Hiring young people is an investment. There is a science behind managing young workers and many employers don’t put in the effort. But those that do have a powerful opportunity to develop the future of their business.
Recently Massey University published a guidebook for employers to help them be more intentional in their approach to employing and managing vulnerable young people, but I think it works well as a foundational hiring principle for all youth. I’ve cherry picked some of the key principles from the guide that employers should consider:
Develop a relationship
Proactively building a nurturing relationship with young workers can dramatically influence how they engage with their employment. This means being passionate about their success and going beyond the typical confines of the arms-length boss-worker dynamic we see in New Zealand.
Recognise that they are new to the workforce by providing ongoing mentorship and supervision. Respond intentionally to their unique practical and emotional needs. Enduring, warm, empathetic relationships provide young people with positive work experiences. Negative relationships only help to disengage them.
Employment represents a huge step for young people in building their independence and how they engage with the world and employers are uniquely situated to influence the kind of person they become. It can require perseverance and persistence but the flow-on benefits of this for our business are powerful: increase loyalty, staff retention, higher productivity, the chance to mould the ideal worker – these are all dividends for your business because you decided to invest in your young staff.
Investment in the future
Young people do not come off an assembly line ready to work. They are inexperienced and do need extra guidance but investing in their success is investing in the future of your business.
Give them time to adjust to their role. Be intentional with mentorship opportunities. Buddy them up with an appropriate staff member who can offer guidance, and have a clear plan for their orientation
into your workforce. Provide plenty of professional development opportunities. They then in turn could make excellent mentors for the next generation of young workers you employ.
Reflect with them regularly. This will help to discover critical learning moments that will help them grow. You never know – they could be running your business one day!
Adapting to employment is a huge step for young people. Many lead chaotic lives and have complicated family situations, sports activities, turbulent relationships, and other commitments they are managing. Maybe they are moving to a new flat, maybe they broke up with their high school boyfriend. They are constantly having to adjust to changing situations as they mature into an adult.
Understanding that they have competing demands and being flexible inyour expectations will help foster resilience building. This could mean being agile with working hours, or proving specific training opportunities, or even assistance with transport. The ability to be adaptable will help build a strong relationship.
It’s also important to normalise mistakes. Mistakes are the best learning opportunities if you have a culture of acceptance and utilise them for positive reflection. Having a punitive approach to mistakes is toxic and can result of low morale and lower productivity.
Value their perspective
It’s important to involve young people in decision-making processes. Most of the time they want to be active participants in planning workplace initiatives and can offer a unique perspective. Encourage this engagement and remember – there is no such thing as a stupid question, merely great learning opportunities.
They also bring a whole market with them that you might not be reaching. Young people interact with other young people; they know how to communicate with younger demographics and are more familiar with the zeitgeist than you. They are also more likely to be in tune which current technologies, and highly adaptable to changing technology.
If you want to learn more about working with young people it’s worth taking a closer look at Massey University’s Guidelines For Employers: Supporting Young People Into Employment.