Starting work as a young person is a new challenge in the best of circumstances. Often straight out of school or having spent the last three years living relatively care-free at university, the first few weeks in a new job can be a shock to the system.
Systems to learn, processes to follow, people to meet - all of these things take time and most significantly for this blog, human interaction. So how are the young people who are starting their first ever role faring during the pandemic?
Firstly, there’s the conundrum around building relationships. Digitally working from home rather than the office will undoubtedly cause challenges. For established employees, who have already formed ties with their co-workers and who have proved themselves to be competent, kind and professional, this can often be overlooked.
For a young person starting a brand-new role, making the right kind of impact is more difficult given the nature of virtual video calls, loss of social cues and the removal of those organic ‘by the coffee machine’ brainstorms and relationship building conversations.
This is something essential to working culture and it must not be neglected now we are all distanced by location, especially when considering our graduates, apprentices and young people.
Secondly there's flexibility. Yes, on the surface this could be seen as a positive, as young people will have more time to create a work life balance from the get-go. However, it’s worth considering this concept in more detail, specifically taking into account factors such as holistic workplace training, the development of soft-skills and time management, and what might happen if a young person is too worried to ask for help.
Lack of structure or training can lead to procrastination and more negative connotations around self-worth and imposter syndrome for the young person experiencing this pattern.
In lots of cases, students can describe feeling like they are bothering older colleagues as there’s more significance placed on arranging a call to ask for help, as opposed to leaning over a desk and asking verbally
Thirdly, there’s social development. Offices, particularly in big cities, have always centred around younger generations socialising - and more often than not readers can relate to a period of their lives when they worked hard and played harder.
With the pandemic stripping back offices to solely ‘at home’ settings, many of these opportunities, if not all, are lost. This means that young people are rethinking their expectations around work, and the consequence of this rapid change is still yet to be discovered.
Finally, an issue that can occur when a young person starts in post is a term called ‘over delivery’. When at school and in non-work contexts such as university or college, traits such as being very thorough, and perfectionism are encouraged. This contrasts to delivery at work, where reward can also come from factors such as speed or cost.
A great article from the ISE details how virtual starters may not recognise when ‘other factors are actually more important to the project than everything being exceptionally well researched and perfectly delivered.’ Over delivery is naturally harder for hiring managers to spot when working from home, increasingly the likelihood of young people suffering stress and anxiety.
What can you do to help?
So, what can early careers teams do to support young people during this period, in a way that minimises ‘tech overload’ but encourages, where possible, the sorts of soft-skills fundamental to development and success.
Here are our tips:
Buddying up: matching a young person with a mentor within your organisation can really help with induction and settling in. If possible, we recommend having another graduate, or young person in the business – they don’t need to be in the same team either!
Virtual tea breaks: Something we’ve implemented at Uptree recently is a walking tea break, a chance for colleagues to have a non-work orientated catchup whilst getting some fresh air. Setting these up for young people can really encourage well-being and set expectations around having breaks.
Daily stand ups: Whilst it’s worth remembering that digital overload is not the answer, having several key ‘face to face’ video calls with different team members can be really encouraging and these will leave a space for young people to ask questions, how about 10 mins at the start of each day?
Slower onboarding, with things taking longer to interpret and understand remotely, planning an onboarding strategy that is less fast-paced and focuses more on regular check points could be a solution to stress and overload for a young person.
Managing expectations: Creating a logical sequence of new skills to be learnt and a timeline for managing this is also helpful for setting expectations for both hiring managers and young people, as well as other teams involved.
And most importantly, don’t overlook feedback. Assuming that a young person will know and understand your business culture and activities gradually and naturally from home would be a mistake. We recommend having a regular and honest feedback loop as this will really help to improve morale, productivity and overall experience.
If you’ve recently hired a young person recently then we’d love to hear your tips and feedback! Likewise if you’re interested in hearing more about Uptree and how we support young people on their journey from education to employment, get in touch via firstname.lastname@example.org