One of the common traits shared by the likes of Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook, Bill Gates of Microsoft and Steve Jobs of Apple is that they all founded their companies in their late teens or early twenties. However, the UK youth unemployment rate for 16-24 year olds, at 16.9 per cent, is higher than the national average of 6 per cent. This represents untapped young talent and energy that needs to be utilised.
As an entrepreneur who operates businesses around the world, I have been exposed to a lot of different business models and approaches to getting things done. Fundamentally, how businesses can engage and make use of young talent can be broken down into three areas: attracting young talent, training to provide an environment where they want to remain and developing their careers for the long term.
When attracting young talent, it is essential to communicate and educate what your business is about and how the youth of today can contribute. One way is to build links with local universities and colleges, particularly through offering work placements and apprentice schemes. The way you communicate must also be considered. The young are the tech savvy generation, so recruiting through social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn and relevant sector forums and websites.
The next question to ask is what attracts young talent to a firm?
Getting into the millennial mind set
Various studies have been carried out assessing the attitudes of millennials – those born from 1980 to 1995, who are now embarking on their working lives. In a global study of millennials conducted by professional services provider Deloitte in 2014, when it comes to creating a working environment, providing support, appreciating contributions and creating supportive collaborative teams were deemed very important.
For millennials, working should be collaborative. They are part of a generation that is willing to work together; they understand how collaboration creates more value than erecting barriers to the sharing of ideas. Traditional businesses need to consider changing older hierarchical models designed to control and restrict the flow of information, so younger employees can play more of a leading role in designing new models that facilitate collaboration. The US tech industry leads the world in a working culture that supports innovation and the young, encompassing collaborative working, continual investment in training and embracing young talent. This model has spread through to millennials in the UK, the rest of Europe as well as Asia, becoming the model for success when it comes to company culture.
Obviously, with such a tech savvy generation, firms that provided top tech tools for them to get on with the job would also be favourable.
Promoting your credentials for innovation is important. Indeed, 78 per cent of millennials say they are influenced by how innovative a company is when deciding if they want to work there. It is therefore clear that businesses must foster innovation, and demonstrate their innovative thinking, in an attempt to attract and nurture young talent. To communicate how innovative you are to this audience, media such as Buzzfeed and Twitter would be best rather than customary channels.
Read more about skilling up youngsters:
- Educating girls on under-represented sectors is key to future economy
- How to motivate Gen Y employees
- Today’s startups must engage tomorrow’s entrepreneurs
Investing in talent
Investing in young talent allows companies to identify, develop and maximise the effectiveness of their workforce. In addition, the prospect of internal training is an attractive offering for those leaving the education system to embark on their careers. When employees know that they are the recipient of some kind of investment it helps to motivate them as well as increase their commitment and loyalty to the business.
Apprenticeships are particularly useful for nurturing young talent and many governments from around the world offer incentives for apprenticeship schemes. An effective mentoring scheme will also help ensure success. Look for individuals in the company who enjoy imparting their experience to younger members. It also can help if the mentor is outside the immediate management team in everyday contact with the mentee/protégé – even in a different department – but understands their work. This engenders neutrality and allows the protégé to talk through any issues they may have with their immediate team colleagues. Meetings should be regular and it is important to clearly define expectations, objectives and goals.
Investing time and energy in recruiting, training and retaining young talent benefits organisations many times the initial investment cost.
In developing young talent, it is essential to invest time and resources in training and to do so as early as possible. Businesses can learning from some of the more progressive international markets, where supportive teams are encouraged to adopt a collaborative approach when solving challenges, in order to engage with (and get the best out of) talented millennials. Furthermore, a meaningful mentoring programme will help young people flourish and, importantly, remain in the business environment.