Understand the next generation before investing in them


After 14 years of school, this summer’s batch of young people are the most qualified ever. Why then, when you tap into this cohort, are you likely to find so many seemingly ill-equipped to thrive in the world of work?

Time and again I hear companies in our industry struggling with new starters who ‘don’t get it’.

Not every young person of course, but enough to make you wonder how widespread the issue is.

These are clever people remember; full-grown adults often with a dozen or more A-levels and GCSEs. And yet many can’t gel. Worse than that, they struggle to communicate, retain information, follow instructions, even show up to work on time.

It’s easy to lay blame and moan about ‘kids today’. But companies literally don’t know how to address the issue.

More specifically, managers and other staff charged with taking apprentices under their wing can’t understand why they don’t think or behave like they did in their day.

The gap between the classroom and the workplace is getting wider. That’s not your employees’ problem, it’s yours.

Companies need to understand the environment these youngsters have been brought up in. Not to pander to them, but to create the right pathway into your organisation.

You need to teach skills you’ve never taught before. Things that should be second nature to an employee – how to listen, have difficult conversations, manage priorities – but aren’t.

There’s no point getting frustrated; shouting at them is no good. Neither is lowering your expectations to make it OK that they barely deliver any work at all. Your only choice is to address it constructively.

The good news is that there’s big upside to all this – accessing some exceptional talent and energy from amazing young people. But you have to know how to unlock it, or you’re wasting time and energy, and will miss out on the next generation of comms superstars.

There’s growing evidence that some millennials are cognitively ‘wired’ differently, as a product of their environment and experiences.

It’s a crude generalisation, but among those opting for technical apprenticeship roles are cases with amplified ‘millennial’ traits like introvertedness, aversion to social contact, and obsessive interest in games, puzzles and systems. What might be described as non-neurotypical, or even ‘on the autistic spectrum’.

Several employers have cottoned-on to the immense value of harnessing these individuals’ cognitive abilities.

Their talent programmes are grounded in understanding how each individual sees the world and giving added wellbeing support. Instead of being given donkey work all day, they’re treated more like thoroughbred racehorses. And the results can be extraordinary.

It’s time to give your existing people the skills to understand the next generation of comms professionals and where they’re coming from. Train to Win is targeting support in this critical area – get in touch to learn how your business can benefit.


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