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How HR can support young people to thrive at work

"We have a responsibility to ensure that younger people have the resources they need to to be successful," said the Employers Network for Equality and Inclusion's CEO

HR needs to offer young workers the right support, throughout their employee lifecycle.

When I entered the workforce, way back in the 1980s, you were lucky if you got your pay cheque at the end of the month without getting shouted at or harassed along the way.

Nowadays, young people know their rights, and want work life balance. They expect to be treated fairly, equitably and with respect, and they have a strong sense of their own value.

For HR leaders to ensure that young people are happy, thriving and productive, they need to offer the right support throughout the employee lifecycle, from recruitment and onboarding through to retention and progression.

Start with psychological safety

Psychological safety is fostered in a culture of inclusion. It’s where everyone feels able to respectfully and appropriately express their views, put forward ideas, ask questions, raise concerns, make mistakes and learn from them without fear of judgement, humiliation or recrimination. Without it, there can be no trust or sense of belonging.

Read more: How can HR support younger workers?

Wellbeing at the heart

Taking care of employee wellbeing and mental health should be a part of every employer’s strategy, and an essential component of organisational culture.

Consider the impact of hybrid working

Young people coming into the workplace have not experienced the daily interactions and opportunities for rapport building that existed before the Covid-19 pandemic. Creating and maintaining a strong, positive, supportive and inclusive culture is vital, as is ensuring communication is regular, open and transparent.

Provide opportunities for young people to build their networks

The social aspect of work, through connecting, communicating and collaborating with others, is essential. Make sure you provide plenty of opportunities for collaboration, social activities and networking.

Read more: Record high numbers of young people are on zero-hours contracts

Delegate appropriately, and don’t micromanage

Everyone in the workplace should feel valued and respected, but I’ve seen far too many instances where young people are not given autonomy, are not delegated to appropriately and are micromanaged. This makes people feel that they are not trusted and are not good enough. Take the time to delegate, offer support when there is a learning curve, and set clear expectations of what, when, why, where and how.

Ask questions. Don’t make assumptions

Remember that young people have limited experience in the workplace and that every workplace is different. Don’t make assumptions about what they do or don’t know about how your organisation works. They may or may not know about the different policies, processes and procedures you have in place.

Put learning at the centre

Be mindful that young people are in the earliest stages of their careers, therefore learning is a key part of their jobs. This needs to be a mix of on-the-job learning, learning from others and learning in a more formal setting. Investing time in their learning and development will not only pay off in terms of increased knowledge and skills, they will feel hugely valued, which engenders loyalty.

Think flexibly about working patterns

Different people are more creative or productive at different times during the day or on different days during the week, so it’s crucial to accommodate different patterns and rhythms of working.

Introduce a buddy programme

When a young person is being onboarded, having a buddy can be a great support. It allows the employee the chance to ask questions and get support outside of their line management. A line manager can be daunting, so having a peer to guide them can be incredibly helpful.


The world of work is a complex one for all of us. We have a responsibility to ensure that younger people entering the workforce have the resources they need available to enable them to be successful, not only at the early stages of their careers, but long into the future.


Sandi Wassmer is CEO of the Employers Network for Equality and Inclusion