For our first event of 2019, the Division of Occupational Psychology Youth Employment working group hosted a group discussion on the topic of popular narratives surrounding young people in the workplace. Narratives about young people’s work ethic, entitlement and engagement are a persistent presence in popular media, on social networking sites, and even in our own profession.
As a group committed to contributing to issues relating to youth employment and engagement in work, we are particularly interested in how these popular narratives surrounding young people affect how we recruit, develop, work alongside and judge young people at work. As a result, we decided to open up this area for discussion with other Occupational Psychologists to get their views on how these commonly held beliefs and stereotypes influence our practice, and to gather opinions about what, if anything, we should be doing in response.
With a packed room, we presented several examples of commonly expressed negative views about young people in the workplace (including themes such as engagement, entitlement and work ethic), and also examples of counterarguments and evidence presenting a contradictory view – for example research by Constanza (2018) showing a lack of evidence that there are actual difference between generations. We then opened the floor for discussion on a number of key areas. These included preparing young people for the world of work, the benefits of hiring and developing young people and whether differences between generations actually exist in the workplace.
This led to a very interesting discussion with lots of spirited debate. From this, there are several key recommendations for the Working Group to incorporate into its activities in this area, that may also be relevant to many OP practitioners;
- Challenging viewpoints of organisations, reduce apprehension about change
- Including age as part of the wider diversity & inclusion agenda
- Promoting awareness of the lack of evidence supporting differences between generations in the workplace
- Promoting earlier access to work experience
- Promoting more emphasis on soft skill development in education
- Promoting reverse mentoring
- Promoting the benefits offered by young people to organisations
- Providing better information about how hiring practices work and how to follow career paths
A big thank you to everyone who came and participate in the discussion.