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Delayed arrivals: helping young people get the hang of work: David Taylor

Wednesday 05 March 2014

The recent figures showing a fall in youth unemployment are great news. But with so much focus on helping young people find jobs, it can be easy to overlook what happens when they arrive in the workplace.

David Taylor David Taylor

David is a Senior Policy Analyst in the Strategy Unit at Acas.



Previous Acas research shows that the way inexperienced workers are welcomed and managed from the outset can make a big difference to the development of their 'psychological contract' with an employer. This has knock-on effects for engagement, motivation and ultimately productivity and turnover.

Yet there is surprisingly little guidance available on settling in inexperienced workers and providing them with opportunities to develop and flourish. But as more employers start to engage with younger workers we can expect that this will become an increasingly important issue.

The new guide on pdf icon Managing Future Talent - A guide for employers [1Mb], jointly produced by Acas, the CIPD and Unionlearn and launched last week, is a timely contribution. It contains a wealth of good tips, techniques and strategies drawn from the direct practical insights of managers and young people.

A wide range of sectors and sizes of organisation have contributed to the guide and it is interesting that some common themes emerge across the board. For example, the value of a good induction and providing ongoing support through a mentor, buddy, or wider peer networks in the workplace.

Of course, there isn't any single 'magic formula' for successfully integrating young people into a workplace. At the launch of the guide last week, Acas CEO Anne Sharp emphasised that young people don't just have one set of needs - they are as diverse as any other group in society in their expectations, learning styles, skills and aptitudes. This message was reinforced by CIPD deputy CEO, Susannah Clements, who spoke of the need to address stereotypes and misconceptions, to "counter the idea in the media that young people are stupid and lazy."

It's also important that the focus is not just on the 'novice workers' themselves. For instance, line managers are the meat in the sandwich when inexperienced workers come into the workplace. They are the direct interface between a young person and the organisation and taking on this responsibility can be a cause for concern for them. With this in mind, Jo Ward, Head of Talent and Resourcing at Nestle UK, told the audience at the launch about how Nestle provides a support network for their line managers to come together to share experiences and tips.

Chris Wright, Education Producer at Royal Exchange Theatre, spoke about how really successful engagement with young workers requires an overall strategy within an organisation. "Apprenticeships are not rocket science, but they're not easy either", he said - the trick is making sure both that the young people feel part of the fabric of the organisation and that existing staff are enabled to manage and mentor them, to everyone's mutual benefit.

Judging by the contributions from the employers, HR professionals and experts attending the event, there is no shortage of ideas and enthusiasm for how to achieve this balance in practice. But there was also a keen awareness of the challenges that remain.

In the words of one delegate, it's easy "preaching to the converted" at events like this, but the real challenge is "getting the message out there that employing young people is not just about corporate social responsibility, and not about doing young people a favour." That is, it's crucial that employers recognise that there are genuine business benefits that engaging with young people can bring to an organisation, and that good employment relations are key to being able to reap those benefits in practice.

In sum, youth employment seems headed in the right direction at last. But long-term solutions will require pre-employment policy and initiatives working in tandem with in-work strategies and management practices. This is a common aim in which we all have a part to play - to get more young people into work, to enable them to contribute creatively and to hear their voice in the workplace.

Download pdf icon Managing Future Talent - A guide for employers [1Mb], a new guide jointly produced by Acas, the CIPD and Unionlearn.

1 Comment

  • Posted by Paul Deemer  |  9 May 2014, 9:53AM

    Making the workplace an interesting, inviting and welcoming place is so important - especially for today's younger generation - many of whom are having to work really hard just to get that first job. Those first few days (and hours even in some cases!) are so important in cementing that "psychological contract" and really should not be under estimated. Great supportive material for employers. Thank you.