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Want to attract new tech talent? Start thinking green

Getting more young people into technology will require businesses to start thinking about the kind of company they want to be.
Written by Owen Hughes, Senior Editor

Companies that commit to bettering the world will find it easier to hire the talent they need.

Image: Peach_iStock/GETTY

Employers hoping to keep up with demand by expanding their digital divisions in 2022 face a rocky road. Whether you call it the great resignation, the great negotiation or the great reshuffle, the underlying premise is the same: millions of workers are planning to quit their jobs this year, lured by better salaries and the promise of more flexible working. This threatens to scupper tech projects, widen organizational talent gaps, and make recruitment in the tech industry fiercer than ever.

Offering higher salaries and a more generous benefits package is all well and good, but to really attract the digital talent they need, companies will need to stand out from the crowd. We already know there is a disconnect between businesses and younger workers, which might be partly to blame for discouraging young people from pursuing tech careers. To bridge this gap, organizations need to start connecting with the younger workers they're trying to attract. One way to do this is by thinking green.

Environmental awareness has peaked in recent years, and businesses have found themselves in the spotlight. Not only are organizations having to curb their emissions to meet new global guidelines – in some cases drastically – but they also face being snubbed by younger generations of environmentally-conscious young workers who expect their employers to play their part in fighting climate change.

SEE: Tech salaries just hit record highs. So why do IT staff still feel underpaid?

A survey of 2,000 UK workers by recruitment consultancy Robert Half found that 38% of employees would look for a new role if they thought their organization was not doing enough on ESG (environmental, social and governance) issues, such as reducing carbon emissions or operating ethically. Workers aged 18-34 are most likely to hold companies accountable on ESG issues, with 47% of respondents in this age group telling Robert Half they would look for a new role if they thought their employer was not committed to the cause.

Research by IT services and consulting company Cognizant also found that ESG is becoming a key component of recruiting and retaining younger workers.

Its study of 500 Millennial and Gen Z workers found that 65% deem it highly important that their employer has a positive impact on society – whether that's by championing ethical operating principles, protecting the environment, or demonstrating progressive societal goals. When it came to choosing an employer to work for, 76% of Gen Z workers (aged 20-26) and 71% of Millennials (aged 27-40) said environmental protection and sustainability was important to them.

Clearly, young professionals want to make a positive impact on the world and represent a company that shares their values. For those companies that do espouse green credentials, young workers remain sceptical: Cognizant found that just 24% of respondents believe their employer's position on the environment and climate change to be genuine, while nearly half (46%) view their commitments as half-hearted.

In a tight recruitment market where aspirational young tech workers have multiple offers on their plate, a clear environmental strategy could become a key differentiator for employers. Robert Half found that, if it came down to two roles offering the same salary, 69% of people aged 18-34 would base their decision on each companies' corporate values.

Creating new, green jobs also has a role to play in both engaging with younger workers and moving the tech industry towards greater sustainability. With EVs, smart cities, hydrogen power and automation moving from concept to reality, new skillsets will be required to take businesses into the future. According to a 2021 report by the Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit, some 400,000 new recruits will be needed to help the energy industry see net-zero goals through to conclusion by 2050. Many of these will be in roles – and therefore, skills – that don't even exist yet.

It would be a mistake to shrug off the conscientious moral principles of younger workers as the idealism of youth. Many of those now entering the workforce spent their teenage years witnessing – and in many cases participating in – generation-defining social justice movements, meaning the values they hold now will likely shape their adult lives.

Those organizations that can demonstrate a commitment to bettering society stand the best chance of tapping into a new generation of digital talent eager to leave the world in a better place than they found it.


ZDNet's Monday Morning Opener is our opening take on the week in tech, written by members of our editorial team. We're a global team so this editorial publishes on Monday at 8:00am AEST in Sydney, Australia, which is 6:00pm Eastern Time on Sunday in the US, and 10:00PM GMT in London.


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