Lauren Brown: Tech-savvy youngsters just the job – if employers can attract them

Lauren Brown, Project Manager, Developing the Young Workforce West Lothian
Lauren Brown, Project Manager, Developing the Young Workforce West Lothian
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Experts predict that by 2020, millennials (those who reached adulthood around the turn of the century) will make up 35 per cent of the global workforce, with Generation Z (born mid-90s to early 2000s) accounting for a further 24 per cent.

With younger generations set to make up more than half the total workforce population, businesses need to do what they can to attract and retain these individuals.

Whilst this is, in part, about employers reaching out to the future talent within their community by raising awareness of their company, their sector and the available career pathways, this is also about businesses looking at how they can start to move away from the ‘traditional’ workplace, creating a culture which will appeal to and, in turn, retain these young employees.

Employers who actively seek to recruit talent from Gen Y (born in the 80s and 90s) and Gen Z into their workforce are likely to change their business for the better.

Why? Firstly, they are more ­tech-savvy than any preceding ­generation, brought up in an era where digital access is the norm. ­Furthermore, they are entrepreneurial, and with this spirit comes core skills such as ­innovation and leadership, not to mention a passion and energy that businesses in any sector could ­benefit from.

These new generations bring with them a powerful influence on tech innovation, communication and ­other trends and, as many businesses are beginning to recognise, the ­traditional workplace culture – as many of us know it – will not appeal to this emerging workforce.

According to a survey conducted with more than 19,000 working ­millennials across 25 countries, there are several key factors – other than remuneration – which increase retention and happiness amongst this demographic, including a ­flexible work schedule, recognition and new opportunities to advance.

Interestingly, 63 per cent of millennials intend to stay with their ­current employer for the next few years. Whilst this is positive for staff retention, it is much more likely to become a reality with those companies who are setting themselves apart from their competitors by offering millennial-motivating ‘perks’.

Whilst not every business is going to be able to completely transform their working environment, small ­changes such as offering flexitime, or the option to work from home, and creating development opportunities could encourage more loyalty amongst this group of employees.

So, what can businesses do in to reach out to and attract this future workforce? Through the efforts of Developing the Young Workforce – Scotland’s Youth Employment Strategy – a wide range of businesses are already using ­innovative ways of developing their future talent pool.

Employers are forging innovative partnerships with local schools, delivering engaging presentations and projects which are developing pupils’ skills and knowledge.

They are taking time to ­mentor pupils while they are still at school, helping to shape their future ­aspirations and giving them ­meaningful exposure to, and ­experience in, the world of work.

They offer work placements for pupils, a great opportunity for businesses to provide an insight into their workplace and an effective way to source their future talent pipeline.

These businesses are also offering apprenticeships and other job opportunities, working with the Developing the Young Workforce teams to attract candidates direct from schools and colleges, reducing cost and time involved in recruitment.

Furthermore, businesses continually need to find ways of communicating information clearly and quickly to grab the attention of Gen Y and Gen Z, with social media ­proving a ­powerful platform to advertise new job opportunities and convey ­company values and culture.

Communicating and engaging directly with local young ­people applying for the local jobs of ­tomorrow is a key part of talent attraction. It is great to see so many businesses committing time and resource to engaging with schools and colleges.

Whilst there is a time investment for companies involved in Developing the Young Workforce activities, employers regularly provide feedback about the short and long-term benefits to their organisation.

Companies tend to find that young people, whilst they seek flexibility from their employer, are often more flexible in return, willing to travel, to work unsociable hours, and be more adaptable to change. They offer ­market insights and important links to a company’s customer base, which can help to improve company performance and help businesses stay up to date with the latest tech developments.

Young people are key to succession planning and preparing for the future, and those companies which have a focus on attracting young people could find that it helps to bridge the talent gap.

Lauren Brown, project manager, Developing the Young Workforce West Lothian.