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Youth Retention

Youth represent the future of business. Employers in Prince Edward Island are examining their current hiring practices to ensure that any positions they have are attractive to young people.

Engaging Young Workers


Employers understand that young people are essential to the future of their businesses and to the economy of Prince Edward Island. However, many employers are having difficulty attracting young people, and even more difficulty in motivating and retaining them. It is common to hear employers say that “young people just don’t work the same way as we used to.” The reality is that many of the challenges associated with finding and keeping young workers are due to more fundamental and generational differences in how young people communicate and their work-life expectations.

Today’s generation of young people are the “net” generation. If you want to attract and keep these young workers, you need to understand their communication styles and expectations, and then create a workplace environment and practices that respond to their needs. Some employers have already implemented practices and procedures with young people in mind. You can too. This section will provide guides and suggestions that you can use to help create attractive workplaces for young workers.

Youth Retention

Youth represent the future of business. Employers in Prince Edward Island are examining their current hiring practices to ensure that any positions they have are attractive to young people.

Matching Expectations[1]  

Unlike other generations, youth have grown up receiving constant feedback and encouragement which has fostered high performance and high maintenance personalities. Youth often have the following expectations from their workplace:

▪▪         High expectation of self – Young people strive to work faster and better than other workers.

▪▪         High expectations of employers – Young workers want fair and direct managers who are involved in professional development.

▪▪         Ongoing learning – Young workers seek creative challenges and view co-workers as resources from whom to gain knowledge.

▪▪         Immediate responsibility – Youth want to make important decisions early on.

▪▪         Goal oriented – Youth want small goals with tight deadlines so they can build up ownership of tasks.

Net Generation

Youth think, communicate and work together very differently than older generations. They are often called Generation Y or the “net generation.” Here are some things that you need to know about the Net Generation:

The Top Things You Need to Know about Generation Y or The Net Generation

1.      The best place to meet them is face-to-Facebook.

In September 2006, there were 8.9 million users of Facebook around the world. Now there are over 175 million active users. In Canada, Facebook dominates all other social networking sites, with 63% of Canadians being registered Facebook users, and 83% of them are the 18-34 demographic. Atlantic Canadian numbers far exceed the Canadian average at an incredible 75% of the total population.

(Source: Gardiner Centre, Netpop Research 2009)

2.      Blogs are their news.

Nearly 80% of Net Geners under 28 regularly visit blogs, which is the most popular way to create and share information. 22 of the most popular websites in the world are actually blogs, and those blog readers average 23 hours online a week. Net Geners are producers of their own news. (Gardiner Centre, Netpop Research 2009)

3.   The Net Generation wants their work life to fit their lifestyle, not the other way around.

Quality of life means something different for this target, because it includes an inherent need for their work lives to be flexible. A 9-to-5 schedule is not necessarily desired. Most would like to be judged on performance and results first, and face time in the office second.

4.      They’re collaborative before competitive.

Today’s workforce looks at the workplace very differently than their parents. The nature of their communication tools has afforded them opportunities for instant interaction, discussion and feedback. Our younger generation therefore sees work as a collaboration with colleagues - relationship-based and more dynamic in approach than just adhering to old structures and hierarchies.

5.      Having freedom of choice is not only important but necessary.

There are millions of choices before this generation all the time, and everyone wants their attention. But when this generation knows exactly what they’re seeking amongst all the clutter and choice, they’ll do their homework. There are always other options.

6.      Their voices will be heard.

Online forums, message boards, blogs, product reviews, article comments. These are all mini-soapboxes to give everyone a voice, and there’s always an opinion to hear. If the Net Generation has opinions, rest assured, they’ll let you know what they are.

7.      They are digital wizards.

The technologies available and readily used by this generation are tools to connect, invent, create and share.

8.      They seek out similar interests and viewpoints, and unite around them.

Community is at the heart of what online interaction affords this generation, and the like minds will seek each other out and come together.

9.      They may actually be the smartest generation ever.

Knowledge truly is power for today’s youth, and they pride themselves on being informed. The Internet is the library they carry with them at all times now, and if they don’t know the answer, they know how to find it. (Tapscott, Don. Growing Up Digital, 2009)

10.  Customization is identity.

Everything The Net Generation does is unique to them and their personal tastes - different cell phone rings for each of their friends, iPod cases, My Space profiles. Similarly, they customize the streams of information that they’re interested in, signing up for newsletters or text blasts, or subscribing to RSS feeds from preferred news sources.

11.  They require innovation as a part of their daily lives.

This generation is the constant creator of evolving web content. This group craves updates, newness, and the next best thing. Information that is outdated or stale is simply dismissed, so getting their attention requires being bold and innovative, and needs to evolve to be meaningful for them.

12.  Speed is key.

The digital generation would probably communicate telepathically if they could. Everything is instant to them. The Net Generation doesn’t have to wait to check their email when they can get back to their computer - that is, unless they forgot their phone. Of all NetGeners, 74% own a cell phone, the most powerful technology of all because it’s becoming everything at once, and it’s their main conduit to the world. (Tapscott, Don. Growing Up Digital, 2009)

Adapted from market research carried out for HRLE by The Idea Factory.

Benefits of Hiring Youth

Our greatest resource is our young people. Youth have passion, determination, ambition and drive. Who wouldn’t want to have individuals with these qualities working for their business?

Hire are some of the many benefits associated with hiring youth:

They are eager and willing to learn;

Youth enjoy learning and are open to coaching and mentoring from others.

They are enthusiastic, energetic and physically active;

Engaged youth bring a level of energy to work products.

They are creative, adaptable, open minded and learn quickly;

Youth are interested in skill and knowledge-building opportunities. They thrive on being able to apply their creativity and adapt quickly to meet new challenges.

They are not afraid of technology or change;

Youth embrace change. They like the challenge and the opportunities that change brings. Businesses can use the skills that youth bring with regard to technology to implement cost saving technological changes.

They are a wealth of knowledge;

Youth are very knowledgeable as a result of being constantly plugged into the internet. If there is something that they do not know, they know how to find it.

They bring new ideas and perspectives to the workplace;

Youth share their ideas and give suggestions as to how businesses can manage these ideas effectively.

They are very comfortable in a diverse workplace;

Youth have grown up in a diverse culture. They have a strong sense of individuality and welcome it in others.

Youth represent the future of business;

Youth are the future customers of the business. By using the knowledge that youth bring to your workplace to help customize your services or products, your business is able to increase or expand its business opportunities.

Attracting Young Workers

Youth today have many opportunities to choose from, so employers need to set themselves apart from other employers by appealing to their interests.

This section will provide you with some helpful tips on how can you make your workplace more attractive to youth.

▪▪         Pay fair competitive wages and benefits, but consider lifestyle factors too.

▪▪         Offer opportunities. Young people value the opportunity to do creative, challenging work.

▪▪         Create a work environment that is highly organized around teamwork and collaboration.

▪▪         Ensure that your physical office space is attractive, has quality furniture and is up-to-date with technology. Young people judge a workplace by its “look.”

▪▪         Provide young people with the ability to personalize their space.

▪▪         Provide a safe workplace, free from security issues.

▪▪         Provide open space office organization rather than confining them to cubicles. Ensure that there is adequate space between workers to ensure privacy.

▪▪         Provide combinations of work activity and social interaction.

▪▪         Offer flexibility in terms of relaxed dress codes and allowing music to be played.

▪▪         Offer flexible work schedules, telecommuting, full tuition reimbursement and on-line learning tools.

▪▪         Be open to the new perspectives younger people bring to the workplace.

▪▪         Be more concerned with skill and knowledge based opportunities than long term job security.

▪▪         Provide ongoing feedback - this is critical to youth.

▪▪         Provide opportunities for them to use technology tools as part of their work – it is their lifestyle.

Generational Traits and Values

Businesses that enhance their organizations by hiring youth gain from understanding the challenges and the benefits that a multi generational workforce can bring.

With more people working longer there are four generations in the workforce. They include: the silent generation (1922-1945), the baby boomers (1946-1964), generation X (1965 -1980) and generation Y or net generation (1981 – onward). Each generation has its own values, work style and management style.


Generational Traits in the Workplace

Silent Generation

Baby Boomers

Generation X

Generation Y

This generation is hard-working, trusting, optimistic and very moral.

This generation is

optimistic and driven

to succeed in a work


This generation is not

very trusting, but very

adaptable to change.

Has a good idea of work and life balance.

This generation is hard

working and adaptable

to change. Optimistic

about the future and

open to ideas.

Generational Values in the Workplace

Silent Generation

Baby Boomers

Generation X

Generation Y


Hard Work




Delayed gratification


Team focus


Personal growth




World thought




Technologically literate

Civic duty



Social ability


Tips to guide you in managing a multi generational workforce[2]:

▪▪         Create an awareness of the different attitudes towards work and flexible employment options;

▪▪         Train leaders and managers on generational/cultural differences;

▪▪         Implement a variety of family friendly programs or policies such as child care, eldercare services and parental leave;

▪▪         Consider offering career development workshops that target the unique needs of each       generation;

▪▪         Give prompt and useful feedback, letting each employee know what you see as his or her individual strengths and opportunities for growth;

▪▪         Encourage formal and informal mentoring; and

▪▪         Communicate often and in as many different ways as possible.

Coaching and Mentoring

To assist with integrating younger workers in your business, consider setting up a mentoring or a coaching program.

Mentoring is a way to help a new employee adjust to a new work environment. Younger workers can be paired with older and more experienced workers in similar positions.

Coaching is another way to teach employees specific skills and information relevant to their jobs. Young workers can be included in training sessions, internal courses, and on the job training to help them learn the job until they are able to do their job without any assistance.

Programs to Support

The following programs are aimed towards quality youth employment. Visit the following websites to get more information on each.

Human Resources, Labour and Employment

Skills PEI

Canadian Mental Health – PEI Division

PEI Association for Newcomers to Canada

PEI Council of People with Disabilities

Mi’kmaq Confederacy of PEI Employment Services

John Howard Society of PEI

PEI Career Development Services Inc.

Tremploy Inc.

[1] Source: Stephanie Armour, USA Today

[2] Source: How to Attract, Retain and Engage Employees, p. 12