Ignore Youth, Destroy The Economy?

I hate to sound all Michael Jackson, but children, they’re the future, man.

Yes, they are. The sad thing is that despite the roaring job market, we’re still not employing them at a rate that would be healthy to our economy. In the UK, 737,000 young people between the ages of 16 and 24 are classified as unemployed. That’s 16.2% — and in Europe the problem gets worse. In Spain, the figure has touched 57%.

The employment market is not dissimilar from the housing market. If you don’t let people onto the bottom rung of the ladder, houses at the top become harder to shift. The market stagnates, and progress suffers. In the jobs market, there are a host of consequences, which I’ll look at in this piece — but first, as if you need convincing, the advantages of youth.

Why You Should Hire More Young People

If you’re like me, you’ve more or less accepted that you’re not “young” anymore. It’s taken a while, but you’ve gotten there. You’ve acquired the battle scars of (approximately) 15-20 years in full employment, you’ve acquired your ways of working, and you’re part of the system.

Remember when you were younger and you had more ideas? More of a rebellious spirit in you? You need some of that.

Youth Is Innovation

It’s a hackneyed idea — perhaps a cliche. Yet, it’s a well-worn cliche for a good reason. As I progress into my 40s (next year, if you don’t mind), I find myself relying on younger people for that creative spark, for those ideas that will spark a campaign.

What I get is an alternative worldview. What I can do is take that, shape it, and put it into a framework that I know will work, and produce results for our clients.

The first step — if you’re anything like me — is to accept that you don’t know everything, and you never will. You can learn, and you can run to catch up, but when the ideas start to dry up, there are plenty of people who have good ideas.

Without innovation, you lose your competitive edge. In other words, if you don’t have someone to push your worldview out of shape and make you think differently, you’ll always think the same way, and that’s not good business. Someone else will be doing the thinking, and they’ll be somewhere else.

Youth Moves People Up

Just like in the housing market, movement is a good thing. Whereas people tend to move houses once every seven years, people move jobs at a much quicker rate — often within an organization, either being promoted or moved sideways.

Change is a constant, and people expect it. The last thing your people want is to stay in the same position for seven years, with the same salary and the same prospects. Without the feed of employees at the bottom of the ladder, longer-serving employees may feel that they have come to the end of their time with you.

If everyone wants to progress, it stands to reason that there is someone at the bottom of the ladder, learning the ropes. And this may be a little bit Karate Kid (wipe on, wipe off), but someone has to do the “churn.”

In order to bring about progress for your existing employees, you need to refresh at the bottom end of your organization; otherwise they’ll feel stuck, and eventually find that progression elsewhere.

But … Youth Brings Responsibility

It’s everyone’s responsibility to ensure that youth unemployment reduces — and that we get the best out of young people in the workplace. There is no way of nurturing talent unless we’re bringing people through, teaching them the ropes, and giving them the opportunities they desire. Those opportunities may not be framed in the way we know them; research clearly shows that Millennials desire more ethical outcomes at work, and actively seek roles that are morally sound.

Managing talent is multi-faceted, but over the last few years we appear to have forgotten the bottom end of the funnel, and we’ve stopped giving young people the chances they need. That needs to change, and there are incentives for you as an employer to turn that around.

The apprenticeships scheme, for instance, allows employers to take on a student, at a low cost, and train him or her up while they are studying. This has an extra edge over internships, where the intern can “come and go as her or she pleases” — because you are offering a fixed position.

If governments are encouraging us to get involved, we should. I, for one, will be looking at the apprenticeships scheme here in the UK, and I actively encourage others to do so too. We all have to do our bit — and I’m convinced that we’ll all do better as a result.

About the Author: Gareth Cartman is a marketer with a background in HR. As an employer, he is fascinated by talent development and management. As a Dad, it’s the same, but more stressful.

photo credit: Waag Society via photopin cc