to ask for advice, or present a cool idea that has the potential to improve the organisation’s human capital strategy.

The key to creating a great collaborative platform is to have an open mind. We always encourage companies to not just hire people from different generations to prove compliance but aim to have a collaborative one if they want to remain at the forefront.

4. what’s the most common mistake a company makes when it comes to promoting a collaborative workplace? 

The most common mistake companies make is assuming that it is a straightforward process that can be easily done overnight.

It takes years of work to change behaviour and promote collaboration in the workplace, and it requires both a top-down and bottom-up approach. The risk is that employers may be sold on an idea which might not work in reality. This is why having a 360 feedback loop is so important - if you don’t ask, you’ll never know if what you’re doing is actually working. HR teams are the best champions for this as they are constantly in touch with  employees and can gather feedback on how they can promote better synergy in their organisation.

Leaders need to involve the employees from the very beginning and understand what are some of the challenges they face when it comes to workplace collaboration - and then find a solution to resolve it. HR teams can advocate for them by actively leading and participating in these initiatives to demonstrate their commitment to the workforce.

On the other side of the coin, employees need to get used to the new way of working. They need to understand that these initiatives are here to help them be more productive and efficient. However, if they feel that it is not as helpful to them, they should have the opportunity to voice it to the management and share ideas on how to improve.

finding job opportunities on social media. 

5. with the rise of online networks and communities, should employers be looking at the recruitment process differently?

Absolutely! It is advisable for employers to create talent communities on social platforms such as LinkedIn and Facebook and connect with candidates who have the skills, desires and goals that they are seeking. Simply put, these platforms can act as a hub where your audience can access information about you and candidates can submit their resume to you without committing to a specific position.

6. do you see a growing community of mature job seekers online or do you think that they still prefer face-to-face interviews? 

From my observation, many mature employees are starting to take the initiative to be more internet-savvy and getting on to digital platforms such as LinkedIn to network and look for new career opportunities.

While LinkedIn may not be the go-to platform in Malaysia just yet, it is certainly growing to be one, as more global companies are choosing to set up their regional hubs here.

Regardless of age, job seekers should consider building an online brand personality through networking on social media platforms if they want to be exposed to more opportunities.

7. what is one thing you want to share with the people who are looking for a job right now?

I believe that there’s never been a better time to look! My only advice is to create a resume that revolves around your breadth of experience and skills you have acquired along the way instead of focusing on your academic qualifications.