Entering the workplace after education is a terrifying prospect for most young people. But when that already difficult leap is complicated by a situation that none of us has ever had to deal with before, it creates a sense of uncertainty and difficulty. That’s exactly what has happened to the young people that have entered the working environment in the last 18 months.
When the world was thrown into disarray by the first lockdown, things changed for people everywhere with little warning which made it difficult to process to begin with. Richard Hamaker, Senior HR Business Partner at Leaseweb, reinforces that “the transition from office to remote was swift and abrupt. People however adjusted and many voiced the shared sentiment that ‘we got this!’ But as the weeks turned into months, the realisation settled in that a return to the office and normality will take a while. This is when people started to lose energy and sometimes even despair.”
Throughout the pandemic, everyone has had to adapt to new ways of life and in particular, new ways of working. This has affected everyone in the workplace but has been particularly hard for young people.
Gillian Mahon, Chief People and Places Officer at Totalmobile emphasises these difficulties young people have struggled with throughout the pandemic: “Recent research has shown that the youngest members of the workforce have been most impacted by the effects of COVID and remote working, with barely over a third of them receiving regular check-ins with their manager. Without being in employment long enough to form a deep-rooted support system, and instead being shut away in their homes, the younger generations are being left to fend for themselves without the necessary tools to thrive.”
Nick Adams, Vice President of EMEA, Globalization Partners also recognises the worry that young people may begin to lose out if they continue working from home in the long term: “Chancellor of the Exchequer, Rishi Sunak, warns that if companies don’t make a return to the office soon, young people could ‘miss out’ on the benefits of in-person mentorship and communication.”
Mentorship is important in any new job
Starting a new job can be daunting, and for young people, mentorship is key. They rely on the wisdom and knowledge of more experienced colleagues. Agata Nowakowska, AVP EMEA, Skillsoft knows the importance of these schemes:
“While many tech savvy millennials are largely unaware of the opportunities on offer, 65 per cent say they value on-the-job training and mentorship programmes very highly. So initiating appropriate development programmes that tempt these potential candidates represents a significant opportunity for organisations looking to resolve their digital skills gap challenge. It’s time to focus on the next generation of tech talent.”
Richard Hamaker furthers this point by stressing the importance of staying in touch with staff during their learning period. “In times of crisis, the number one thing you should do is stay in touch. Acknowledge that there is a difference between the old and the new, and that while people can adapt swiftly, it’s important to accept that they may need months before adopting new behaviour. According to John Kotter from Harvard Business School, people need at least a year to adapt and learn one new skill set.”
Nick Adams adds to this, discussing the need for improved processes in recruitment and onboarding: “Now more than ever, recruitment and onboarding represent the most critical points for improving employee engagement and retention for the long term. So, enabling standardised processes that ensure new hires can deliver fast will be critical.”
How can we support young people remotely?
Ultimately, we don’t know how long young people will be required to work remotely for and as a result, it is imperative that the proper support is put in place. This sentiment is echoed by Gillian Mahon, who highlights that “it has never been more important to implement the correct technology and communication strategies to engage employees. Today’s 18 – 24 year olds need to be given the opportunities to network with senior members of their organisation, receive mentorship from experienced colleagues, and be offered the opportunity to receive regular feedback and check-ins to drive their progression. Investing in training in both soft skills and digital skills can also be invaluable to young people’s prospects, no matter the sector they end up working in – even jobs that have traditionally been thought of as manual are becoming increasingly more reliant on innovative technologies.”
Nick Adams also talks about the need for investment in these resources: “This International Youth Day, employers should consider how they can invest resources towards building company culture that supports the next generation. Leveraging technologies like video conferencing and other digital channels will be crucial in managing young workers as they take their footing in the world of work – and will soon enable them to stride.”
It is important to note, however, that using this technology need not be purely work focused, it is also key to check up on staff, and ensure they are simply doing ok. This is a point echoed by Richard Hamaker. “At Leaseweb we kept this top of mind, and started regularly calling and checking in with our staff, including inviting them to chat, not via Zoom or Teams, but by walking on the phone, and supporting them through the change process. We introduced workshops about mindset, and had regular conversations with those who started to indicate that they were having a difficult time.”
He concludes: “During such challenging times, the feeling that somebody is there for you is the most important and only thing you can do.”