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5 top tips to make the most out of the young talent in your business

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A recent survey conducted by the CIPD found that over half (56 per cent) of small businesses, and 61 per cent of medium-sized organisations, increased their apprenticeship opportunities in 2013. 

This increase reflects the wider move by employers of all sizes and sectors to recruit more young people in order to boost the skills and expertise of their workforce, increase innovation and ultimately future-proof the business.

However, our interviews with SMEs have shown that that some are concerned about how much time and resource they would need to commit to preparing their new young employee for what lies ahead. 

This worry is understandable, but employing a young person – either as an apprentice, a school or college leaver, or university graduate – is an investment, which pays dividends if planned and carried out correctly. Small to medium-sized organisations who have successfully managed young people say that as a result they benefit from employees who embody the culture of an organisation and are more likely to remain loyal.

The CIPD recently published Managing Future Talent – a guide for employers, jointly produced with Acas and unionlearn. The guide shares best practice tips from line managers – many of whom have experience working with young people in SMEs – on how to provide the right practical support and guidance to help inexperienced employees flourish in their new role.

It’s important to remember that for a young person, the experience of entering the workplace and adjusting to working life, perhaps for the first time, whilst also learning and performing tasks they may never have done before, can be a daunting prospect. 

But what steps can you take to support and grow young talent coming into your business? Here are our top five tips:

Step 1 – Invest time up front and provide a good induction: There are certain things that all good inductions should contain, including a tour of the facilities, explanation of how the company is structured and practical guidance in areas such as working times, pay and tax and health and safety. However, for an SME, with potentially fewer departments and employees, this process might take less time than it would in a large company, allowing for a more thorough and less intimidating induction for the young person.

Step 2 – Manage colleague’s expectations: Provide advice on what tasks the young person should be able to do immediately and what they might not, and discuss appropriate support from colleagues that will be beneficial for the young person coming in. This is particularly important in small organisations where traditionally each individual is relied upon to deliver their share and ‘hit the ground running’.

Step 3 – Introduce new tasks gradually: But also remember to expand tasks when the young person is ready for a new challenge. Sharing tips and techniques to approaching everyday tasks can help them settle in quicker and prepare them to take on more responsibilities. In some cases this can be done more effectively and informally in SMEs.

Step 4 – Provide regular opportunities to meet, discuss progress and provide feedback: A regular meeting to talk through projects and receive constructive feedback is essential to the development of the young employee and the success of your organisation.

Step 5 – Provide a mentor: Supporting and developing a young person doesn’t need to involve complex arrangements and processes. A mentor can help a young worker acclimatise to the workplace, support their overall development, or simply provide much-needed advice or pastoral support, as David Barlow, Managing Director of SME Barlow’s Electrical Ltd explains: ‘We’re a family run business, so a lot of youngsters talk to us about their problems. And I’m pleased they’re able to tell me about the issues they’re having.’

Annie Peate is a programme and policy officer at the CIPD.

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