The Changing Face of Business: How to appeal to a younger demographic and retain that appeal

Chris Parnham, Managing Director at Absolute Corporate Events 

The discussion of alienated and apathetic young people has continually fuelled the debate on the relationship between said young people and the business landscape around them. To some, young people are seen to be highly motivated and driven individuals, grateful to have begun escaping their looming student debt with a long overdue steady income. On the other side of the ‘coin’, there are those who brand young people as lazy, drifters and entitled – who lack the drive to get to where they want to be. Somewhat ironically, it is those businesses with a negative outlook of young people that struggle to both appeal to a younger audience and, actually retain said employees once they’ve walked through the door.

With a great depth of world-renowned universities, the UK is undeniably a haven for employers’ seeking the most highly-skilled and economically active young people. Naturally, this should lend to employers’ an unbelievable opportunity to ‘cherry pick’ those individuals most suited to their company culture and future job requirements; from a diverse and well sourced labour pool. In other words, the UK market is primed for businesses recruiting skilled graduates. Therefore, the issue is not the relationship between young people and the business world around them; rather the relationship businesses have with the young people within.

Since acquiring Absolute Corporate Events (ACE) in 2013, I have made it my mission to develop a business strategy based upon people, rather than just numbers. In the knowledge that numbers will always follow the right people. Hence, ACE is now home to some of the UK’s leading event industry professionals and the business has since experienced growth of 400% in the past five years.[1]

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 Below, I note three vital themes to consider when questioning the relationship your business has with its staff, particularly in helping to recruit and ultimately retain young people while ensuring they actively want to take their career further with your business.

 Trust your Investment  

Trust is not something to be taken likely, by any means. If you aren’t comfortable trusting your new hire to perform to the standards set by your business, why did you hire them in the first place? Naturally, there is a certain level of training that will be required before a graduate can be client facing or attending new business pitches; whatever it may be within your sector. However, it is absolutely integral they are given opportunities to both prove themselves and have some legitimate responsibility in their working day. Without, they’ll begin to feel undervalued. And once they feel undervalued, the prospect of working somewhere else is more appealing, but not only this, it is also feasible. Too often we see businesses becoming complacent of their workforce – and in turn, this results in businesses being ‘lazy, drifters and entitled’. If you don’t take your staff for granted, they’re not so likely to take their job for granted; as we so often hear about across the media.

Offer Career Progression

As fun as it may be, young people aren’t taking on anywhere upward of £35,000 debt just to be part of a stigma and have a three-plus year party. In fact, for the most part, they are highly ambitious and charismatic people searching for the opportunity to take them to the next level.

Creating a culture of training and opportunity has, in my experience, encouraged our young hires to not only stay within the industry, but to stay at ACE. Young people are not ignorant to the fact that they need training. That university certainly develops social skills and perhaps even public speaking, but the academic subject matter learnt is rarely applicable to the demands of their ‘adult job’.

 Therefore, having a clearly defined and invigorated training and promotion scheme can be a valuable asset to employers of young people. Exercise training to develop your staff, offer promotions to incentivise this training and sustain the access to further promotions as a form of intrinsic motivation. Promotions don’t have to be based on an increased salary either, far too often this is seen as the only means of keeping young people. The reality however is that businesses must sell their employees a lifestyle and not just a salary.

Growing responsibilities and job title changes are a highly effective way of rewarding your staff. Not only this, it serves as a valuable indication to clients that you a) trust your staff, b) reward your staff and c) want to keep your staff. The confidence shown by the employee is a useful tool in encouraging your clients to reciprocate said confidence.

Reward and recognition is another  often be valued more highly than a promotion or advancement; as carefully positioned meaningful rewards show your staff that you truly care about them and their contribution. This in turn will encourage them to care about your business.

 Be Transparent

It is worth taking note, that when businesses make assumptions of what’s appealing to graduates, they make a fool of both themselves and their potential hires. Brightly coloured walls, ping-pong tables and sleeping pods are not always effective forms of enticement… for the ‘top’ employees at least. And by top, I mean those who have come to get the most out of themselves by getting the most out of their work.

By all means, encourage flexible working locations and a glass of fizz with an early finish on a Friday – but being kept as informed as more senior co-workers is a far greater attraction to the most employable young people. It reaffirms the business’ commitment to their employee and emphasises the culture of trust and career progression, as the key themes in the previous sections.

Moreover, actively seeking the council of new hires when making informed decisions is an easy win-win for employers. Incorporate and empower your team – at no extra cost. Not only this, you have no obligation to act upon the recruit’s council, it simply creates a positive perception of the business and encourages growth and career development.