Ab­bie Reynolds urges busi­ness own­ers and re­cruiters to con­nect more with young peo­ple. As em­ploy­ees they bring fresh per­spec­tives and new skills.

NZ Business - - CONTENTS -

The num­ber of young New Zealan­ders who aren’t in any form of work, ed­u­ca­tion or train­ing is sober­ing.

Na­tion­wide, more than one in ten 15 to 24 year olds are NEET – an of­fi­cial term that means ‘not in em­ploy­ment, ed­u­ca­tion or train­ing’. In North­land, the num­ber spi­rals to one in five. Fur­ther south in Tas­man and Hawke's Bay, the rates are nearly as high – 17 per­cent are con­sid­ered eco­nom­i­cally in­ac­tive.

In com­par­i­son, one in 20 New Zealan­ders are un­em­ployed and look­ing for work. That’s half the youth NEET rate.

The num­bers are trou­bling be­cause young peo­ple who leave school and don’t get a job risk be­com­ing dis­en­gaged from their com­mu­ni­ties. We know the ef­fects of that can be far-reach­ing.

Re­search sug­gests 60 per­cent of peo­ple who go on a ben­e­fit be­fore they turn 24 stay on a ben­e­fit for life.

Our fu­ture pros­per­ity de­pends on the suc­cess of our chil­dren, grand­chil­dren, nieces, neph­ews and neigh­bours. As does their own sense of well-be­ing.

Sus­tain­able Busi­ness Coun­cil mem­bers, who make up 25 per­cent of New Zealand’s pri­vate sec­tor GDP, tell me they don’t want to see any­one left be­hind. They un­der­stand there’s no easy fix and the busi­ness com­mu­nity has a crit­i­cal role to play. And the good news is this is­sue is ac­tu­ally an op­por­tu­nity for busi­ness. Young peo­ple can bring a new per­spec­tive to our busi­nesses and they’re of­ten tech­no­log­i­cally savvy. They can boost a com­pany's rep­u­ta­tion and help it de­velop ser­vices or prod­ucts that ap­peal to the youth mar­ket.

Many of our mem­bers are striv­ing to be­come more inclusive work­places, be­cause they know that diver­sity will strengthen them over the long-term. They are fo­cus­ing on de­vel­op­ing their tal­ent pipe­line – which will be­come in­creas­ingly im­por­tant as a large num­ber of baby boomers re­tire in the next 15 years.

Spark is fo­cused on help­ing young peo­ple get into work and has signed up to a num­ber of univer­sity grad­u­ate and in­tern­ship pro­grammes. One of those is TupuToa, which works with com­pa­nies to iden­tify, de­velop and re­tain Maori and Pa­cific grad­u­ates. It aims to de­velop a suc­cess­ful net­work of Maori and Pa­cific busi­ness peo­ple who are strongly con­nected to their cul­tures and com­mu­ni­ties.

Spark is also help­ing high school stu­dents pre­pare for the work­ing world. It sends trained se­nior staff to schools across New Zealand, to help them write their CVs, man­age their so­cial me­dia pro­files and prac­tice for in­ter­views with mock one-on-one ses­sions.

Z En­ergy is also do­ing its bit, work­ing with Work and In­come, Cor­rec­tions and dis­abil­ity ser­vices to em­ploy young peo­ple. One of their ser­vice sta­tion work­ers re­cently fea­tured in The Waikato Times. At 24 he’s out of jail and us­ing the op­por­tu­nity of work­ing at Z to ac­tively raise his daugh­ter and get out of gang life. He’s also am­bi­tious – he wants to start his own busi­ness to help trou­bled youths.


These are a few of the suc­cess sto­ries – but I know it can some­times be chal­leng­ing and baf­fling hir­ing young peo­ple.

What I’ve learnt, sur­pris­ingly, is that the re­cruit­ment process it­self can be a bar­rier. Most busi­nesses try to make the process as ef­fi­cient as pos­si­ble, us­ing stan­dard ‘po­si­tions va­cant’ tem­plates. But the lan­guage and ques­tions in those tem­plates is some­times putting young tal­ent off.

Keep the lan­guage sim­ple and take a look at the re­quire­ments. Does the po­si­tion ac­tu­ally need a per­son with a full driver's li­cence? Do you re­ally want to see iden­ti­fi­ca­tion doc­u­ments like a pass­port at an early phase of re­cruit­ment? These are re­quire­ments young peo­ple may not be able to meet, and enough of a bar­rier that they don’t com­plete the re­cruit­ment process.

Also, think about the tone of your ad­vert. Is it ap­pro­pri­ate for the po­si­tion and the kinds of peo­ple you want to at­tract? Would you go for an en­try-level po­si­tion if you were a stu­dent and it was be­ing pushed as a “ca­reer” op­por­tu­nity, when what you’re look­ing for is a job?

Do you re­ally need ap­pli­cants with pre­vi­ous ex­pe­ri­ence, or would you be happy to con­sider some­one who’s pos­i­tive and ea­ger to learn?

And do you want a trades­man, or a trades­per­son?

Busi­nesses re­port a sig­nif­i­cant in­crease in the num­ber of fe­male ap­pli­cants if they ex­plic­itly write ‘we wel­come ap­pli­ca­tions from women’.

An­other hur­dle is the choice of ad­ver­tis­ing chan­nel. So­cial me­dia and word-of-mouth ad­ver­tis­ing can be ef­fec­tive ways to find young work­ers. Ask your staff if they know of any­one look­ing for work and con­sider shar­ing a post on Face­book, In­sta­gram or Twit­ter.

Also, re­view your screen­ing process. SKYCITY is part of the Sus­tain­able Busi­ness Coun­cil’s suc­cess­ful Wel­fare to Work pro­gramme pi­lot. When staff re­viewed their re­cruit­ment process they found the best way to screen young ap­pli­cants was ac­tu­ally with a phone call, not an on­line por­tal. They got a much bet­ter sense of a per­son from a con­ver­sa­tion.

SKYCITY staff also say pa­tience and per­se­ver­ance with a young per­son who’s strug­gling al­most al­ways pays off. The re­ward of see­ing young peo­ple take on new skills and a ca­reer, far out­weighs the chal­lenges.


Busi­nesses spend a lot of money and time trying to un­der­stand what mo­ti­vates Gen­er­a­tion Y and Mil­len­nial con­sumers. We keep hear­ing that they are a new gen­er­a­tion, with dif­fer­ent value sys­tems. There­fore it makes sense that they are also a new gen­er­a­tion of work­ers, with dif­fer­ent mo­ti­va­tions to learn and work.

Gen Y and Mil­len­ni­als are me­dia and mar­ket­ing savvy, with a strong radar for in­sin­cer­ity and in­con­sis­tency. They have grown up with en­vi­ron­men­tal and so­cial is­sues on their Face­book feed. They are more so­cially conscious than any gen­er­a­tion be­fore. Many busi­ness own­ers have told me that ALL the ap­pli­cants for grad­u­ate roles ask about their en­vi­ron­men­tal and so­cial poli­cies.

There could be gen­er­a­tional bias built into your re­cruit­ment pro­cesses and it is en­tirely un­in­ten­tional. You could be talk­ing past young peo­ple and miss­ing out on great tal­ent.

Per­haps the gap that ex­ists in the labour mar­ket reflects, in-part, a gap in how dif­fer­ent gen­er­a­tions com­mu­ni­cate.

We have so much to gain from trying new tac­tics and help­ing young peo­ple get into work.


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