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Recruitment and retention – close relations or distant strangers?

Research suggests that nearly two thirds of parents in the UK are unable to describe what their children do for a living.  This is a little nugget that I’ve come across only recently, mainly because it didn’t seem to get much media coverage.  So I thought I’d share it – in case you missed it too.  The precise figure is 58% of respondents to a survey of people with children in full time employment.

So I looked into it a little more – and a search revealed this video of children asking their parents what they thought their job titles were and what their roles involved.  And, safe to say the parents involved struggled.

Most of the parents involved in the survey (conducted by the job site Indeed) worked in retail, education and healthcare; technology was seventh on the list. Their children, millennials, mostly work in technology, followed by IT.  Given the (relatively) recent rise in dominance of technology and IT, the knowledge gap around these sectors is hardly surprising.

But while we can chuckle at the video, given what we at TMP Worldwide UK know about the influence that parents and guardians can play in the career decision-making process of young people, the implications of all this are perhaps a little more wide-reaching than the coverage would suggest.  While this story might not have captured the headlines, what does get into the news on a fairly regular basis is the fact that many sectors face skills shortages.

If parents have input into what their children end up doing for a living (and, despite what the survey might suggest, they do) it makes sense for organisations and, indeed, whole sectors to consider not just how they reach out to young people, but also how they engage with their parents and other influencers. If parents don’t understand an industry sector and the breadth of opportunities under its umbrella, they’re unlikely to be in a position to recommend it to their children at the point they start making decisions about next steps in terms of study, qualifications and careers.

Having conducted research with careers advisors, I know there can often be a knowledge gap there too.  Many careers services – in both schools and universities – are only as good as the organisations that supply them with information.  And many organisations don’t. Companies are starting to introduce parent and teacher sections to their careers sites, but that suggests there is knowledge and interest strong enough to seek this information out.  There is relatively little by way of ‘push’ activity.

A lack of parental and influencer knowledge is also relevant in the context of diversity.  While technology and IT are sectors that do tend to attract ethnic diversity, others – such as the media and creative services more widely – do not, at least not in numbers that are reflective of percentages of the UK population.  And I say that as someone whose parents, I know, are very proud of my career to date, but have never really understood how it translates into day to day activity.  It’s fair to say that when I first started out, they were pretty worried about my career choice – not because they thought I couldn’t do it, but because they didn’t have the reassurance of knowing anyone like me (or them) who had.

When it comes to gender diversity, technology and IT do struggle in terms of both attraction and retention, as do financial services and engineering.  Organisations in all of these sectors are doing more to reach out, but again not necessarily to parents.  And given that parents are likely to have grown up knowing these sectors as male-dominated, they will need to be convinced that they are ‘safe’ career choices for their daughters.

It’s easy to forget the influencers in the quest to plug skills gaps, achieve diverse workforces, win that war on talent.  For me, the real outtake from this research is we shouldn’t.

Paula Simmons | Senior Employer Branding Specialist |

Posted Wednesday 13 July 2016
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