How to develop and attract young talent to improve your venture

Adam Bird
- Leadership - Oct 26, 2015

As a technology entrepreneur I’m constantly forced to re-evaluate the state of the business world and services available in order to find opportunities. In doing so, the perspective and input of young people, i.e. the future workforce and our future customers, is critical to our success.

The lifeblood of any organisation is its people and the manner in which they interact and collaborate. A strong and evolving diversity of ideas and experience keeps a business alive. The conveyor belt of problems and challenges that are inherent in all businesses, are addressed with a fresh perspective and individuals learn rapidly.

Age is one axis of diversity. Young people bring a freshness of ideas and naivety that, in the right conditions, help old-hands to confront their experiential prejudice and break out of cycles of repetitive delivery.

In my experience, the best young people value transparency and opportunity above all else. They’re building their careers and are hungry for knowledge and skills. Being able to share with them the detail about how you’re building the business and how your team execute on their roles is invaluable to them.

We’ve had an intern at my latest venture over the summer. While he’s been focused on outbound lead generation, he’s also hungry to learn about entrepreneurship and what it means to build a business. Alongside his main work, we talk about cap tables, pitch decks, investor management, remote working, even bookkeeping. He gets the benefit of access to a breadth of information and experience. I get the benefit of a stream of questions forcing me to evaluate the way I explain these things, as well as (in truth) my understanding of them.

The challenge for many employers is accepting that longevity and permanence is not something necessarily on offer. Careers can, and should, develop at a far higher pace than most companies are able to support. The best people can’t afford to be held back by the limited opportunities at your 25 percent annual growth success story. They’re doubling their capacity and capabilities annually. You’re lucky that you’ve been part of their career journey.

Embrace their brief tenure. Use it to push your business and your existing team members to be better. The value of mentorship in personal career development is well understood. Your team get better and thus your business gets stronger by helping others to develop.

Not only does your organisation need to be prepared to support and benefit from young people but you also need to ensure that you’re known as an employer who does such. I’ve committed a lot of time over the years to organising, speaking at and attending meetups and industry events. I’ve mentored and judged at Startup and hack weekends and given guest lectures at universities. This has helped me immensely with regard to my own skillset but has also put me in contact with a lot of young people.

As I’ve employed more young people in my companies word has spread. Some have moved on to bigger and better things, others have stayed and built careers. Each one has become an advocate. The trick is to start small. Start mentoring at local university or college business clubs or entrepreneurship meetups. Get a feel for what gets young people excited about work. Attend local meetups of like-minded people, you’ll probably find the demographic is generally younger.

Then think about offering an internship or an apprenticeship. Most universities have careers teams actively looking for opportunities for their students, most councils have apprenticeship schemes to support young people who haven’t taken the university route. Both represent a pool of talent that will make you and your company better.

As a society we benefit from our workforce being as skilled as possible, as business owners we benefit from working with talented people and as individuals, being pushed and challenged is critical to our own development.

 Hiring young talent gives us all three in one fell swoop.

The author: Adam Bird is founder and CEO of Cronofy, based in Nottingham’s Creative Quarter, which recently won the Enterprising Britain Award for Britain’s most improved business environment

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