Nearly three-quarters of businesses at risk of losing young workers, new research finds

Experts warn that ‘sense of clarity and direction’ is key to integrating and retaining younger employees within organisations

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Nearly three-quarters (72 per cent) of businesses are at risk of losing young workers as a result of not-good-enough workplace experiences and technology, new research from YouGov and Applaud has found.

Findings from the survey of 503 UK-based HR decision makers also highlighted that while some organisations are meeting increased demand from young workers for new models of working, others are struggling to adapt.

According to the data, only 28 per cent of UK businesses are equipped to attract young workers and accommodate their needs.

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To improve, Ian MacRae, work psychologist and author of Dark Social, suggested that organisations can focus on improving how they integrate young workers as well as better communicating purpose to them.

“The main thing [for younger workers] is having a sense of clarity and direction and that's often not done as well as it could be,” he said.

“Do new workers get really strong, positive connections with other people and the team in the workplace? This can be hard when it's all done behind a screen: do people really get those connections when working?”

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MacRae’s comments imply that fixes to issues with employment of young people need to be more substantial than simply offering in-vogue employment structures, such as remote, flexible or hybrid options.

Although 2022 global research from Kantar found that the majority (86 per cent) of Gen Z respondents cite hybrid working as a deciding factor in staying or choosing to join a firm, MacRae says non in-person working also needs to be managed effectively in order to drive good outcomes.

“Remote work can often make [work issues] more challenging as there can be less structure and less effort to get people well-integrated into the team,” he added. “I think employers and employees can feel disposable [in this environment].”

MacRae added that focusing on development opportunities and career pathways – he previously wrote for People Management that “nothing that cultivates commitment from younger employees than investment in learning and development” – would also be key parts of a strategic response to mitigating the flight risk of young people.

Stephen Isherwood, chief executive of the Institute of Student Employers, added: "As inflation rises, salary will become a bigger draw for young people job hunting. That said employers would be wise to remember that good training and development opportunities have been one of the most important factors for people early on in their career. 

"These findings reflect what we've seen among our own membership with graduates more likely to leave their employer now than at any other point pre-pandemic. The key to good retention is ensuring staff have a clear pathway to progress, supported by the necessary training and strong networks.

“We are also hearing that young workers also want flexibility in terms of where and when they work as well as how they develop. Mentoring, opportunities for self directed learning and good communication are key."

And Duncan Casemore, co-founder and CTO at Applaud, said that employers should also think about creating productive and engaging experiences of work in a way that matches how businesses think about delivering for consumers.

He said: “To create the ultimate working experience fit for young workers, businesses must think of simplicity, accessibility and convenience.”

With separate research from the Institute of Student Employers (ISE) finding that graduates are now more likely to leave their employer than at any point pre-pandemic, failing to deliver on what younger employees need or want has the ability to exacerbate other hiring and retention issues.

According to a report from Universities UK, which analysed data from the Office for National Statistics, there are currently one million more professional jobs than workers with degrees to fill them.

This comes on an employment landscape where there are already well-documented labour and skills shortage issues and it suggests the current supply of graduates isn’t meeting demand. 

Additional research from the ISE found that the number of graduate vacancies was now 20 per cent higher than it was in 2019 before the pandemic, and that graduate vacancies were expected to increase by more than a fifth (22 per cent) in 2022 compared to 2021.

The proportion of school leavers retained for three years after joining a company also fell to 71 per cent. 

This was down from 77 per cent when ISE started collecting this data in 2019.