Don’t Want Young Workers?

Most firms don’t recruit young workers straight out of school because they lack work experience. Too bad for them.

By Katerina Radiger

Being young in today’s labor market is not easy. Employer surveys show that only a small number of firms recruit young workers straight out of school, citing a “lack of work experience” as the reason.

This makes today’s youth one of the most disadvantaged groups in the job market. This is a problem. As research by The Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) shows, organizations need to engage with young people to sustain competitiveness long term. This is particularly important in the context of the aging workforce — with the eventual mass exodus of the baby boomers — as knowledge transfer will be crucial.

Helping young people get settled in the workplace is not just an issue of corporate responsibility, but is vital to business success. According to CIPD research, the business case is clear.

Here are some ways to build a company’s young workforce:

Grow talent through workforce planning. Even in today’s tough economic climate, employers report serious problems recruiting people with the right skills. To combat this challenge, organizations need to start to grow their own talent. Learning leaders should audit the skill profiles of their workforce and establish the skills needed now and in the future.

Cater to young people’s unique skills, attitudes and motivation. Young people are not only tomorrow’s workforce; they are also an invaluable asset. Younger workers bring unique skills, new ideas and enthusiasm. These skills are particularly important to organizations when it comes to digital literacy, social networking and social media.

Enhance workforce diversity. A diverse workforce that offers different perspectives, skills, values and experiences is a key business asset. And young people are an important part of that diverse workforce. They often bring fresh perspectives and new ways of doing things by virtue of not having come from the traditional corporate environment. Furthermore, young people are often in touch with the latest ideas and technology.

Bolster the employer brand. Many organizations report that employing younger workers boosts their reputation as an employer of choice — an invaluable asset when it comes to attracting top talent. Today, employer engagement with the community is more important than ever, and getting local young people into jobs is a good way to establish such engagement on a different level.

Be cost-effective. Investing in young people to grow your own workforce is more cost-effective than trying to buy in skills and talent later. Furthermore, investing in young people will foster great loyalty — people who were brought up in the organization with great development and training are more likely to stay with that employer.

What can learning leaders do to put the business case for young talent to work? There are four key action points:

• Work with line managers to help them establish how they can grow their talent and design jobs that are appropriate for young people — such as entry-level roles, internships and apprenticeships.

• Increase your organization’s engagement with local schools and universities.

• Establish mentoring programs for line managers that help them support young people at work.

• Establish high-quality, early work experience for younger workers. For example, set up and run high-quality apprenticeship programs that focus on on-the-job learning and knowledge transfer from older to younger workers.

Katerina Rudiger is a skills policy adviser for The Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development, an HR and development professional group. She can be reached at