Why recruitment and retention will be the issues

Employers need to take the career aspirations of young people seriously

If your organisation is experiencing difficulty attracting and retaining skilled employees, the latest careers research suggests the situation is likely to get worse unless action is taken.

Young people’s attitudes to work, careers and learning offers advance warning of impending recruitment issues – assuming current trends continue until the sample group of 1,700 14- and 15-year-olds reaches the job market.

The survey, carried out by Roffey Park in conjunction with the Sussex Careers Service, suggests that young people are not tempted by careers in construction, engineering and manufacturing, while “creative” jobs such as interior design and becoming a chef have far greater appeal. The example set by celebrity creative types such as interior designer Laurence Llewelyn-Bowen explains these aspirations to some extent.

But there is perhaps a more deep-seated shift going on since even some of the more realistic aspirations suggest a move away from traditional employment.

Young people expect work to be tough, but they want jobs that will allow their individual flair to shine through.

On the other hand, the construction industry, which is already experiencing shortages of skilled recruits, clearly has an image problem since the wide range of creative opportunities available is not getting across.

Retention is also likely to become a bigger problem.

An issue common to both young people and managers across all sectors is the challenge of achieving work-life balance. While many managers are forced to put up with long working hours and a seemingly endless spill-over of work into personal time, young people are not prepared to put up with this. They expect to do a good day’s work and then be able to do other things. They admire their parents when they are able to achieve this balance.

Employers who exploit employees’ good will or anxieties over job security implicitly encourage overwork and should take note.

While there are many differences between the views of young people and those of managers, perhaps the attitudes they share give clues to longer-term preferences likely to have an impact.

A common theme is their attitude towards teamwork. Employers in all sectors expect employees to operate in teams and achieve the benefits of synergy, but research suggests that teamworking may not come naturally to employees.

Young people are surprisingly uninterested in working as part of a team. Similarly, surveys suggest that many high-potential managers tolerate teamworking as a means to an end – to increase their own ability to achieve.

If organisations want the best of both worlds, they will need to find creative ways of recognising individual and team achievement.

Another clear trend is the recognition that each person is responsible for their own career and that notions of loyalty to a single employer are out of date.

Many managers are consciously putting effort into making themselves employable, with a clear implication that they are increasing the options available to them.

Interestingly, young people too see the need for ongoing learning in the workplace – and will expect an employer to provide them with development opportunities.

Employers who wish to attract and retain the best new recruits will have to think carefully about how they can provide these development opportunities.

Of course, the smartest employers are already doing this for existing employees.

By Linda Holbeche, director of research at Roffey Park Institute

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