As someone who spends an increasing amount of his time helping organisations to recruit people who are considerably younger than me (and the gap is growing…fast!), I’m always keen to learn what young people think but I’ve just realised that writing the intro to this blog makes me sound like my dad!
The reality is, of course, that all of us are getting older and therefore moving further away from the recruits of the future. Throw in the ever increasing pace of change in technology and media (covered last August in our blog) and you swiftly realise why the need for research and understanding is greater than ever.
Operating in 119 countries across 34,000 locations and with 1.8M employees (direct and franchised) McDonald’s are the world’s biggest employer of young people and better placed than most to provide the kind of insight we are all looking for. At the recent CIPD Conference (#cipdireland100) David Fairhurst, Chief People Officer at McDonalds Europe addressed some of the myths and false beliefs about younger workers.
One of the biggest points that resonated with me was their lack of work experience – or more correctly – experience of working. As a fifteen year old I worked in a local tool shop every Saturday, at sixteen I moved to Sainsbury’s to work Saturdays and one evening a week. At college I added to my funds working in pubs and DJ’ing. Over the holiday’s I fried chips, cleaned offices, stocked shelves and cleared driveways. In the last 15 years the percentage of 16-17 year old full-time students in employment has halved. Changes in corporate work practices, the pressure to succeed in education and, until recent years, a relatively wealthy society have all fed the decline.
Responsible for the death of the pub quiz, Google has ensured that nobody need ever be short of the right answer again. How many of us dual screen at home, watching TV whilst tapping a smart phone or tablet? How many goals has he scored? Who is she married to? Is this try for the record? How old is she really? I’m sure we have all done it, but young people are growing up doing it. We have assumed that their quick and clever answers, candour and directness were the signs of incredible confidence and self-assurance – but they aren’t.
Should we be surprised that they are least confident generation in recent memory? Not at all, according to David Fairhurst. In full colour, on ever bigger screens, they have grown up with global terrorism, financial decline, natural catastrophes and man-made disasters. It’s enough to shake anyone’s confidence. Fairhurst makes the point that many of the perceived failings of younger workers in relation to attitude are far more likely to be confidence-based and that the decline in investment in onboarding/induction is a major worry.
The other fascinating area for me was around engagement. Younger people are loyal to family and friends but their engagement with employers must be earned whereas previous generations may have given their respect on a historic or inherited basis. The pillars of respectability have been destroyed in recent years. Whilst corrupt politicians, shady bankers, crooked business people and polluting corporations may have been with us for thousands of year, it’s only now that, in the words of Sybil Fawlty, we’re seeing them on the television.
So not only does their loyalty need to be earned but they base their loyalty on their own experiences. This makes even more sense when considering the ongoing work of the CIPD and Kingston Employee Engagement Consortium. They have looked to identify what makes up employee engagement and found five key components: their job, line manager, colleagues, organisation and external interactions. Of which the biggest factor is the job itself. So engagement should be viewed as a process where the employee engages with their job and immediate colleagues and loyalty to the organisation builds over time.
What I took from the whole presentation – and there was a lot more – is that if we, as employers and recruiters, want to see young people entering the workplace and succeeding then we need to enable that success. Working with younger workers on the technical skills is only part of the challenge, equipping them for the workplace is vital. Clearly internships and work experience need to bridge the gap that has emerged due to the decline of Saturday jobs. All employers need to look at what they can do to help young people gain meaningful work experience.
And one last, completely unrelated point but fantastically well made. In a year, across Ireland and the UK, McDonald’s receive 1 million applications, all of whom are customers – that’s not potential customers but real ones. So as a company they respond to all applications and, whether a successful applicant or not, offer additional career-based advice and guidance. You’ve either got class or you haven’t! Actually it should probably be McClass.