Friday, 31 May 2024 13:47

National Service and Work-Readiness

The stand-out story of the General Election campaign trail so far must be Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s manifesto policy to introduce a form of national service should he regain the keys to No.10. Whether it is a deliberate attempt to polarise opinion or a fantasy policy that he knows he’ll never get over the line because his days in the top job are numbered, it has certainly sparked significant debate.

It is worthy of discussion from an HR perspective because we often hear from our clients how young people transitioning from education to employment often lack the necessary skills, experience, and discipline to be truly "work-ready." A conversation that has become much more prevalent since Covid. Supporters of Mr Sunak’s initiative might argue that it could help to address this issue; but who’s responsibility is it to ensure young people are equipped to join the workforce?

Sunak’s proposal aims to equip young people with valuable life skills, discipline, and a sense of civic duty. The structured environment of national service could provide participants with experiences that foster resilience, teamwork, and a strong work ethic. For employers, recruiting individuals who have completed national service could be particularly attractive, as these candidates may demonstrate enhanced maturity and readiness for a professional environment.

Young people of today are heavily immersed in social media. It shapes their communication styles and influences how they process information. While digital literacy is beneficial, the prevalence of short-form content and constant connectivity can detract from the development of what we would traditionally describe as soft skills, such as sustained attention, effective communication and teamworking.

Furthermore, the expectation of remote or home working, at least to some degree, has become cemented into the psyche of the UK workforce. We have discussed this a number of times in our blog and it will be further reinforced when the right for flexible working requests from day-one become law later this year.

While we see flexible working arrangements in many organisations now, they pose challenges for the onboarding process and for instilling discipline and teamwork in young employees who may have limited experience in traditional workplace settings.

Whilst we can see some potential benefits of a national service type initiative for employers, opinion polls suggest that it not something we should expect to be implemented. Businesses should ensure they are applying their own strategies to better prepare young adults and graduates for the workforce:

  • Structured Onboarding Programs: Design a comprehensive induction and onboarding program that cover job-specific training as well as workplace etiquette, communication skills, and time management.

  • Mentorship and Buddy Systems: Pair new employees with experienced mentors who can provide ongoing guidance and support, helping them navigate the company culture and expectations.

  • Soft Skills Training: Provide workshops focused on developing crucial soft skills such as resilience, problem-solving, teamwork, and professional communication. We offer a raft of these and they can be integrated into regular training schedules with more established employees to reinforce their importance.

  • Feedback Mechanisms: Establish regular one-to-one meetings and feedback loops where young employees can receive constructive criticism and praise, and also re-asses and affirm their objectives and your expectations to help them to adjust and continuously improve.

  • Managed Flexible Working Arrangements: While maintaining some degree of flexibility, ensure a structured approach to remote working that includes clear expectations, regular check-ins, and opportunities for in-person collaboration.

In what remains a competitive recruitment marketplace, dealing with new recruits who are not work-ready might be a nice problem for some businesses to have. Implementing the above strategies will not only address the shortfalls but will mean organisations will be seen as a good place to work and so attractive to young talent through:

  • Promoting a Positive Culture: Highlight your supportive, inclusive workplace culture that values learning and development.

  • Offering Growth Opportunities: Emphasise opportunities for career advancement and continuous learning.

  • Showcasing Flexibility: Balance the offer of flexible work arrangements with the structure and support needed for young professionals to thrive.

Rishi Sunak's national service proposal could play a significant role in addressing the readiness gap among young people entering the workforce, but we don’t think it’s something to be relied upon. Businesses should be implementing their own robust onboarding programs including mentoring, soft skills training, and a positive workplace culture. These are crucial for ensuring young peoples’ transition from education to employment.

By adopting these strategies, businesses can better prepare young people for the workforce and create a more attractive environment for emerging talent. We can help with the provision of appropriate policies, onboarding and induction programmes and a full suite of business essential and soft skills training. Call us for a conversation on 01452 331331 or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.


Read 413 times Last modified on Friday, 31 May 2024 14:57


HR Champions provide first class HR and Employment Law support and advice to UK businesses; operationally and strategically. If you're an employer you'll potentially need some, if not all, of the services we offer.

We deliver excellent management and soft skills training suitable for all organisational levels. We are ILM and City & Guild accredited and Ken Blanchard approved.  





We are located in Gloucester in the West of the UK close to the M4 and M5 corridors. For a precise map and directions find us on Google Maps

We have clients all over the UK but predominantly within about an hour's drive time of our offices; in Gloucestershire, South Gloucestershire, Worcestershire, Bristol and Swindon & Wiltshire.