It’s a tough, confusing time now for young workers. Many businesses want them to come back to the office to help to get the economy going again. However, many have been stopped by an alert from the Covid app, instructing them to self-isolate. This so-called “pingdemic” has forced many to stay and home and caused them to lose wages.

Those working in offices are eager to know: will they be there 5 days a week, or in rotation? Will they really have a choice of how many days they commute? Although some will prefer to avoid the time and costs of a commute many Generation Y and Z employees have limited space at home and would rather work alongside their colleagues.

The relaxation of COVID restrictions is good news for young people that want to forget their  work cares, socialise, and let off steam, but the next set of regulations aren’t far away. They’re likely to need vaccination certificates to go clubbing in the near future.

As hundreds of thousands of under 25s come out of Furlough, many are about to move on from their current jobs, as well. Media reports suggest that a ‘changedemic’ is getting underway, as more than three-quarters of Britons have apparently re-evaluated their lives during the pandemic, and are now looking to switch jobs, move house and end their current romantic relationships.

Young people: unsettled, undervalued, and unheard?

HR leaders must respond to these shifting trends to stem the potential haemorrhage of valuable young workers as best they can.

Since there’s still a lot of uncertainty about the sentiment of young workers we decided to check the pulse of employees in two of the biggest European economies, the UK and Germany. We did this by polling 2000 workers in April this year, working with trusted third-party market research experts Censuswide. What we found, does I’m afraid, confirm many of these fears:

The numbers are stark: 78% of 16- to 24-year-olds in employment we spoke to are applying or intend to apply for new jobs, as are 56% of the 25 to 34 age group (equivalent German figures: 71 and 54%).

The main reason for our UK respondents wanting to move was to get a better work-life balance (28%): that’s 33% of the 25-34 group, along with 27% of both 35-44s and 55+ employees.

And most concerning of all, we found a lot of apathy. A significant proportion of those who haven’t yet considered leaving their job couldn’t identify a single major reason for staying with their current employer.

Apart from the cost to morale and your organisation’s culture, it’s well-known that replacing an employee is expensive (Glassdoor estimates that it’s as high as £3000). And as COVID recedes there’s a real war for talent going on, with £10,000 ‘golden handshakes’ now on offer in some hard-pressed parts of the economy. You want to keep hold of your good people if you possibly can.

The bottom line: take the concerns of these stars of your future seriously

Is there a way to do that, against this uncertain backdrop? Talking to customers suggests to me that there absolutely is – and it’s not all about golden handshakes and other cash incentives. It comes down to creating a supportive workplace culture where staff feel recognised and heard. Our study identified that recognition from a mix of people was fundamental: from managers (20%), customers (16%), peers (14%) and senior leaders (13%). Another key workforce behaviour is simply to listen to staff, and then, crucially, take appropriate action. A fifth of employees (20% in the UK, 19% in Germany) say their employers are failing to act on feedback.

With so many of our younger, colleagues feeling the strain, it’s essential that employers take immediate action. CEOs and other leaders must take the concerns of their younger workers seriously— and put systems in place that enable them to gather and act on their feedback. An organisation’s culture is an important part of what makes it appealing to all workers – and younger workers have made it clear that they will vote with their feet if their employer cannot provide them with an environment they want to be part of. Organisations must recognise the contribution that they’re making, or they will pay the price.

The full survey referenced here, “Re-engage, recognise, reward, retain: EMPLOYEE STRATEGIES FOR A NEW WORLD OF WORK (OR NEW WORKING WORLD)” is available here