Performance Management: Supporting the Younger Workforce

By Mark Probert

In this second post about effective performance management, I’m concentrating on supporting the younger workforce. In the first blog, I spoke about the importance of supporting the older workforce through their life challenges. But younger talent will need help too.

For school and university leavers who are just entering the workplace, Covid-19 has thrown in some extra challenges that need to be considered if you want new arrivals to perform well.

A survey of 1,000 young people aged between 16 and 19 across the UK reports that 57% say their decisions about post education work or training have been impacted by the pandemic. Among these, 20% say they want to stay in full-time education for longer than they had originally intended as a result of the uncertainty created by the pandemic.

There are many reasons why school leavers and graduates may be anxious about their job prospects and why employers will have to give them extra help. For example, many will not have done the whole curriculum, so there will be gaps in their knowledge. Most will not have been fully tested, with their grades coming from teacher assessment. And importantly for ease of integration in the workplace, many will not have fully developed social skills or, indeed, the usual work experience during education because of isolation at home.

For employers, this means that new recruits may not be as well prepared as in previous years, so performance management needs to take this into account. Here are four ways you can make sure your younger workforce is getting the support they need.

1. Make sure onboarding programs are fit for purpose and include self-paced learning opportunities

Research shows that young employees experience a difficult cultural transition between school/ university and the professional world that can leave them feeling disoriented and confused. This means that onboarding programs need to be thoughtfully designed and focussed on learning, especially in the context of Covid-19 where new recruits may not be well prepared for work. This will be exacerbated if they have joined when businesses have been working remotely, making it harder to turn to colleagues for help.

Induction programs often consist of short introductions to manuals, systems and other basics but because of the challenges mentioned above, a more comprehensive approach could be beneficial to employees in their first year of work. Make sure you offer self-paced learning where employees are able to revisit sections they are less confident with and skim past sections they already know.

2. Set up regular check ins with line managers

I always recommend line managers have regular 121s with their team members. But it will be even more important with new employees so that they not only feel welcome but also grow in confidence through the regular coaching a 121 provides.

3. Offer stress management and mental health support

Researchers have noted an alarming trend: Younger employees report higher levels of anxiety and depression than other generations. It can be useful to have resources in place such as virtual GP consultations and make sure that all line managers know the details of mental health helplines so they can signpost to employees that ask for help.

4. Make sure young employees aren’t missing out on important social experiences

Where many employees are working remotely, the pandemic has made it harder for new arrivals to build relationships with their colleagues. This may mean that young employees, who are early in their careers, could miss out on making strong connections and building relationships that are important foundations for their personal development and career progression.

Make sure line managers are organising team social activities, whether remote or in person, to make sure young employees build a sense of belonging and are creating the connections that will support them throughout their career.

Entering the world of work can leave you feeling out of your depth, especially where graduates and school leavers have missed out on many of the opportunities offered to the generations before them due to Covid-19. These are just a few of the many ways you can support younger employees so that they perform well and feel part of the team. I’d love to hear any other ideas you must overcome this challenge.

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