Calgary Employer Forum

How to Create a Welcoming Environment for Opportunity Youth

 In Blog

Creating a welcoming environment starts before a youth begins their first shift at your company. Your website, and hiring and onboarding process all contribute to making an Opportunity Youth feel like they are welcome and belong at your company.

Establish a genuine human connection

Youth are very used to communicating over technology, but they highly value human connection. Anything you can do to personalize the hiring and onboarding process will make a big difference with youth, especially Opportunity Youth.

One thing youth can’t stand is applying for jobs through applicant tracking systems. The process seems repetitive and online assessments are often not taken seriously. A lengthy online assessment won’t work for a youth with different disabilities. Opportunity Youth often avoid applying at companies that they perceive to have a cumbersome application process.

Youth can now apply for a job at McDonald’s via Snapchat!

Let youth know you are happy to have them at your workplace and make them feel welcome by taking the time to be present on their first day. Let Opportunity Youth know that their position is important and how their role fits within the bigger picture. Check in with the youth to make sure they are comfortable and progressing. Opportunity Youth often do not come from a supportive background. Making these positive connections can increase their sense of well-being and loyalty.

Just because your kids avoid talking to you doesn’t mean your new employee will! Youth value their superiors and look for mentorship at work. Genuine connection will make your Opportunity Youth feel like they are a valuable member of their team.

Connect new employees with a mentor

Pair your new employee with a mentor in the workplace.This person can be a go to person for the youth to ask questions without feeling dumb. The mentor can tour them around and introduce them to other employees. This is less intimidating than having the boss do it.

Try to schedule the new employee and the mentor to work similar shifts for the first few weeks. This helps Opportunity Youth to feel more comfortable in a new workplace and can develop skills for an existing employee. Once the youth gets working, they will start to feel more comfortable with other co-workers and won’t need as much support from the mentor.

Demonstrate that your workplace is inclusive

Show you are an inclusive employer. Pictures on your website should show a diverse workforce and positive messages about inclusivity should be prominent on your company’s career pages. Symbols such as a rainbow flag make a difference to Opportunity Youth. If possible, display artwork and products made by diverse artists and vendors. Visible symbols show you are sincere in your desire for inclusivity and helps youth to feel safe at your workplace, no matter their background.

Example: A young woman was seeking employment. She was Muslim and had conservative dress, including a hijab. She did not think she could work at a large, multi-national, retail business because she had never seen anybody like her working there before. When you looked on the company website, nobody looked like her either. Opportunity Youth will easily exclude themselves from easily applying for a job if they don’t feel welcome.

Display a land acknowledgement about the traditional First Nation’s territory your workplace is on, and include a land acknowledgement at company events. There are a variety of ways to do a land acknowledgement and the tradition is always evolving. Connect with a local Indigenous community during this process.

Here are a couple of websites that can help you: #Next150 Challenge – Land Acknowledgements Our Home on Native Land Calgary Foundation – Sample Land Acknowledgements

Take steps to further a social cause

Young people have a reputation for being altruistic and supporting causes such as the environment and human rights causes. This isn’t just an excuse to miss school, it permeates the life choices youth make, such as not getting their driver’s license. Young workers including Opportunity Youth are attracted to certain businesses as a consumer and an employee.

In June of 2020, the Gustavson School of Business from the University of Victoria released their annual Brand Trust Index. The most attractive brand to consumers aged 18-34 is Lush Canada. Lush is very outspoken in supporting social causes and has a reputation of treating employees well. In Calgary, Lush has partnered with The Boys’ & Girls’ Clubs of Calgary to hire LGBTQ2+ youth.

Show your support of social causes that make sense for your business. You don’t have to jump on a bandwagon. Find something that makes sense for your business and promote through your website, social media and business.

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