The following article is by Tristram Hooley. Institute of Student Employers
How can we best develop young employees? This new research on the development of early talent from the Institute of Student Employers shares key insights.
Young people can be one of the greatest resources for employers. When you bring young talent into your organisation you’re gaining access to new ideas, enthusiasm and the latest skills from the education system, but you need to think carefully about how to manage younger workers and organise training and development in a different way from established staff.
Many young people will never have been in a workplace before and they will often have a lot to learn about how your organisation works.
Two of the key roles for learning and development professionals is to help line managers understand the skills that their new hires have (and do not have) and to provide them with a pathway to developing these staff.
Strengths of new hires
In the Institute of Student Employers’ Student Development Survey 2019 we asked employers to reflect on what things graduates, apprentices and school leavers were good at (and not so good at). They reported that all entry level hires were typically good at the following things:
- IT and digital skills (including using Excel)
- Presenting themselves effectively in the workplace
- Staying positive and building effective relationships with others
For learning and development professionals this is a really strong base to start from. New hires come out of the education system with some of the key building blocks that they will need for successful careers, but they are often less clear on how to make use of these skills within the workplace.
Helping young hires to consider how to apply the skills and knowledge they have within your business is therefore a key objective of induction and early career development programmes.
Weaknesses of new hires
The weaknesses that employers raised with the different types of young hires are also interesting (see table for full list). Key areas of weakness included:
- Business appropriate communications
- Commercial awareness
- Job-specific skills
- The ability to manage up
All of these weaknesses are strongly related to transitioning into the workplace environment. Where young hires struggle is in learning how to operate successfully within the workplace, to work with others (including their managers) and to deliver what is expected of them.
This requires learning and development professionals to rethink induction processes and to view them as a process of cultural acclimatisation that may go on for an extended period of time – the focus of early career training
Given that early career hires have both strengths and weaknesses, an important issue is what employers can do to develop their hires and strengthen their skills.
On average, firms reported that they were spending £3,850 a year on each of their entry level hires. Often using the apprenticeship levy to fund some or all of this.
The available resources should be spent on both cultural acclimatisation and on developing specific skills and knowledge that is required to perform in role and progress in career.
Employers in our survey typically invested in the same areas that they reported young hires were weak in, although areas, like presentation skills and teamworking, continue to be important for training even though entry level hires arrive relatively strong in these things.