By Daniel Hunter
With three million 16-24 year olds now part of the UK labour market, the development of young people within the workforce now needs to be a key area of focus for employers, so they can retain great talent and improve business performance.
This is according to a new report from the CIPD, the professional body for HR and people development, which highlights that recruiting young people is just half of the equation and that once in work, more attention must be given to developing individuals and building the skills they need for future success.
The report, Developing the Next Generation, is being launched today at the CIPD’s Managing Talent Conference and Workshop, and explores this issue through a series of case studies from organisations including Fujitsu, ActionAid, CapGemini, Reed Smith and Barclays. It considers how organisations can identify the most effective learning and development (L&D) programmes for young people and the importance of outlining a clear business case for investing in their development.
The research found that a key step, but recurring challenge for organisations trying to develop young people, is establishing a clear business case. The case study organisations discussed how their development programmes for young workers have impacted significantly on the wider business, helping to drive engagement, increase efficiency and foster greater productivity. Fujitsu said that focusing on developing young people has positively impacted the wider business, both culturally and at the bottom line. By attracting a diverse range of young talent, they are starting to alter the demographic of the organisation, and are seeing improved gender diversity. By going a step further and developing young workers, retention is higher, recruitment costs have gone down and they are successfully creating a pipeline of future leaders.
Nick White, Graduate Programme Manager at Fujitsu, said: “We can see real value in the programmes and investing time, effort and money into making the programmes work. It’s about making sure we have future leaders, and that is actually happening. Thirty per cent of those on our Future Leaders Programme started as graduates in the organisation.”
Ruth Stuart, Research Adviser for L&D at the CIPD, said: “With over 300,000 young people entering the workforce every year, organisations need to establish effective development opportunities from the moment they’re employed, so they can retain them and build on the unique skills they bring. To be successful though, organisations must be clear on what they are trying to achieve. It’s pointless to introduce a scheme without first considering its impact on the wider business and ensuring it fits with future resourcing needs. By providing an appealing alternative to university through their recruitment and development programmes, for example, Barclays and Capgemini have been able to tap into and retain young talent, plug significant skills gaps and achieve substantial organisational benefits. This shows just how crucial a clear business case is in achieving a quality outcome.”
The report goes on to discuss how, once the business case is clear, L&D and HR professionals must understand the strengths, skills and learning preferences of young people. Those the CIPD interviewed flagged a preference for bite-sized learning, gaining knowledge from experience and receiving constructive feedback on actions. But although they admitted to being ‘tech-savvy’, when asked about which learning methods they disliked, the answer was unanimously ‘online training’. Organisations therefore need to be careful not to generalise or stereotype young people, as this could lead to false assumptions and ineffective development initiatives.
On skills, the case study research highlighted that young people bring enthusiasm and drive, innovative thinking and technological understanding to the workforce. However, analysis of the literature shows that young people need to develop deeper skills in self-awareness, acceptance of criticism and emotional intelligence. In response, the CIPD recommends that employers should focus on providing a strong support network, clear objectives, regular feedback and opportunities for upward communication.
Ms Stuart added: “Young people have enormous potential to contribute to a business’s success if their strengths and skills are recognised and enhanced. Organisations need to carefully select the right kind of programmes to ensure they have the chance to make an impact at an early stage. L&D and HR professionals need to collaborate and communicate to pinpoint the learning preferences of new generations and line managers also have a crucial role to play in developing and implementing initiatives. In the longer term, we should be looking to instil a sense of self-awareness and confidence at an earlier age to deal with certain skills gaps, and the responsibility here lies with policy-makers and educational leaders, as well as employers. But for now, the key is to understand young people and develop blended programmes using different methods that suit their learning preferences, whilst still staying in line with the overall business objectives.”
Developing the Next Generation has been published as part of the CIPD’s Learning to Work programme, which promotes the role of employers in reducing youth unemployment and champions the business case for investing in the future workforce. For more information visit: www.cipd.co.uk/learningtowork