Leadership and Management

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Recruiting for the new now

Why giving roles to eager young people could help give SMEs the edge.

Last updated: 10 Sep 2020 6 min read

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  • The pandemic has dented morale among young people, who were already four times more likely to be unemployed than the rest of the working age population
  • Businesses in the UK are teaming up with The Prince’s Trust to find ways to support and recruit young talent, as part of an initiative named Get Hired
  • Young people can help build a more diverse workforce, tend to be digitally savvy and fast learners 

To put it plainly, the recent lockdown was a devastating blow to young people trying to get on the first rung of the career ladder. As work placements and entry-level jobs became more scarce, morale among young people plummeted, with one survey of 16- to 25-year-olds – by The Prince’s Trust and YouGov – reporting that 46% of respondents felt that finding a job seemed “impossible”.

Even before the pandemic hit, people under 25 were four times as likely to be unemployed as the rest of the working age population.

The Prince’s Trust and YouGov poll paints a picture of spiralling anxiety and lost opportunities – but there are glimmers of hope, too. More than half of the young people surveyed actually believed that the pandemic would make their generation stronger.

A modern, mobile workforce

If school leavers and graduates are ready to tackle the new normal head-on, there are certainly plenty of people who are prepared to believe in them. Business and leadership coach Sean Purcell is author of MillenniALL, which looks at how those born between 1980 and 2000 fit into today’s workplace and the world in general.

“Millennials have often sought more flexibility in their working patterns,” he says. “They’re keen to move away from the traditional nine-to-five and being in one physical location, and are interested in bringing about a more dynamic role where the lines between their personal lives and work are blurred.”

Because of this, Purcell says that employers looking to recruit during the pandemic should consider young people well equipped to cope with current and future requirements in the workplace. “They are comfortable with working away from people and don’t feel alarmed when asked to alter their working patterns,” he says.

Tapping into competitive advantage

Tapping into the knowledge of a generation who grew up surrounded by technology and social media can help lift SMEs who struggle in these areas. Grace Beverley, founder of sustainable activewear brand Tala, has been hiring young recruits during the pandemic and says that this tech angle shouldn’t be overlooked.

Still only 23 herself, she says: “Young people shouldn’t focus on their lack of experience, given that we’ve all grown up with one of the most vital marketing tools you can have: social media. We have a huge competitive advantage over older generations in terms of that.”

A powerful business message

On top of this, Alec Dobbie, co-founder of data company FanFinders, adds that hiring young people sends out a powerful message about your business: “If you’re clearly willing to hire young people and listen to their ideas or to suggestions about new ways of working, it tells people that you’re not scared of change,” he says.

This is, perhaps, especially true when businesses proactively seek to hire a young workforce that is also diverse. Jidé Maduako, CEO of marketing agency Yoke Network, says that his personal quest to hire a diverse workforce makes excellent business sense.

“On social media, there are different interests and points of view for everything, and we want to build a business that reflects that in terms of racial diversity, LGBTQ+ and disability,” he says. “You need opinions from so many different angles.”

Helping businesses access young talent

All of the above has certainly resonated with the many UK businesses that have teamed up with The Prince’s Trust to find ways to support – and recruit – young talent as part of an initiative named Get Hired.

At the campaign’s heart is a recruitment platform which is currently free for SMEs to access, thus making it more affordable for businesses to find the people they need. It also hosts live online ‘speed interviewing’ events to match SMEs with the right talent quickly, and – in order to try and ensure that new recruits continue to flourish and remain a part of the team – collaborative support workshops for SMEs that cover everything from mental health training to mentoring.

“Young people shouldn’t focus on their lack of experience, given that we’ve all grown up with one of the most vital marketing tools you can have: social media. We have a huge competitive advantage in that” Grace Beverley, founder, Tala

Vicky Yorke, innovation project lead at The Prince’s Trust, points out that mentoring is an easy way for an SME to support young people if they don’t currently have any vacancies. If you can offer an hour to mentor a young person, she says, it can be life-changing, as most school leavers and graduates don’t have access to a professional network.

Building skills to meet your needs

On a related note, hiring a young recruit and then assigning them a mentor within the company can be a great way for a business to address its immediate needs while maintaining an eye on the future, says Yorke. In other words, help a young person to do the job you need done today, and then reap the rewards through the coming months and years when their aptitude for tech, social media and flexible working likely becomes an asset. 

The SMEs that have been most receptive to Get Hired so far are those with an entry-level role to fill who want to do something socially rewarding and who are prepared to put in the effort to nurture a young recruit through their first weeks.

“As well as Get Hired, you can find young people on LinkedIn, The Dots – a great place for young creatives – and you can look into how charities can help as well,” suggests Yorke. “Once you give a young person the opportunity to work with you, they’re likely to stay, because you gave them a chance.”

Clued-up, tech-savvy and available

Ultimately, young people are fast learners, tech-savvy – and looking for work. “They’re looking for high levels of engagement and variety in the workplace, and they have an ability to manage a great deal of information,” says Catherine Watmore, senior employment law and HR consultant at Mentor, the bank’s business consultancy service. But they won’t just work for any old company…

“They are drawn to businesses with core values beyond profit,” Watmore says. “They’re looking for employers that value individuals and principles, and that have some sort of corporate social responsibility that resonates with them, too.”

With that in mind, it could well be that hiring young employees is the best message you can send out to the world. If they’re coming in to work for you, then you must be doing something right.

Through the NatWest Mentor service, we are offering access to MentorLive for free. This is an online compliance management system where you'll find a range of employment law, HR and health & safety tools, templates, policies and guidance to support you in protecting your people and business from the effects of coronavirus. We can support you in managing jobs and the impact on your business operations and the health, safety and well-being of your people. Please click here to register for MentorLive. Mentor services may incur a cost. 

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Leadership and Management