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Why now is the best time to invest in young talent

By Hannah Wright, Director, Sage People

March 30 2021 - The pandemic has hit all of us hard, but some of its most lasting effects will be felt by young people. Many businesses facing cashflow disruption and an uncertain future, made the difficult decision to freeze hiring, halt graduate schemes and apprenticeship programmes. Many also felt they didn’t have the bandwidth or resources to take in and train up fresh talent. As a result, half of 16 to 24-year-olds were put on furlough and around 7% were made redundant.

Yet there is reason to be optimistic for the future. As businesses stabilise and adjust to the new normal, governments across the world are announcing incentives for businesses that help young people join the workforce. Now is the time to take advantage of the support programmes and give young talent the opportunities they deserve. Not only could this be life-changing for the individuals, but it could also be transformational for the business as well.

A virtuous circle of innovation

Beyond temporary financial incentives, there are many reasons why businesses should be seeking out young talent right now. Employees entering the workforce for the first-time bring enthusiasm and fresh energy to a business, while freeing up vital capacity for more experienced staff. But most importantly, they bring novel ideas and new technological capabilities.

Generally, younger people are well skilled in terms of modern technology usage and are well-placed to champion emerging technologies in an organisation. This is especially true of artificial intelligence (AI): 40% of Gen Zers use AI in their working lives compared to only 28% of Baby Boomers. Tools like AI, augmented reality, robotics and the Internet of Things, are key in the shift towards digitisation, critical in our post-pandemic world.

Younger employees can help a business take advantage of the latest tools and technologies that are so appealing to them. At a time when the pace of change is accelerating and client needs are evolving, young talent can more easily pick-up new skills and help businesses become more adaptable to the everchanging demands.

Furthermore, the introduction of new blood has a cyclical effect on innovation. New talent enables the use of new technologies, establishing an environment that is beneficial and attractive to young employees. A tech-enabled enterprise attracts even more young talent into the fold, starting the process all over again. In this way, a virtuous circle of innovation is established, constantly generating new ideas, perspectives and capabilities.

Helping young people get a foot in the door

While the job market remains challenging, attracting the best young talent still won’t be easy. In the accountancy industry, 84% of professionals believe young people have progressive expectations, attitudes and talents that will need to be reflected in the company to attract them. To be competitive, People departments need to take a look at what matters most to the newest generation entering the workforce. Only then will they be able to capture their interest.

It’s no coincidence that companies like Google and Apple have been so successful in attracting talented young people. They’ve offered flexible and remote working, unlimited holiday time and tools to encourage creativity in order to appeal to prospective employees.

The most successful, forward-thinking firms recognise that factors other than pay are big drivers for young people. A fun and collaborative working environment, days off for charity work - such ‘intrinsic motivators’ are key to maintaining morale and productivity. However, the challenging thing from a talent perspective is that intrinsic motivators are different for everyone. Set career paths or benefits packages, no matter how unique they are in the marketplace, won’t tick all the boxes for every young employee.

It’s necessary then for HR teams to take an individualised approach to employees, curating a tailored career plan with incentives and conditions that encourage them to work at their very best. This is true of every employee, but particularly for younger staff who are just starting their careers. This level of understanding, however, requires a joined-up approach to company data. Through the Cloud, relevant employee data becomes plentiful and easily accessible, anywhere and at any time. Employees with the ability to analyse and translate this data into actionable and meaningful output will continue to be a valuable asset.

An antidote for disruption

In these unprecedented times, it’s difficult to anticipate how customer needs will change and how operations with be disrupted. A business has to be malleable and adaptable to this environment. This challenge will persist so long as a company remains wedded to how things used to be. That’s why introducing young talent to the business is so important. Young employees can augment a company’s agility, ensuring it has the technical skills and innovation needed to succeed.

These employees have entered a baptism of fire, but in time they will be shaped by it for the better. ‘Generation remote’ could be just the antidote business needs to survive and thrive in the future.


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