The transformation and contribution of talented young employees

I'm so proud.  They've graduated!  Well done to them all!

My reflections on the achievements of young employees.


Recently our year-long GradStart - business and soft skills development programme for young employees finished.


Over the past year, I've seen a transformation in the young people who joined the journey and shared their experiences as relatively new and inexperienced employees.


Each participant had only joined the work of world, full-time, between 6 and 18 months prior to starting on the GradStart programme.  And what a journey it has been for them and us.


I should point out that these aren't our employees, nor is this an internal company programme.  Rather, GradStart is an open programme for young employees from any company and any industry.


The objectives of the programme are to introduce these employees to a range of essential business and soft skills that will make a difference to their personal and professional performance in their day-to-day activities.


Before I go further into how proud I am of their achievements, I feel it is important to consider what the industry attitude is towards young employees.




  • 52% of employers polled said 'none' or 'few' graduate recruits were prepared for the working world when starting their first job.  They went on to say that graduates lack skills such as team-working, punctuality and determination (YouGov1).
  • Of 500 elite business decision makers surveyed, 49% believe today’s graduates are less prepared for work than they were nearly 20 years ago.

70% of C-suite executives say that fewer than half of graduates entering their companies have the skills to succeed in entry-level positions, and only 21% of graduates have the skills to advance past those entry level jobs (Woods Bagot / Global Strategy Group2).



And, the graduates themselves do not feel very confident in their preparedness for the world of work...


  • 2000 graduates surveyed about their experiences after university discovered that 65% of graduates are not prepared for the world of work.


    Over half of these people (52%) had pointed to universities for not helping them feel prepared (LinkedIn / OnePoll3).


So, it should come as no surprise that...


  • 1 in 4 graduates is likely to leave their first employer within 12 months (CEB4).
  • SMEs (~50%) lag behind large employers (86%) when it comes to employing at least one young person, despite providing 3 out of 5 private sector jobs (CIPD5).
  • 6 out of 10 (63%) employers are concerned about low levels of skills being the biggest threat to the UK’s competitiveness as a place to employ people (CBI6).
  • In the United Kingdom 5 out of 6 (83%) employees are not engaged or actively disengaged.  This is only slightly better than the worldwide average (Gallup7).


At this point I want to congratulate those employers that are committed to employing young people and helping them to lay down a solid foundation on which to build their future careers.


When the young employees arrived on the first day of the 10-day programme, they were nervous and unsure about what they were going to encounter and learn.  One year on - by the time they were 'graduating' from the programme - they had blossomed into confident, highly regarded and valued employees.


This is what I have observed in them:


  • First and foremost, a significant improvement in their self-confidence and ‘finding their voice’ to speak-up and make a more vocal contribution to the business.  They feel more confident to ask better questions and challenge assumptions.


  • A better understanding of the importance of building good working relationships with colleagues.  
    This was cited as one of the most important things learned on the programme and then put into practice. 
    Over time they talked about how difficult work relationships had improved significantly once they applied what they learned about Emotional Intelligence [EQ] which is pervasive throughout the programme.


  • An appreciation of the bigger picture and strategy that drives business. 
    They now realise that 'Rome wasn't built in a day' and that running a business is a complex thing with many factors having to be taken into consideration.  Decisions and change can take longer than these young people would desire, but at least they understand why.
    One young employee said that by attending the commercial awareness and problem solving sessions, they now appreciate the complex and difficult decisions that senior management have to make in the interest of the business.  They realise that this can put senior management under a lot of pressure and stress, and their respect for managers has grown.

    Yay. They've got it!


  • They feel much more confident about defining what their careers should look like and mapping out a strategy for taking on more responsibility which will lead to future promotions.


I've been in business for more than 30 years and during that time I'd forgotten what it is like to be a young employee just embarking upon my career.  I have learned so much from these young people, and enjoyed every minute of every session together.


When I was interviewing a senior company director about their best practices for attracting, recruiting, developing and retaining young employees(8), she said to me:


"Remember, it’s a privilege for  you  to employ these young people."


While I don't employ these amazing young people, it has certainly been a privilege to educate them in essential business and soft skills with which they can lay down a solid foundation to build their future careers upon.



I wish them every success in the future.


I look forward working with many more talented young employees and watch them 'graduate' from further GradStart(9) programmes commencing this year, and in future years.

Please share your experiences of working with young employees, and as a young employee, if you can remember back that far...



  1. YouGov surveyed 635 senior managers, of whom 419 were graduate recruiters - September 2013
  2. Woods Bagot / Global Strategy Group - Febraury 2012
  3. OnePoll on behalf of LinkedIn - March 2014
  4. CEB/SHL Talent Measurement: Hire and Inspire – A new approach to Graduate recruitment 2014
  5. CIPD: Learning to Work – Survey report March 2015
  6. CBI/Accenture: Growth for Everyone: Employment trends survey 2014
  7. Gallup: State of the Global Workplace: Employee Engagement Insights for Business Leaders Worldwide 2013
  8. Download a complimentary copy of the Best Practice guide
  9. For more information on the GradStart programme and dates