The jobs market is in a period of significant transformation, and as a result, those readying to take on their first role anticipate following a career path very different from their parents’.

New research from the Scottish Widows think tank, the Centre for the Modern Family (CMF), sheds light on the attitudes and expectations of young starters about the workplace of the future.

Here, we explore three key areas of change – and what employers can do to prepare for the next generation of workers.

Use new technology to benefit employees

As technology plays an ever more prominent role in everyday life, so too does it impact our workplaces, and people preparing to start their careers expect technology to influence their working patterns in future.

Whilst 35% of 16-18 year olds are worried about work/life balance suffering as a result of technology, almost two thirds (64%) of this age group think they will increasingly make the most of being able to work remotely in the next 10 years. Flexible working policies will therefore become an even more important consideration for all employers looking to attract young talent into their organisation.

Focus on education

As well as expecting working patterns to change, young people imagine job opportunities themselves will look very different in future. More than four-fifths (82%) of those aged between 16 and 18 believe that in future, they will end up working in jobs that do not yet exist.

While the possibility of newly-invented occupations poses exciting opportunities for those just starting out in their careers – and indeed those already working – it also raises fears about whether existing qualifications will provide the right foundations for the jobs of the future.

Young people are unsure whether their qualifications will be appropriate for the jobs of the future

Despite predicting a shift in the types of opportunities available in future, young adults claim to have a clear idea of the direction their career will take, with only 13% of 18-24 year olds uncertain about which industry they will work in. However, young people are unsure whether their qualifications will be appropriate for the jobs of the future: almost two thirds (63%) of 16-18 year olds and 59% of 18-24 year olds are worried about being able to find a job when they leave education.

To prepare for exciting – though uncertain – new opportunities and to alleviate the concerns of young workers, employers should offer regular training to ensure their staff are fully equipped for the jobs of the future. As new prospects arise, investing in programmes that train staff in technology or new skills can help keep employees up-to-date and qualified.

Accept the changing shape of a career path

Employers need to keep in mind that as expectations about the types of careers and qualifications change, so too do young people’s anticipations about their career path itself.

While many young people have watched their parents pursue a “job for life”, they do not see themselves doing the same. More than half (51%) of 16-18 year olds believe they will hold three or more jobs in their future career, and just 8% of people between 18-24 aspire to have one job for life. This outlook makes sense for a workforce that also assumes they will continue working until much later in life – 85% of young people think this will be true for them.

Just 8% of people between 18-24 aspire to have one job for life.

With a much longer and varied career in front of them, young people are being pragmatic in adapting their expectations of work. Employers need to be equally pragmatic. Instead of demanding new hires dedicate their entire careers to one company or profession, to get the most out of a staff and to offer variety within the business, companies can provide opportunities for career development, such as the chance to try different roles within a company.

No one can predict the future – but employers can prepare themselves for the unknown by listening to the expectations and desires of up-and-coming employees. Understanding young people’s nervousness about qualifications can help companies put adequate training in place; likewise, adapting to their wishes for getting the best from technology at work can help businesses keep their employees happy both now and in the future. HR teams should also think about the type and length of careers young people anticipate holding in order to best align hiring practices with company and employee needs.

The employees – and employers – of tomorrow are already thinking about the challenges ahead. By looking beyond the people already in the workforce, businesses can ensure they are ready for the future and able to find the best and brightest staff for their needs.

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