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Young people's experiences in the workplace researched by Acas

Young people's experience of work is most often analysed in terms of their transition between education and employment, or between employment and unemployment.

But relatively little attention has been given over to what their experiences are once in employment, and how employers can best handle their needs and expectations in the workplace.

This is the perspective dealt with in the latest Acas research paper pdf icon Young people's experiences in the workplace [689kb].

Using national survey data stretching back to 1992, it investigates what young people (aged under 30) look for in a job, what motivates and engages them in the working environment, and which employee voice arrangements are most effective in engendering a sense of influence and involvement at work.

Work orientation

The study explored young people's work orientations - the importance they put on various aspects of work, such as pay, security, flexibility, friendly colleagues, and work variety.

It found that young people's preferences have changed over the past 20 years, and they appear to have become relatively more demanding across a wider range of factors over time. Compared with older age groups, young people regard more aspects as important, putting greater emphasis particularly on 'extrinsic' concerns, such as job security (which 52 per cent said was 'essential') and physical working conditions (33 per cent).

But it also noted that some of their orientations may be cyclical, with diminishing emphasis on job security, and rising importance given to interesting work and level of pay, during boom periods.

Commitment, engagement and employee voice

Contrary to some stereotypical views about young workers, the research revealed young people to be just as engaged and committed in their jobs as older workers.

Similar types of workplace practices were associated with higher levels of commitment across all ages of the workforce, but the delegation of decision-making autonomy to work teams was 'uniquely associated' with commitment among young employees. The extent to which managers encouraged skill development, and the provision of pension contributions, were also linked to higher levels of commitment among young people.

The research also looked at employees' degree of satisfaction with their level of involvement in decision-making at their workplace, finding that the differences between age groups here were actually very small.

Attempts to identify which voice arrangements might be associated with higher ratings of involvement among young workers suggested that all-workforce meetings and the use of employee surveys were significant for young workers. But the authors hesitated in drawing firm conclusions here, citing the 'relative paucity' of the information on these issues in the data sets.

The research analysed data from the 2011 Workplace Employment Relations Study (WERS), the 2012 and 2006 Skills and Employment Surveys (SES), and from their predecessor the 1992 Employment in Britain Survey.

Acas publications and services

Acas has published pdf icon Managing Future Talent - A guide for employers [1Mb], which aims to share good practice about how to create a workplace in which young employees can thrive.

The pdf icon Recruiting staff guide [360kb] has all you need to know about recruitment, selection and implementation of induction programmes.

Acas experts can visit your organisation and review your existing recruitment and induction procedures. See Recruitment and Retention: how Acas can help for more details.

Acas also offers practical training on Recruitment, based on its own guidance, taking you through the legal and best practice elements of fair and effective recruitment.

For free, impartial advice on any employment relations issue, call the Acas Helpline on 0300 123 1100, or consult Helpline Online.

Visit the Acas Training Courses, Workshops and Projects area for more information.

Acas conference - Young Workers, Supporting and managing the workforce of tomorrow, 23 November 2017, Colmore Gate, Birmingham

This unique Acas conference will tackle the issues of engaging and retaining young workers faced by employers. We will also cover subjects such as:

  • the apprenticeship levy
  • attracting and retaining young workers
  • the skills shorting....and more!

For further information and booking details visit the event page or call Acas Customer Services on 0300 123 1150.

This news content or feature has been generated by a third party. Commentary, opinion and content do not necessarily represent the opinion of Acas.

We recommend that you explore further information and advice available on this website, particularly within our Advice A-Z guidance pages. If you have questions about workplace rights and rules visit Helpline Online.

This news content or feature may be reproduced free of charge in any format or medium for research, private study or for internal circulation within an organisation, subject to accurate reproduction.

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