With a surge in graduates applying to be part of the fresh produce industry, Sapphira Waterson of Management Development Services (MDS), says knowing who Gen Z is and what they want from a job can increase productivity and profitability for businesses.
MDS, which specialises in graduate training in fresh produce businesses, has placed more than 150 trainees from Generation Z, the term used to identify those born in the late 90s, in tough, demanding roles over the last five years. Sapphira, MDS’ Chief Operating Officer, says this generation has a lot to offer the industry:
“With a thirst for variety, responsibility and self-improvement, what could be a more perfect fit for the fast-paced fresh produce industry? Gen Z is sometimes referred to as a snowflake generation for their perceived lack of resilience and oversensitivity but that annoys me. They have been in the workplace for a few years now and we’ve had an insight into how they tick. They have certain demands and priorities, but employers who recognise how they can get the best out of these twenty-somethings will be repaid with hard work and fulfilled, productive employees.”
Gen Z-ers are not solely in it for the money, Sapphira explains; they want a fun place to work where they feel valued. They like to be given responsibility and accountability but also thrive with regular check ins from managers and colleagues, even if it’s just for five minutes. They are self-aware and prepared to learn from failure but need more emotional support than their employers may have had as they entered the workplace.
Sapphira says to retain Gen Z-ers in the business, they need to feel valued and to see clear opportunity for growth and career progression. This goes beyond salary - and not just to pensions and benefits that give them security - but to feeling a respected part of the team. Variety in the job, and open conversations about where career opportunity lies are also vital.
A recent survey by MDS shows that for young people, priorities have shifted, pre- and post-Covid outbreak, from wanting a good salary to wanting stability, and a recognition that the food industry offers this. A doubling in applications to MDS’ graduate training programme has shown how the pandemic has boosted the food industry’s image, not only in terms of job security, but as a diverse and dynamic place to work with challenge and reward.