While more experienced workers embrace the flexibility, convenience and work-life balance of hybrid working, younger workers can suffer from stunted development and isolation. Georgia Greer, Head of Insights at Institute of Student Employers (ISE), explores the discrepancy and offers advice.
With an increase in staff working from home in the last year and the new Flexible Working Act, the shift towards hybrid work will continue to rise in 2024 and beyond.
ISE member, Prospects at Jisc, found people more established in their careers were more likely to work remotely than those just starting out. While they reported flexibility and work-life balance benefits, younger workers were more likely to feel isolated, have difficulty communicating and knowing when to switch off.
This has implications for HR professionals and the generational divide is an important one to watch to ensure effective hybrid working policies and the success of future talent strategies.
The discrepancy can have a detrimental impact on the development of younger workers who are starved of in-person contact and the opportunities that brings. They need more development, mentoring and networking opportunities, which are often better in-person.
Our member, Cibyl, found graduates most want a mentor or buddy. ISE data shows engagement with senior leadership is the most effective development tool, and the best quality development is delivered hybrid (49%) or fully face-to-face (33%). Just 1% said fully online delivery provides the best experience.
Here’s how to help younger workers thrive at hybrid work:
In the wake of the pandemic, students are still struggling to access work experience and employers find early talent lacking the necessary skills and behaviours to thrive in hybrid work. ISE has identified four critical skills to develop:
Self-awareness - The ability to ask for feedback and learn from experiences maximises training opportunities and accelerates growth.
Self-direction - hybrid working means more flexibility and autonomy so it’s important to find productive ways of working. This calls for strong communication, organisational, and time management skills, as well as focus and determination.
Resilience - the ability to receive constructive feedback, overcome setbacks, adapt and continue to progress is essential where change is constant.
Communication - essential for engaging co-workers, collaborating efficiently, seeking support and building trusted relationships both in the office and remotely.
Those starting out in their careers often have a mentor or coaching relationship with managers.
It’s harder for younger workers to develop the necessary behaviour and capability, to understand how to collaborate with different seniorities in different environments, if they’re the only people in the office.
Subtle communication cues can be lost behind a screen. It can be harder to understand what it means if someone says something isn’t right or appropriate.
The answer isn’t one sided. ISE member Sixty recommends encouraging early talent to invest in their network by getting into the office, introducing themselves, giving people a call on Teams, turning their camera on and making sure people know who they are.
Equally it’s vital to engage managers and leaders with the challenges. Emphasise the importance of office time to help younger workers transition into work and that this might mean being in the office together or doing things differently.
Without the right balance, you can lose talent as they may feel less involved or listened to with implications for ROI. There are a lot more intangible benefits of having face-to-face time together too. Senior role models who are present and available are a pivotal point.
Mental health issues are common in young adults and they can be aggravated through hybrid working. In the last year, 64% of ISE employer members said that mental health issues among early talent have increased.
Issues can be harder to spot if managers don’t see staff regularly in-person. Equally, younger workers may lack confidence, they may not have spent enough time with their manager to build a strong relationship, they may not know how to engage someone to raise an issue. It’s easier to ask someone for ‘five minutes’ if you’re in the office.
Employers have a duty of care to ensure pastoral care in a hybrid working environment. Consider, how do we safeguard the younger workforce? How are their needs different?
When it comes to hybrid working, beware of treating workers as a homogenous group. It can lead to an unproductive, lower quality experience of early careers programmes if you don’t strike the right equilibrium between flexibility and face-to-face interactions. This has serious implications for retention, ROI and the success of future talent strategies.
Join the ISE community to get more insight, advice and share best practice.
Subscribe now to myGrapevine+ and get access to exclusive new content, and the full content archive.