Small Business Guides

Why you should have a youth employment programme

6 min read

Businesses often choose to only hire experienced staff. But that can mean missing out on the energy, drive and creativity of youth. We spoke to Wealth Enhancers, a Gen Y financial advisory and coaching firm to find out how businesses can benefit by making youth employment part of their strategy.

Why hire young people?

Some employers are reluctant to hire young people, because they doubt their readiness to work, abilities and skill level. But as Sarah from Wealth Enhancers says, it’s important for business owners to realise that younger people have plenty to offer – and in the right environment they can thrive. For example:

  • They are keen and ready to work
    Many young people came into the job market during or immediately after the last recession. They had it tough, and some of them still do. They want to work and they want to prove themselves.
  • They’ve grown up in a digital world
    This isn’t to say that many older people don’t understand the latest digital technology, but for younger generations or the ‘App Generation’, it’s always been the norm.
  • They are often more adaptable
    Youth is a time of change and flexibility. As a result, young people are adaptable and willing to learn new skills and usually eager to work in new areas or locations. Older people can be adaptable too but it’s likely that they are much more set in their ways after years of working.
  • Social media is part of their lives
    Confused by Facebook, Twitter, WhatsApp, SnapChat, Instagram and dozens of others? Younger people aren't – and they can use social media to reach customers, prospects and future business partners.
  • They follow trends
    They have the time, energy and interest to keep up to date with the latest products and services. They can help you adapt quickly to these trends, and they can act as focus groups for your targeted marketing campaigns.
  • They may be more cost effective 
    Workers with experience usually come with a premium price tag. But someone just starting out in their career will usually have a lower expectation of salary. While you should still pay them fairly, it does mean you might be able to hire two younger people for the cost of one more experienced employee.
Sarah Riegelhuth from Wealth Enhancers

Sarah Riegelhuth from Wealth Enhancers

Four questions to ask before you hire young people

Not every business will benefit from hiring younger people. A lot depends on the type of company you run. For example, a busy, high-tech business would be a good match. Before deciding whether you should start hiring younger people, consider these points:

  1. Can you offer challenges?
    Younger people tend to be creative and open to new ideas, willing to challenge conventional wisdom and shake things up. This is often beneficial but sometimes difficult to manage. Can your business handle it?
  2. Is there room to grow?
    Some younger people are very ambitious. Can you offer a career ladder for them? If not, think carefully about who you hire, as they may outgrow your business quickly.
  3. Do you run a lively, energetic business?
    Younger people have a lot of energy, and when channelled properly this can be hugely beneficial to your business. Make sure you understand this need, and that your business can harness it.
  4. Can they make their mark?
    Younger people are often still learning about their identity, both personally and at work. Give them the space to find out what they're good at, blaze their own trail and they'll reward you with their achievements.

Does your business appeal to young people?

Wanting to hire young people is one thing – but will they want to work for you? Here are some of the ways you can make your business more appealing:

  • Offer more than just money
    Money is important, of course. But once basic financial needs have been met, other factors come into play. Think about job satisfaction, stability, working environment and benefits.
  • Do good work
    It helps if your business is an ethical one with a positive reputation, because young people like to know they're making a difference to the world.
  • Build a strong team
    Younger people tend to be team players, wanting to be involved in a successful team with other skilled and creative individuals. So make sure you build your team wisely.

Get all of this right and you'll have plenty of young people eager to join your company.

Where to hire young people

Conventional recruitment agencies might not be the best option here, as a lot of younger people won't be on their books. Instead, think about places where skilled and intelligent young people are likely to be found:

  • Colleges and universities
    Offer to give a talk to the students and maybe offer work experience placements.
  • Online meetups
    Meetups through websites such as meetup.com can be a great place to start if you want to hire young people who are passionate about a specific topic.
  • Freelance sites 
    Freelancer and oDesk are good places to start if you’re looking for young people who are eager to work.

Today it can be hard for a young person to get a job without experience – and hard to get experience without a job. Offering internships and trial hiring periods could be beneficial for you and for your new employees, as long everyone is treated fairly.

Confused by Facebook, Twitter, WhatsApp, SnapChat, Instagram and dozens of others? Younger people aren't.

Seven tips for managing young people

Young people think differently. Many don’t use email and have only ever had an iPhone.

  1. Indicate future opportunities
    Demonstrate to them that there is a career path for them within your organization. Whether they take you up on it or not, young people are motivated by opportunity and knowing they have options. One of the biggest detractors for young people is working in a job that they see no future or opportunity for progression.
  2. Provide clear expectations
    Work collaboratively with them to create unique goals with measurable outcomes and regularly review their performance. Quarterly works well, particularly as they are eager to learn and this will help them feel as though they are progressing.
  3. Be open to their ideas
    Develop a channel for them to provide feedback and ideas for the organization. The younger generation value being a part of the bigger picture and knowing that they are contributing. They will often come up with things that are quite different to your older and more experienced staff members, but in many cases these will be very valuable contributions.
  4. Be open to different forms of communication
    You may think texting in sick to work is unprofessional – but for them it is a completely acceptable form of communication. If you do have strict policies around how things should happen, that’s fine – just communicate this to them from day one and they’ll stick to it. Younger employees actually respond well to policies, systems and processes as it means they don’t need to assume how things work.
  5. Have a flexible workplace
    If you’re able to, provide a flexible working environment. Younger people can be very productive on their mobile devices (provided all of your systems are cloud-based). You may find they don’t necessarily need to be stuck in an office behind a desk all the time in order to perform their jobs effectively. If you have set clear goals for their role, give them the freedom to achieve them in their own way.
  6. Check in with them regularly
    Do this through weekly team meetings, or regular catch ups. This enables you to monitor how they are progressing and gives them an opportunity to raise challenges they may be facing. Young people like accountability and genuinely want to be given direction.
  7. Engage them in the company’s vision
    Young people have a strong desire to work for organizations that they are passionate about. Involve them in the vision and teach them how to be as passionate about your organization as you are. Sometimes you may feel like a broken record, but repetition is sometimes what is needed to get your younger employees enthisiastic and excited.

Youth represent the future of business

As we've shown, the benefits of hiring younger people and having a youth employment programme are significant. Younger people are often adaptable and creative, with a thirst to learn and be part of a team doing great work.

While not all of your staff need to be young, with the right mix of young and experienced employees, your business will have the best of both worlds. The increased energy, creativity and drive might even encourage you to reconsider some of your own attitudes to work and business – for the better.