Millennials: misunderstood, maligned or marvellous?

Young people don’t always receive the best reputation as employees, but as Tash Rego explains, if you take time to listen to their views they can offer your organisation a wealth of benefits

Young people want the opportunity to grow and develop, contribute to their community and work in value-driven, reputable organisations. They often want to be actively involved in the development and delivery of services, amenities, policies and decision-making that affect their lives, including within the education, social and community spheres. They are also consumers (both current and future) with purchasing power.

This energy can bring many benefits to a business. We know that young people have so much to offer: a unique perspective, innovative ideas and creativity. Whether it be in the design of new buildings, services or products, they are forward-thinking and creative, and have different perspectives and ideas that can enhance an organisation’s productivity and culture. We see this within our own organisation when we train young people to become youth facilitators. They just need to be given the space to do so.

However, not all organisations work effectively with young people, and sometimes find it hard to be responsive to the particular needs of this group – not because of malicious intent but because they often don’t know to start. Attitudes are fast moving and ever changing, so it can be hard to keep up. Some organisations don’t invest time in the process and so rather than asking young people what they need and want, they second-guess – and they don’t always get it right, leaving many young people feeling unheard and unrepresented.

It’s vital for an organisation to listen to young people and actively involve them in decision-making processes.

If an organisation wants young people to buy its products and services, or join their teams, they need to listen to and understand them. They should think about when it’s appropriate to do so and provide young people with the opportunity and space to participate, while getting the balance right between participation and protection.

Young people can require some investment. School does not necessarily focus on softer skills such as business acumen and relationship management. As such, young people can benefit from mentoring and support in order to understand how business works.

Importantly, whether a young person is an employee within a company or a consumer, they need to feel as though they are being considered. They want organisations to be genuine, to care and to be responsible – more so now than ever because of the distrust they have in many businesses.

People can often think that to communicate with young people that it’s about emojis and slang. Emojis can play a part. Through my work, I encounter many young people who find it difficult to express emotion. We work together, using emojis, which establishes a dialogue between us that feels accessible, fun and non-threatening.

But of course, it’s not all about that. Get creative and open up the channels of communication. One of the best ways to do this is social media – but don’t assume that it’s just about Facebook and Twitter. It’s all about Instagram and Snapchat these days, so young people tell me.

Diversity is important to many young people, although it can depend on who they are, where they live, their background, their ethnicity, etc. Some of the young people I work with need to feel inspired by the leading figures in business, and they need to be diverse and talented individuals. They need a champion, an advocate – someone to believe in them and give them a chance. Young people see the world in a global way – the way they see it, there should be fewer barriers, fewer limitations. And why not?

Tash Rego is director of Silver Lined Horizons and Chateez

 

Tags: young people; skills; employment

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