Five mistakes HR is making with young people

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Canada's youth unemployment is consistently double the national rate, which is bad news for employers who need those younger workers for their long term talent strategies.

When young Canadians are delayed entering the workforce, and are stuck in contract or temporary positions, they are slow in reaching key milestones such as moving out of home, buying a car, buying a first home and starting a family. These delays will have long-term ramifications for the national economy, and  for companies, which will struggle to find the experience and leadership skills they need if there is no entry-level training offered.

From misconceptions about Gen Y overall, to the changing world of work – what bad habits can HR break to help their company, and the country?

Gen Y are frequently criticized as being lazy, unmotivated, demanding and lacking loyalty, which are not always true.  Author and academic Ken Coates says many employers think Gen Y expect too much in terms of flexibility and other perks, but the right worker won’t be so demanding.

“Employers look around and say ‘If that’s the model I don’t want to hire those people.’ Because you can’t hire people who are going to work 75% of the time, which is how it gets perceived,” Coates said.

Many employers are also looking for the “perfect candidate” rather than someone with the ability to be trained for a role.

“Companies don’t want to invest in training young people because time is money,” JVS Toronto youth services manager Orville Wallace said. “Lots of the youth are talented, but they need someone to invest in them and train them.”

Wallace worked with young people from priority neighbourhoods such as Jane and Finch. Prejudice can be a big problem, from tossing a resume based on their address, to the lingering effect of run-ins with the law. JVS Toronto helped them build life skills and gain work experience through four to six month paid placements, which are subsidized by the city to reduce employer risk. 

“Right now we have a huge success rate with employers keeping them on, but it’s that difficult first step of getting them through the door. That’s where the barriers are highest.”

Increasing trends such as requiring credentials for entry level positions is hurting young people’s opportunities, said Youth and Work blogger and Toronto lawyer Andrew Langille. He also criticized the move away from full-time, permanent positions.

“Many employers moving towards hiring on contract and temporary positions, continuing a trend towards precarious work,” Langille said. “About 50% of the jobs in the Greater Toronto and Hamilton Area are contract and part time positions. It’s difficult for a young person to build a career when they’re just being offered a revolving set of contracts.”

HR Takeaways:

  1. Become more proactive
    “I think employers need to make a much bigger effort to find the right employees earlier on. The further through a graduate degree you get the harder it gets,” said author and academic  Ken Coates.  “It’s much easier at the high school level to find the kids who are really talented, motivated and have a strong work ethic.”
    Coates suggests offering a “workship” instead of a scholarship, where students were guaranteed summer jobs and post-graduate employment.

On Page 2: Know your resources, communicate and develop


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