The Why and How of Investing in Young Talent

We’ve all heard the saying, ‘You’ve got to spend money to make money’. But when it comes to attracting young talent in the workforce, that advice is largely ignored. 

Young employees entering the workforce today have drastically different motivations to previous generations—they’re highly-educated, tech-savvy and extremely self-aware. And as such, they tend to be quite picky about the type of organisation they’re working for. Things like mission, ethos and social impact are all important factors, which is why the charity sector is increasingly becoming more popular for Millennials and Gen Z.

But the key question to ask is whether responding to these changes is worth the cost to the organisation. In the first section of this article, we’ll explain why it’s important to invest in young talent, and then we’ll provide practical advice that charities can use to maximise their efforts.

Millennials in the charity workplace

Addressing a talent gap in the charity sector

As of December 2019, there are currently 481,000 young people aged 16–24 who are unemployed—that’s 11.3% of economically active people within this demographic. While youth unemployment decreased by 4.6% since September 2014, this still contrasts sharply with the unemployment rate for the country as a whole, which stands at 3.8%. We’re still seeing that organisations in the UK are not fully utilising the talents and abilities of young people. So what are the benefits of employing young workers and why is it worth your time to invest in them?

First and foremost, young people bring a different perspective to the workplace, both in their opinions and in the way that they approach tasks. This will strengthen the diversity of thought in your organisation which gives rise to more innovative ideas and solutions.

Then there is the digital skill aspect. Millennials and Gen Zs have grown up inundated with technology and social media. These young people, therefore, come equipped with a high computer and tech literacy and social media savvy. According to the NCVO’s 2020 Skills Gaps in Charities research, this is exactly what the UK voluntary sector is lacking. By bringing in more tech-savvy workers, charities increase their chances of reaching a wider, more socially inclined donor base.

diversity in the charity sector changed

Why you should be investing more in young talent

At this point you may be saying, ‘I’m already recruiting young people but why should I invest more in them?’ The answer here is one that is more congruent with traditional business thought; investing in an employee’s growth can increase their loyalty to the organisation, thus creating a talent pool for the future of your charity. ‘Ok, but how do I invest more in young people?’ You may be glad to know that the answer is not to buy a pool table or have beer on tap in the office but to provide ways that young employees can become stronger and more fulfilled.

Research by UpRising Leadership, conducted between 2017 and 2019, worked with young people to understand what they felt organisations could do to improve the retention of younger employees in the workforce.

When asked what their primary motivation was when accepting a job, 40.6% said it was the extent to which they could create a positive impact through their work (good news for charities!) and 33.3% highlighted opportunities for professional development. In other words, they want to be sure they not only have a future at that organisation but that there is a clear path for advancement.

investing in young talent for positive impact

How to attract a younger generation of workers

Below are seven ways UK charities can adapt to increase their investment and retention of younger workers:

  1. Create a space for young staff to talk openly about what they would like to see in the workplace and how they could be better supported.
  2. Support young people to create robust personal development plans, highlighting routes to progression where possible.
  3. Ensure a culture of regular catch-ups between younger employees and their managers that is more than just reviewing outputs—this is a chance to provide feedback and flag up any issues they’re facing.
  4. Create opportunities for younger staff to shadow or network with senior staff. Doing so can help to create an understanding of the opportunities that are available in the organisation and foster a desire to progress.
  5. Be proactive in signposting learning and development opportunities. Hint: sign up to local newsletters to learn about free or low-cost training options.
  6. Develop mentoring programmes that allow young people to learn from those who have been employed longer and are on a similar career path. Allowing those newer to the organisation to understand their ‘next step’ and gain practical insight
  7. Give young people the opportunity to make a positive impact on their community, either through staff volunteering programmes or by providing additional leave days to undertake volunteering with a charity of their own choosing.

invest in young talent - volunteer opportunities

While not every organisation will be able to apply all of these recommendations, even trialling one shows a commitment to the development of young employees. Other than increased loyalty and staff satisfaction, carrying out some of these recommendations will lead to a more qualified and productive workforce.

Now you’re ready to implement change and invest in your younger workforce, other than the recommendations above, you can get in touch with us for more practical advice or look into becoming a youth-friendly employer. If you aren’t quite convinced yet, grab a copy of UpRising’s recent report for more insight into the young workforce. This can be downloaded here.

Tags: digital skill gap, hiring the right people, recruitment trends

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About the author

Channing Walbridge

Channing focuses on Fundraising and Communications at national youth leadership development charity, UpRising. She is passionate about inclusivity and social mobility.