Young people need fair opportunities to meaningfully participate in the labour market and thus in life. For this meaningful participation, private-public partnerships become essential. Still, private entities have an especially catalytic role: they can pave the way for a more inclusive and youth-centered work landscape by actively targeting and recruiting youth. However, hiring youth surpasses the mere objective of youth employment. We believe that in order to impact youth’s livelihoods positively, organizations can hire youth; to create a competitive advantage, they must hire youth. The article below outlines how one of CFYE’s Kenyan implementing partners, Shujaaz, has created a youth-focused employee value proposition (EVP) by actively engaging youth.
EVP from a youth lens
Attracting the right talent requires a strategic approach, which comes with, first and foremost, understanding the needs and aspirations of the target group – even more so when you’re aiming to attract young talent. To reach the right potential employees, you need to build an excellent employee value proposition. EVP is the coherent identity of your organization that should speak your brand to both internal and external stakeholders. In other words, what is the promise you make as an employer to your employees in return for their commitment? What sets you apart from your competitors, and what rewards can youth enjoy by becoming a part of your organization?
Embedding a youth lens in your EVP can be challenging. In an emerging and often informal economy, many youths are engaged in (dependent) self-employed activities that assume a limited commitment to the employers. Therefore, adapting your employer-branding practices is necessary to come up with an EVP that is sensitive to the market trends yet attractive to young employees. To realize a well-balanced EVP that represents the company’s identity the best, Shujaaz engages in direct communication with youth in East Africa: “It’s our business to understand young people; our in-house team and our unique research techniques ensure we understand what’s really going on for young people in East Africa.” Some of the tools Shujaaz utilizes are, among others, national surveys, social media channels, user-led interviews, and academic research.
The insights gathered inspire Shujaaz to provide young people with the right tools and resources and break down barriers that hold them back from realizing their full potential. More importantly, direct communication with youth enables interventions and support that are tailored to youth’s aspirations and address their emotions.
An attractive EVP should be rooted in the real ambitions of youth, taking their immediate and long-term needs and ambitions seriously. Young people are at different levels regarding their attitudes, perceptions, and level of engagement in the informal employment sectors. Understanding where they are is the first step to designing strategies for moving them to a higher level of engagement in the sector.
When interacting with youth, Shujaaz has learned what issues young people face and what their goals and expectations are when entering the job market. Although Kenyan youth is not a homogenous group, and the individual conditions determine the young Kenyan’s aspirations, some ambitions have been prominent across all the groups. Primarily, young people in Kenya strive for financial independence. Since many jobs in the informal economy do not provide a living income, many youths are eager to take on more than one employment opportunity to sustain a livelihood and meet their basic needs. At the same time, young people highly value freedom: a work-life balance and flexible working hours form an essential part of an attractive job for many young Kenyans. Having time to engage in non-work-related activities has become crucial for many young people and determines how they engage in the labour market. “I want a job that will give me money, but I also need the freedom to do other things”, voiced a young person, embodying the collective aspiration of many young Kenyans. And finally, apart from the financial stability and flexibility, youth in Kenya also highly prioritize an increased social status and access to social capital when looking for employment. Approval from the people they care about, such as family and friends, is of particular significance.
Young retailers, Shujaaz
Providing jobs in the informal economy comes with many uncertainties that might make it challenging for the employer to meet the youth’s aspirations. The opportunity you offer might not tick all the boxes for youth ambitions just yet, but what are some of the strategies you can implement in the meantime to attract youth?
The win-win scenario
Many young people working in the informal economy have a strong desire to create wealth. They take their job very seriously and are ready to adapt to add more value to their existing business. However, what many youths need to enter the (informal) job market is a support network and role models they can relate to. To inspire young Kenyans and other East Africans to engage in the labour market, Shujaaz has created a comic that portrays the life of a young Kenyan and their work as an entrepreneur. Through building characters, ones that youth can associate themselves with, Shujaaz has managed to set positive examples, communicating a strong message: if they can do it, you can do it too. Having role models they can look up to increases young people’s trust in their own abilities and their motivation to follow in the model’s footsteps.
At the same time, young people want to learn new skills on the job. Shujaaz’s conversations with the youth pointed out the youth’s preference for mentorship and apprenticeship to learn the necessary skills on the job. Therefore, providing an environment where youth can grow their professional skills can turn into an excellent way to market yourself as an attractive employer to youth and shape a youth-centered EVP.
Apart from being adaptable and always seeking to increase the business value, many young Kenyans usually take a lot of pride in their job, have concrete career goals, and always look for new business ideas. Given the right support network, they will be willing to learn and thrive in their positions, significantly benefiting your business.
Creating the dream job for youth is not easy, especially in rapid-changing and volatile markets. And while you might not be able to accomplish an EVP that reflects every aspiration of youth, one thing that will take you closer to it is actively engaging youth. This starts with talking and truly listening to them. Key solutions for inviting youth into employment, especially informal employment, lie in a holistic mindset: drastically improving informal employment models, promoting relatable young role models in the sector, and offering youth financial, social, and educational support. Only this integrated approach can make hiring youth go from mere compliance to a true competitive advantage for your business. At CFYE, we continuously aim to inspire businesses to fashion a youth-centered employer value proposition to hire the best talent and significantly increase their competitive advantage.