We were all young once. Do you remember the very first opportunity you were given to step into the world of work? I bet you do, although it’s easy to forget in our ever more busy schedules. How excited, yet scared and self-conscious we were. Then there’s the impact those first few people we met at work had on our happiness and confidence. For many of us, it was these first opportunities and experiences that provided us with the platform that we needed to reach our business goals. This month, I’m going to argue the importance of you doing exactly the same for someone else, and taking a risk by giving youth a chance.
So who are they?
For the purpose of this article, I am going to group all school/college/university leavers as ‘young prospects’, as they are all just that. Everyone is looking for that first break and there are many different ways these young prospects can enter the business world.
Many businesses, including my own, offer graduate schemes and apprenticeships to those leaving either university or school. If you’re not currently offering one or both of these then I ask you, why not? Year after year I’ve seen talented young people coming into our business through these schemes and many of them now hold senior positions and are integral to our success. By growing your own talent, you create a market differentiator and one that I shall discuss more later on.
The age of the Generation Y leaders is fast approaching and, like it or not, they are the future of business. As such, it’s your chance to influence that future and reap the benefits that ambitious, driven and talented young prospects can bring.
How to attract them
Whilst you may feel that the opportunity you are offering is a fantastic one, don’t forget that your competitors are probably offering something similar. Prospective candidates, in particular the most desirable ones, are looking for far more than somewhere to earn a salary. When thinking about how to attract the talent that you are looking for, consider three things:
Opportunity: Young prospects want to learn, and they want to begin to experience the things that they feel they have worked so hard to reach. Creating an environment in which young prospects can see the chance to step out of their comfort zones, whilst utilising their hard-earned school or university education is paramount.
Progression: The pathway to success should in no way be linear but creating a road map for growth and progression will go a long way in attracting talent to your organisation. Young prospects are ambitious, and will look for a scheme to develop themselves in, be it further qualifications or promotions. Frankly, if they’re not ambitious they might not be the right fit for you.
Reward: Naturally, young prospects leaving education are likely to have a certain amount of debt, and the salary at their first ‘real job’ is going to matter. However, don’t underestimate the power of intrinsic rewards and external praise. Rewards can be so much more than simply financial and you should never undervalue the difference that the smallest amount of praise or acknowledgement can make to a younger employee.
Why invest in young prospects?
By bringing in talent this early in their career you are effectively growing your own. There are no habits to break, only habits to form and if I look at our business, our young talent completely understands the way of doing things in our business. This makes our company culture significantly stronger as a result.
Hiring young prospects can have nothing but a positive impact on your business. They come to you as a blank sheet of paper, bringing fresh ideas, bucket loads of enthusiasm and more often than not, a desire to learn and grow in your business. This alone should be enough for anyone to consider hiring. More than anything, seeing young talent flourish under your stewardship and watching them grow – not only as your employees but also within themselves – is just about the most rewarding experience you can have.
How to manage them
In order for your young prospects to thrive, they need your support. I have made many comparisons between the business and sporting worlds in my previous articles, and the same applies here. In football many talented youth team players are sent out on loan to gain valuable first team experience, rather than just playing youth or reserve team football for their parent clubs. Teams believe that through exposing their young players to first team football and giving them ‘real’ experiences at an early age, they are better preparing them for their futures, and this is also true in the business world. In order for your talented younger employees to reach their potential they need experiences, and a lot of them at that. Pushing them out of their comfort zones and experiencing new and scary situations may at the time seem like a risk, but from my experience this is certainly a risk worth taking. With your guidance and with each new challenge they overcome, your young prospects will grow, resulting not only in their own personal development but also in you having an employee who is offering more and more to your business every day.
It is too easy for apprentices and graduates to be given all of the menial and mundane tasks that nobody else really wants to do, simply because they don’t have the experience of some of those around them. Give them chances, accept that they will make mistakes (just as you did when you were their age), test their limits, but most of all support them. It doesn’t actually matter if they struggle at a task the first time. So long as you provide them with the feedback and tools they need to improve, your young prospects will be in your ‘starting 11’ in no time.