Youth co-creation leads to youth-informed decision-making, targeted insights, and more inclusive and equitable workplaces.
The current labour shortage requires employers to embrace effective strategies to attract and retain engaged and high-performing employees. Collaborating with youth on the policies, practices and programming that impact them is a powerful and effective tool for just that.
It’s called youth co-creation and, frankly, it’s transformative.
Youth co-creation leads to youth-informed decision-making, targeted insights, more inclusive and equitable workplaces and improved strategies. The result is youth are more connected, loyal and productive.
Co-creation is a spectrum
Youth co-creation can include a one-time or ongoing youth advisory group or a youth council that is actively involved in decision-making. It can also include hiring more youth. Their presence leads to their natural participation in working groups, committees and other activities that impact employee outcomes.
Regardless of where an organization falls on the spectrum of co-creation, the single most important element to success is authentic engagement. Merely considering or consulting youth is not enough to reap the benefits of their expertise.
How to effectively and authentically co-create with youth
Recognize and value the youth perspective
Youth have an important and unique perspective. They deserve to be heard and it’s in the employer’s best interest to value their voice as true partners in decision-making
Create a culture of safety and trust
Ensure youth have a safe space to share their opinions and beliefs. If the environment is judgmental, dismissive, appears to have pre-determined outcomes, or is unnecessarily challenging, youth are likely to share what they think you want to hear, not what is reflective of their actual lived experience. To build trust with youth in the co-creation process act on what you hear when you ask for their input – and do it every time. Of course, that does not mean submitting to their every desire or request. But it does mean truly taking into account what they have to say and giving it equal weight as other significant considerations.
This will encourage youth input because they’ll see their impact in action. Naturally, the reverse is true: Not acting discourages future participation.
Support youth to fully contribute to the co-creation process by building confidence and ability in young staff through ongoing professional development and training programs. The Canadian Council for Youth Prosperity is available to support capacity building and knowledge sharing for meaningful youth engagement with programs such as the Compensated Opportunities for Youth Network.
Create structure and clarity
It’s important to clarify objectives from day one. Detail why youth are engaged and the expected outcomes. Also confirm their level of decision making and autonomy, as well as define milestones and KPIs. Having everyone on the same program from the onset will result in better outcomes and help avoid misunderstanding.
Youth know what works for them and what doesn’t. Tapping into their wealth of knowledge allows employers to focus their time and effort on where it can be most impactful. In return, employers benefit from a young workforce eager and able to contribute to their success.