Sunday, October 13, 2013

Help the young ones find their way

Over the past 12 months, I have noticed an increasing number of university graduates applying for junior administrative roles that tend not to match their qualifications. My observations reflect the high rate of unemployment (26%) of 18-25 year olds.

It is no secret that the job market is tight at the moment. With the current economic climate, we are hearing of business closures, job cuts and redundancies on a weekly basis in both the public and private sectors. The 18-25 year olds are typically overlooked because there are more experienced candidates looking for work.

Another emerging trend is the number of university and TAFE students who are studying part time and working full time. For some, this means that it will take up to 6 years to complete their degree but they have to adapt to current employment demands – and practical work experience is rated highly.

If your business has part time or full time opportunities, consider approaching local universities or TAFE colleges to find some good candidates. Candidates with previous experience may be at the top of your wish list, but it still takes most people up to 3 months to settle into a new job regardless.  If your focus is on the candidates’ aptitude and attitude in the recruitment process, and not just relevant experience, you have the ability to create a far more productive workforce. If candidates have a have a willingness to work and the ability to listen, you may stumble across some very capable and grateful workers who are looking to be given a chance – just like you were at the start of your career. Apart from the interview process, you can tap into psychometric testing to assist you in finding the best candidate.

If you have children or family members aged between 18-25, provide them with some career guidance.  Gone are the days of going to university for 3-4 years, completing a generalist degree (e.g. Bachelor of Arts), working in cafes and bars, and landing a dream job.  If they don’t know what they want to do, encourage them to find a full time job while completing a Certificate of Diploma at TAFE part time.  It is a cheaper option, they still come out with a qualification, and they are working and earning money.

Another great source of information is researching the growth sectors in our economy. Where this growth, there are jobs. According to IBISWorld, some of the hot 10 industries over the next few years include organic farming, investment banking and securities broking, mining, aged care services, online information services, veterinary services, financial planning, accounting, general hospitals, and biotechnology.

An insight into the modern workplace

A month ago, I was asked to PwC Canberra’s new office opening. It sounded boring but I agreed to go because it meant getting out of dinner, bathing, homework and reading duties with my three children.

What unfolded was a very interesting evening discovering what a modern workplace looks like and how it functions.   The office provides 200 staff with a personal locker, laptop, and a range of individual and team workspaces – but no personal desk. Every workspace has a computer, docking station for the laptop, and phone. There is an online filing system so there is no paper lying around.

The workspaces are colour coded, guiding staff on the suitability for different activities. The colours also assist staff in identifying where people are working that day. There is an Etiquette Officer responsible for ensuring that people do not sit at the same workspace each day.

Meeting rooms are scattered around each floor to conduct team meetings or client meetings. Most of these meeting rooms are fitted with iPad-style touch-TVs. Others have whiteboards. Some meeting rooms have couches, while others have standing desks.

This type of workplace has been created to improve collaboration and creative thinking. The thinking is that if staff are able to work in close proximity to people beyond their team, there is a burgeoning of ideas and connectivity that is not normally achieved.

It also encourages ‘activity-based working’ – otherwise known as agile working or flexi-working. If staff need to work at a client site or work from home, they are set up to do this. The focus is on productivity…. wherever you decide to work. The fundamental ingredient to make ‘activity-based working’ work is technology.

In some respects, this futuristic workplace negates the need for a flexible work policy. What becomes important is a performance management system to measure staff productivity.

No doubt there are many critics of this innovative workspace approach. However, I can’t say that current workplaces are effective either. I recently was working out of an office in Sydney that had an office for every employee including the new intern. I did not observe any team meetings or work –related discussions. I did observe people with doors shut and hiding in their office. Desks were messy, with paper and files strewn across the desk and floor.

Time will tell whether PwC’s workspace approach engenders productivity and collaborative thinking. One thing is for sure, they have attracted many Generation Y and Zs.