What do business leaders want from teens?

ncs 10/08/2016
Business Leaders

Our latest NCS research with senior business leaders in the UK captured what employers really search for from young employees. You may be comforted to know that exam grades are not top of their list. We know that finding a job can be stressful; that’s why we’ve asked some top business leaders about the qualities they look for in future employees. Check it out!

-      Only 21% regarded exam results as the most important factor when recruiting; 45% said confidence and a polite manner were most important

-      67% of business leaders said younger employees come into the workplace lacking some of the necessary skills, such as time management and team working abilities

-      Top advice to teens was to develop broader life/work skills before leaving education (51%) and to try to achieve a healthy balance between studying and socialising (42%)

So we reached out to some of the leading businesses in the UK in order to find out what they really think.


Santander’s HR team recognise a number of skills as vital to the workplace. Iain Gallagher, Santander’s Senior Manager, Early In Careers HR, explains: “At Santander we have nine key behaviours which the business encourages – as a dad, I think these are also invaluable at home!  They are: bring passion, talk straight, embrace change, show respect, speak up, keep promises, give support, truly listen and actively collaborate.”

Here are some key workplace skills which Santander also considers important:

-          Time Management/Prioritisation – The ability to structure the day and plan what the important tasks are compared to the ones that are more enjoyable to do.

-          Resilience – The realisation that there are times when things don’t go to plan, and the ability to deal with these situations and react accordingly is important.

-          Communication – When moving away from education, understanding when and how to utilise both verbal and written channels (and knowing your audience) will be very helpful.


-          A Learning Mindset – To remain curious and always look to learn from failures; things will go wrong at times and it is how you learn, adapt and remain positive that will help you improve.


Jessie Link, Head of Engineering for Twitter, employs many young people and sees great value in the skills developed beyond the school walls.  She says: “Software engineering isn't just about technical skills - it's also about teamwork, communication and showing empathy to our users. It's so critical that young people take the time to develop those types of skills outside of the classroom, whether that's by playing sports, engaging in musical or artist pursuits, or even just by engaging with friends in social settings.


Director Steve Morris says that balance is important throughout one’s life, whatever your age. Steve says: “Many children just do not know what to expect in the work environment and ask parents ‘what do you actually do at work?’. There are courses available and traineeship programmes which provide a blend of work experience and classroom tuition to ease the transition into the world of work.”

For parents of young people facing exam pressures and decisions about the future, Steve recommends the following:

1.      Get actively involved in what your teen is studying

2.      Subscribe to the mantra of a healthy body and a healthy mind – make sure your teen gets out and about between studies

3.      Build links with teachers as your teen spends lots of time at school

4.      Start conversations about what next – higher education, apprenticeship etc

5.      Realise at that age that your teen knows best! Talk to them, don’t tell them


Matt Robinson, Senior Regional Manager for GO Outdoors, the UK’s biggest outdoor stores, says: “When looking for young people to join our team, as well as academic qualifications we focus heavily on the individual’s personality and behaviours. We look for confident, positive minded individuals who will be able to demonstrate our products to customers with enthusiasm and passion.  Never underestimate the importance of good timekeeping, reliability and presentation in the workplace, skills which are important in modern life.”  

Find out how NCS Autumn is a chance for young people to develop the skills employers are looking for – confidence, leadership and communication. Sign up today!