Young people can take a decade to recover from the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on their lives. Postponed exams and school closings have meant many young people are choosing to put their careers on hiatus, as rising unemployment rates cut off avenues to professional opportunities for new graduates.
Even young people who have been able to find work are in difficulty. The shift to distance means that individuals do not develop basic “soft skills” and quickly feel a sense of disconnection due to technological overload. In fact, a survey shows that nearly half of Gen Z workers report having communication problems at work and difficulty obtaining the resources they need to thrive. It is therefore not surprising that the mental health of young people has deteriorated the most since the onset of the health crisis.
We know that some demographics have been disproportionately affected by the pandemic, but because young people are considered to be at low risk of contracting the virus, they are often overlooked in the discussion about inclusion – and that’s a problem. . Young people will be the ones who build the next normal, and if we don’t give them the tools to grow up now, we limit the possibility of a more innovative and just future. Moreover, if we cannot open our workplaces to young people, it means that these spaces are also not accessible to other groups (for example people who change careers and the elderly.)
Here’s how businesses can sow the seeds of inclusion and integrate young people into the workforce of tomorrow:
Career development should be an integral part of your business
Millennials received more pay cuts than other generations during the pandemic, and more worryingly, young people ‘pay could be lower for three years after its demise. Not only are young people at a disadvantage economically, but their personal development could be limited if they cannot afford it themselves, which has a direct ripple effect on their careers. To close this gap, the founders must make training a priority for young people.
Before embarking on workshops and meetings, it is important to recognize that young workers may not yet have identified the best approach for their own learning. Rather than bombarding them with information they cannot apply effectively, spend time discussing approaches they can use to practice and eventually master new skills. For example, the Power Learning Tool is a scientific framework that teaches employees how to capitalize on learning opportunities. By following the different steps, employees can form intentional learning habits of their own and help them acquire and apply new skills.
In the quick start space, where employees often don’t have the time to train others beyond what is necessary, covering low cost job training with platforms goes a long way. Udemy, Skillshare, and Brilliant are some of the best platforms out there and they are reasonably priced, making them a worthwhile investment for any growing business and young staff.
Take an interest in the ambitions of employees, whether or not they exceed their current role. Ask them what their values are, who inspires them and what their goal is. Based on the responses, offer them to participate in the internal company activities that align, such as: workshops, fireside discussions, presentations and inter-departmental meetings. You can also let younger employees alternate roles, allowing them to develop their favorite skills through exploration.
Intergenerational mentoring can be a step up the career ladder
The first three months of a job are crucial for new employees. It is when they socialize, feel comfortable in their role and take ownership of the dynamics of the company. In a remote environment, it is more difficult to bond with people who may already know each other. This is a significant barrier given that one-third of Millennials believe that socializing with coworkers helps them move up the career ladder. Plus, not being in an office prevents young employees from learning by watching their more experienced colleagues in action.
In response, assigned mentoring can integrate and develop younger employees, especially if the mentors come from senior positions. Research shows that well-supervised new professionals develop faster because their learning has a more defined direction. That’s why more than two in three Fortune 500 companies have mentorship programs in place, including Boeing, General Electric, and Intel. Such programs are also powerful in removing age-related stigma and helping existing leaders appreciate the value and potential of new ideas and experiences. And they allow employees to feel less isolated, fostering closer relationships between colleagues.
Mentoring should be structured – there should be regular updates, a database of learning materials, and clear plans for leveraging the mentoring program. This can include inviting mentees to attend meetings with superiors, putting them in touch with people in their network, inside or outside the company, and creating opportunities. for mentees to practice newly acquired skills. Mentors can also invite mentees to join any online tech communities they are involved with, for example, mentees may be interested in Elpha, WomenTech Network and Femstreet. Mentors should also have regular open office hours where mentees can get feedback and support.
Reuse technology to promote soft skills
The distance revolution has deprived young people of learning soft skills – technology is so prevalent that they have less room to practice their interpersonal skills outside of digital devices. This absence puts their careers at risk just as soft skills become essential in the workplace – a report from Deloitte indicates that “soft skills-intensive occupations will account for two-thirds of all jobs by 2030” .
Find ways to develop these capabilities in the digital environment. Start by offering interactive sessions on communication, leadership and teamwork. You can use virtual reality to play out scenarios where young workers have to present a product to customers, update management on team data, or give constructive feedback to colleagues; Virtual reality may also involve younger employees more than classroom learning – studies have shown that people feel four times more emotionally connected to virtual reality content.
Zoom fatigue causes mental blocks, so change meetings to phone calls instead of just video calls. Changing medium can encourage young employees to focus on their vocal communication without relying on facial expressions or hand gestures to express what they want to say. It could also improve their time management, as they won’t have to be at their desks but will still need to be punctual and prepared.
Young people are ready to face change; they master the technology and bring a perspective that allows businesses to grow, not just keep going. Yet they risk being left behind in the future of work. If companies don’t take steps to incubate this group, the new normal will form without welcoming the people who will live there the longest. That said, with the right map, founders can help young people find their place and anchor an entire generation in limbo.
Rachel Sheppard is Director of Global Marketing at Global Pre-Seed Accelerator Founding Institute, and co-founder of the Female Founder Initiative, a program launched in 2016 to provide support, funding and visibility to female founders.