· Features

Has HR forgotten how to recruit young people?

Has HR forgotten how to recruit young people? UKCES CEO Michael Davis worries it might have, asking: “What is HR’s capacity to develop roles for 18-year-olds?”

With young people finding it increasingly difficult to get experience – what UKCES calls the “death of the Saturday job” – there’s a real risk your recruitment processes could be preventing you taking a chance on young talent. Derek Browne from Entrepreneurs in Action worries “efficiency is cutting out talent”, with algorithms automatically sifting out CVs that lack experience.

National Grid CEO Steve Holliday is also wary that recruitment processes, while efficient, may be screening people out. “We need to make sure that as we are trying to fix problems for the future, we are not ignoring a whole generation,” he says. “If you’re a successful recruiter, even if you are worried about skills, it’s easy to bypass people who haven’t been in work for two years. The systems will screen them out. We need to make sure we intentionally fish in that pond. HR needs to be very careful of those screening tools and what is done in outsourcing and automating, as it may have unintended consequences.”

There’s also the issue of jobseekers not getting feedback about, or in many cases, acknowledgement of applications. “Things can get caught in policy,” warns Ben Marson from The Prince’s Trust. “Employers need to be willing to be more flexible, but it takes leadership.”

At Capgemini, head of talent Anouska Ramsay says introducing a strengths-based assessment for young applicants has helped the organisation give feedback, with everyone receiving an automated report, regardless of the outcome.

“Even if they are not right for us, we are able to give something back to help build their resilience,” she explains. “When you are flooded with applications, it’s difficult to give individualised feedback, but this helps us do that.”

Davis believes the concept of the “oven-ready graduate student” is a myth. “The idea a school could educate someone, drop them into a business and they would immediately be productive is nonsense,” he adds. Survey after survey finds businesses complaining young people lack the required soft skills, with a recent report by British Chambers of Commerce finding nine out of 10 businesses think school leavers are not ready for employment.

Three-quarters of the companies surveyed put this down to a lack of work experience, although with 50% not offering work experience themselves, the situation appears to be at something of an impasse.

TCS HR director Nupur Mallick says all that is needed is very clear direction and an understanding that coming into work straight from school is a pretty big step. “It’s important to set expectations,” she says. “Tell them right at the start what you want. Apprentices have come out of school, so they are used to structure. Define it properly and you won’t have any problems.”

Further reading

Falling down the skills black hole

SMEs and the skills crisis