The difficulties in attracting and retaining workers in Canada will be a struggle for a while. We need to consider ways we can adapt to the needs of the upcoming generation of workers. Moving forward in business will depend on this. Through a few cycles of the Reboot Plus program we see trends emerging with this generation that are unprecedented. Our role as businesses is to help youth navigate the complexities of the workplace to help our local economies thrive.
The kids are not alright
A newly published study led out of the University of Calgary and co-authored with researchers from the University of Ottawa, CHEO, Toronto’s SickKids Hospital for Sick Children, and University College Dublin, paint a sharp increase in emergency department visits for mental health issues during the pandemic. Attempted suicide and suicide ideation among children and adolescents increased significantly. There was a noted 22 per cent increase in emergency department visits for suicide attempts, and an eight per cent increase for suicidal ideation.
“At the beginning of the pandemic our work showed concerning increases in depression and anxiety symptoms among children and youth globally,” explained Dr. Nicole Racine. “This new study further demonstrates that the kids have not been alright during the pandemic, with increased presentation to the emergency department for serious concerns”.
Neurodivergence is on the rise
Neurodiversity is on the rise in the workplace. More adults and youth are being diagnosed on the spectrums of autism, ADHD, and other disorders. It is important to create a positive workspace that accounts for the needs of these employees. A Future Skills Centre and Conference Board of Canada ‘Building Workplaces Where Neurodivergent Workers Thrive’ report focuses on ways employers can benefit from a strengthened understanding neurodivergent employees. Creating inclusive policies that allow individuals to retain meaningful employment will benefit everyone. This untapped pool of talented candidates that can fill the roles organizations struggle to fill.
Gender fluidity is the new norm
Many Gen Zers are increasingly breaking out of the idea that gender means only ‘man’ or ‘woman.’ People are finding a wider variety of ways to express themselves to reflect who they are, rather than who they have been told to be. VICE Voices surveys found “more Gen Z respondents than any other generation identify as not heterosexual, not cis-gender, and not rigidly masculine or feminine. Many said they understand why labels are useful, but still find them binding.
Gen Z wants saner, happier, and healthier worklives
This generation is rejecting traditional workplace practices. Rather than working 12-hour days, or working on weekends, young people are prioritizing their mental health, time off, and work-life balance. They want clear boundaries, better working conditions, and higher pay. They want to be a part of something that creates a positive impact in this increasingly unstable world. A climate crisis, a war, the pandemic, increasing inflation, and a rise in right-wing ideology, is the current climate facing this generation. They need to know they are working towards a better future in every aspect of their life.
We encourage businesses to better understand the needs of this generation and develop onboarding strategies. Using the above-mentioned observations, we recommend organizations develop strategies to ensure that a young person’s success in your workplace. This can look like mental health breaks, inclusive neurodivergence practices, use of proper pronouns, a better work-life balance, and benefits.
Business professionals are invited to meet with youth in our program for an informational interview. Your mentorship will help youth understand what careers are really like, while giving you a chance to meet and know this generation of workers.
Our program is taking a community-based approach to help youth navigate their way forward. Working with school districts, boards of trades, and colleges across the country, we are using our unique insights and strengths to help youth realize a brighter path to their future. We’re helping them find their uniqueness and the contributions they can make to improve their mental health, and create a happier, healthier work life that helps our economy grow.
The Reboot Plus project is funded by the Government of Canada’s Future Skills Centre.