EARLY IN CAREER: A healthy start: How you can support young employees to thrive.


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Mental Health

Our young people are in crisis, facing more mental health challenges than any other age group [CMHA UK (2021) Time to Act: Mental Health in Early Careers]. 72% have been affected in the last 12 months, which makes entering the workforce a daunting prospect. And once they do find a role, 60% experience career-threatening burnout [CMHA UK (2021) Time to Act: Mental Health in Early Careers].

This also has serious consequences for employers. As well as scaring off the right candidates, the wrong kind of culture will hurt your business. Poor mental health contributes to missed days, reduced productivity, and compensation claims. In 2019, the cost to the Australian economy was estimated at $39 billion.

So, what can we do to set our young people up for success? In 2021, we reached out to employees in the early stages of their careers. We sat down, we talked, and we listened. What came out of those discussions were steps that any business can take to create a safer, more productive workplace.

One of the most common things we heard is that young people aren’t feeling prepared for the pressures of today’s workforce. Without an older person’s coping skills or confidence, they’re often faced with an impossible choice. Do they set boundaries and work more reasonable hours, limiting their opportunities? Or do they buckle down and pursue those opportunities no matter the cost?

Unfortunately, many choose to ride out the storm. The shame of admitting they are not coping or the fear of impacting their career is simply too great. And by the time a young employee does seek help, they may already be at risk of burnout.

Research shows that if organisations don’t talk about available resources, young people won’t use them. It’s worth bringing in a junior employee who can talk about these resources in a relatable way.

Young people told us that they want open and frequent conversations, so that they feel safe asking for help. This will overcome their concerns about confidentiality, reduced chances of promotion, or having poor mental health equated to poor performance. As a leader, you can break down the stigma by building trust.

One of the most effective ways to create that trust is by showing vulnerability. Our participants told us that they appreciate seeing the human side in their managers. By talking and just being yourself, you will create a culture that feels safe, transparent, and supportive.

We believe that every workplace leader should be trained to guide their team members in this space. It’s about actively demonstrating that mental health is not a corporate agenda, but something that’s embedded at every level. Observing R U OK Day is a great start, but the message needs to echo throughout the rest of the year.

The fact is that young people expect their workplace to look out for them. 90% believe supporting employee mental health is an employer’s responsibility, and nearly half say it’s a key factor in pursuing future roles. In other words, if you want to attract the best talent, you can’t afford to overlook mental health.

Find useful tools and practical solutions here.