106 Communications

6th Sense

A conversation in Pret and being switched-on to students

December 2019 | Student engagement

Having just returned from my daily trip to Pret on Blackfriars Road I felt compelled to write this article. Why? What was it about the Corn Chowder (no Salade Nicoise and popcorn? I hear my old TMP team cry?) that compelled me so? Nothing more than being sat beside 2 x LSE undergraduate students and my eavesdropping of their conversation. From the moment I overheard… “You can’t possibly vote Green in Finchley– it’s a marginal seat and the Tories will get in. You simply have to swallow your ethics and vote Labour….” I was hooked. I wish I’d known how to use my new iPhone 11 (certainly not a Digital Nomad me!) to record the 45minute conversation as it was a masterclass in predicting 2020’s key issues for employers seeking to engage with entry level talent.

With little more than 3 weeks to go until polling, it is inevitable that our potential hires will be quite literally chewing over their voting decision.  We are seeing the most highly politicised youth market in decades. It is estimated that generational shifts have changed the voting population’s stance on Brexit, as a swathe of pro-Remain Gen Z’ers have reached voting age since the 2016 referendum. Politically active teens in the UK are advocating for the voting age to be lowered from 18 to 16. As employers, we all need to be sensitive to a generation whose voice wants and needs to be heard. Being clear about your sense of purpose as a graduate or apprentice employer will become critical in 2020.

“But didn’t you see the Green Party bloke, Jonathan Bartley, on BBC breakfast news this morning – he is just a normal, believable guy unlike that other lot… I do worry that Climate Change will be forgotten by the other parties…”All of this being discussed over a “Vegan” Sweet Potato Falafel & Smashed Beets Veggie Box! (72% of Gen Z are happy to pay a premium for products produced in a sustainable fashion). An estimated 1.8 million young people from 123 countries skipped school on March 15 this year to take part in the #FridaysForFuture climate protests. It would seem then ever more imperative for brands to communicate their environmental and ethical policies in their recruitment communications. And to take the LSE students’ advice – be believable.

Half way through my corn soup (very good btw!) my son phoned. (Final year Physics at Manchester). He was reminding me gently to transfer him that £20 for “you know Mum that book on coding we talked about?” – no I don’t remember! What I do remember, however, is a similar conversation with my parents when at University but asking for money to buy booze. Don’t get me wrong, I am sure that students’ hunger for learning hasn’t overtaken their hunger for beer. However, with 65% of Gen Z aiming to be financially independent by the age of 30, their focus on learning outside of their immediate degree or role is laser. Are our employer propositions providing this new generation with flexible learning opportunities?

When my attention returned to my two fresh-faced LSE students their conversation had moved on to talking about their upcoming exams and their associated levels of mounting stress and anxiety. Anxiety seems to be all pervasive with 91% of UK children say they are worrying about adult issues such as Brexit, poverty, homelessness and terrorism and we continue to see weekly headlines of UK University suicides. A recent report by Accenture “Can Workplaces Be Good for Your Mental Health?” cites that by the time they are 30, 77% of workers will have had personal experience with a mental health challenge. For 2020 employers will likely be increasingly concerned with providing enhanced education and support for both candidates and employees from resilience skills building to a plethora of wellbeing initiatives.

As the two students stood up to leave, I noticed they were both carrying laden gym bags; boxing gloves peeking out from within. Athletic Adolescence will continue to be a key trend for the younger generation in 2020. They are interested, even obsessed at times, with healthy living. A quarter of US teens admit to worrying about staying healthy (Mintel, 2018). Over 1. 4 million UK students with over 3500 teams engage in BUSA competitions on a typical sporting day in UK Universities. The need for employers to enhance their communication around their sports and social provision will prevail in 2020.

Thanks to those 2 LSE students they gave me the inspiration to start thinking about 2020 especially with only 3 real working weeks until Christmas.

For a friendly chat about purpose-led student marketing, please feel free to get in touch;

Jayne@106comms.com or 07867 514 542

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