Research from LinkedIn suggests the overwhelming majority (87 per cent) of UK business leaders believe young people have been hit by a ‘development dip’ during COVID-19 as a result of the prolonged period of working from home.
The study of 250 C-level executives in the UK – at companies with 1,000+ employees and £250+ million annual turnover – finds that nearly a third (30 per cent) of business leaders believe it’s been challenging for young people to onboard when starting their first day from home. Another 42 per cent of leaders recognise that young people’s ability to build meaningful relationships with colleagues while working remotely has been difficult.
Young professionals agree – a complementary survey of 1,000+ workers in the UK found that 69 per cent of young people (aged 16-34) believe their professional learning experience has been impacted by the pandemic. Over half (57 per cent) of those asked to return to offices feel their ability to make conversation at work has suffered, and 71 per cent say they’ve forgotten how to conduct themselves in an office environment. The vast majority (84 per cent) ultimately feel ‘out of practice’ when it comes to office life, particularly with delivering presentations (29 per cent) and speaking to customers or clients (34 per cent).
Business leaders say the key development experiences that young people have missed out on during the pandemic include learning by osmosis from being around more experienced colleagues (36 per cent), developing their essential soft skills (36 per cent), and building professional networks (37 per cent).
The research also found that over half (56 per cent) of UK businesses are moving to hybrid working, where some time is spent in the office and other time is spent at home, with leaders saying collaboration (59 per cent) and communication (57 per cent) are the two most important skills employees need to succeed in the future. Nearly half (49 per cent) of leaders say working closely with experienced team members is the best way for young people to catch up and build these soft skills.
Reassuringly, 78 per cent of leaders are planning to introduce training courses to help employees adapt to new ways of working which will specifically help young people, and over half (55 per cent) are planning to increase budgets for employee social events to encourage relationship building.
“We’re experiencing the biggest workplace change in a generation and young people who are less established in their careers need our support,” said Janine Chamberlin, UK country manager at LinkedIn. “Many are naturally feeling mixed emotions about their professional development and career trajectory right now, so there needs to be a concerted effort from leaders, managers and industry to help them catch up. It’s positive to see leaders recognise the disproportionate impact the pandemic has had on young people as they consider their future workplace policies. To help young people develop the skills they need to succeed, companies must understand where the skills gaps are, introduce mentoring schemes and bolster learning experiences that cater for a hybrid workforce to help younger workers get back on track.”
Adam Hawkins, head of search & staffing at LinkedIn, added: “As businesses gradually find a new operating rhythm with the “return to office” for many now well underway, it’s understandable that younger people are laser-focused on how they catch up on those missed professional development experiences. Opportunities to upskill are unsurprisingly high on the agenda for job seekers. Firms that demonstrate their commitment to learning and development and help people adapt to a new way of working will be the ones that attract up and coming talent. Business leaders have a responsibility to facilitate opportunities that empower young professionals to make up for lost time and develop the skills they need to succeed in the future.”
Speaking from the HR point of view, Alison Wilcox, group HR director, BT Group said: “At BT, we still see our shared workplaces as very much central to the company’s future. They will be places where colleagues can come together to connect, collaborate, learn and develop, build friendships and share their experiences. As one of the largest employers of graduates and apprentices in the UK, our state-of-the-art offices will be places to learn from more experienced colleagues and where new joiners will learn the ropes, meet new teammates and bring fresh thinking to drive growth in our business; they will continue to make a significant contribution to their surrounding micro and local economies; and above all, they will be the place where our teams come together to foster collaboration and creativity that will deliver for our customers.”
To help people brush up on their essential soft skills, LinkedIn is making a number of LinkedIn Learning courses available for free throughout September to mid October 2021.