How to bring young talent into your business

The issue of helping young people make a successful transition from education to work is one that is particularly close to home for me.

As the parent of one teenager who’s part way through an apprenticeship and another who’s job hunting while anxiously awaiting exam results, I’ve seen first-hand just how difficult it is for young people to get their first step on the work ladder.

It was encouraging therefore to see a report last week from the CIPD, which shows that after a difficult few years, youth unemployment is finally starting to fall and there seems to be a shift in attitude among employers towards taking youngsters on.

Mid-sized, growing businesses have often been amongst the most reluctant to consider young people when it comes to recruitment. Quite understandably, they worry about the investment of time they will have to make in bringing a young hire up to speed, and about the havoc they might possibly wreak if not closely supervised.

However, taking on a young person can bring real, bottom-line benefits to an expanding business. It allows companies to ‘grow their own’ talent for the future and develop new recruits in their own mould. Young people also bring with them new perspectives and ideas which can often give companies a fresh take on the products and services they offer, and the way they conduct their business.

So if you’re one of the growing number of employers planning to reach out to young job-seekers, what’s the best way to attract raw talent and ensure their early transition into work runs smoothly?

Make your recruitment youth-friendly

Young people often find it difficult to negotiate standard recruitment processes. They struggle with unclear job descriptions and get lost in long and complex recruitment procedures. If you’re looking to recruit a young person, it’s worth reviewing the way you go about advertising the vacancy, and interviewing and selecting candidates. You could consider advertising your jobs via social media, for example, targeting sites where young people spend time and using language that resonates with them. You could also adopt a more flexible approach to interviewing, which is based more on attitude and approach rather than experience and qualifications.

Don’t expect too much

Young people don’t arrive in the world of work ‘oven-ready’. Remember that they are raw recruits who have probably had very little contact with the world of work and don’t know what to expect – or what is expected of them. They may not be great at time management, organising themselves or knowing how to deal with customers in the early days. Equally, as digital natives, they may find it strange if they are not allowed to use social media or don’t have access to up-to-date technology. You will need to cut them a bit of slack while they find their feet, but with plenty of guidance and support they will learn fast and soon become a valuable asset to the business.

Support line managers

Don’t assume that your line managers will automatically know how to get the best out of their young recruits. They will be under pressure themselves and may find it difficult to step away from the day job and devote the time and attention a young person needs in the early days. Sit down with line managers before a new hire starts and help them plan for a successful induction and think through how they will handle training and development going forward. Make it clear they are not on their own and you will be on hand to provide help and advice if problems arise.

Give regular feedback

If you don’t tell raw recruits what they are doing well – and what they might need to do differently – they won’t know. Don’t set young people up to fail by just letting them get on with it and then hauling them over the coals if things go wrong. Most young people actively want to learn and will welcome regular feedback. Boost their confidence by praising them for a job well done, and provide constructive feedback when they need to take a different approach. Be specific about what you want them to do and how you want them to do it, and make it clear you are there to guide them and help them develop their skills.

Be creative about jobs

Think carefully about the best way to bring young people into your business. Apprenticeships, internships or placements, for example, are a great way for recruits to earn while they learn – and there’s a wealth of training (and in some cases funding) to help them develop professional or technical skills quickly. There’s plenty of advice out there to help you get the best out of these employment models – the CIPD website, for example, has some really useful guides and resources to get you started. Don’t overlook work experience or work shadowing opportunities – it’s never too early to start engaging with local schools and colleges and talking to the next generation about the opportunities your business could offer in the future.

What has your experience been of employing young people? Let us know what strategies and techniques you have found successful.


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  1. It is true that youngsters are normally firing on all cylinders and keen to learn but being at the bottom of the ladder doesn’t mean that management or the rest of the staff should treat the newbies as the dunces, after all they know a lot more about technology than we do for a start and are tomorrow’s future but what about keeping them, especially the women that face the inevitable family building phase. If they were feeling frustrated before that break, the chances are fairly high that they will become distracted by more than just their children during maternity leave. What can we do to make people feel valued and keep them involved in the industry and company during their time out, enough for them to want to come back? Getting women into management starts before maternity to my mind.

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