Young workers prioritise mental wellbeing

Three in four (72%) of employers have seen a shift in young people’s (16-24-year olds) values and priorities in the workplace in the past three years, with over half (51%) attributing this to lack of work experience due to the pandemic, a new survey has found.

The survey, from The Open University, revealed that nearly half of employers (46%) are not only struggling to recruit young people into the workplace, but are also struggling to retain them in their organisation too (53%). With over half (54%) of organisations not having any specific initiatives, skills programmes or workplace adjustments in place for specific talent pools including employees under 25, this adds a further strain to the ongoing skills gap.

Over half (58%) of organisation leaders surveyed report a mismatch between young people’s skill levels and employer expectations in the past three years. A decline in soft skills (54%) such as communication, teamwork, time management and technical skills (55%) among young people suggests there is a need for more investment in preparing this generation, that account for 20% of the current workforce, for the workplace.

Organisational leaders attribute the mismatch between young people’s skills and employer expectations to a lack of work experience due to the pandemic (51%), lack of social and work/study interaction due to Covid-19 (44%) and lack of opportunity to work with and learn from colleagues in a remote or hybrid work setting (31%).

Employers have revealed the top five benefits young people have requested more of in the past three years which further highlights the shift in young people’s workplace priorities:

  1. Flexible working (47%)
  2. Increasing salary demands (46%)
  3. Hybrid working opportunities (42%)
  4. Wellbeing support (24%)
  5. Mentoring or shadowing opportunities (24%)

With mental wellbeing being a priority for young workers, employers should look at ways they can improve overall morale. For example, the OU’s report with TrainingZone – ‘L&D’s role in employee wellbeing’ – highlighted the clear link between employee wellbeing and flexible learning and development programmes.

This latest survey has also found that the top learning and development opportunities requested by young people in the past three years are short courses with certification (31%), mentoring or coaching (30%), informal online courses (29%), vocational qualifications (25%) and apprenticeships (24%).

The Open University is hosting a full day event ‘Elevate Equity: Harnessing Young Talent’ on 22nd May which will include keynote speakers and panel discussion to understand how employers can attract, develop and grow young talent. The event, hosted by presenter and journalist Ben Hunte, will offer insights from Gen-Z’s career expectations and values, to ideas and practical advice on addressing the hybrid working and learning challenge and how to successfully grow and develop young talent in business. To sign up to the Elevate Equity: Harnessing young talent event and find out more, click here.