Talent has no age. Talent has no passport. Talent has no gender; but opportunity has all three. Indeed, it is people that are the world’s greatest untapped resource. All around the world there are billions of unpolished diamonds – those people out there with raw talent but lacking the soft skills and educational polishing that many of us have been so lucky to have received. The greatest businesses and governments of the twenty-first century will be those that can develop scalable solutions to polish these ‘rough diamonds’.
The development and recruitment of youth has been and continues to be one of the greatest business challenges. This blog aims to explore how the model of development and recruitment has changed with technological developments.
1. Demographics and Characteristics of Gen Y talent
Gen Y is unique. Born between 1980 & 2000 they’ve seen more change growing up than any generation in history. They are a generation defined by change. This hunger for change is both their strongest characteristic and biggest challenge for their employer. Studies show that this generation will have significantly more employers than any previous generations. The US Department of Labor expects this generation to have an average of 14 jobs before their 38th birthday. Importantly Gen Y is loyal to its skill rather than its employer. The days of the job for life are long gone. McKinsey’s war for talent is alive and well, despite the global downturn. Employers still need to compete fiercely for the top talent.
It has been said that Gen Yers are more confident than they are talented. They have been widely described as the most difficult to manage, yet the most rewarding when managed properly. For the world’s top talent the interview is a two-way process; with confidence and multiple options, Gen Yers are becoming job consumers. Just like consuming a product or service, they need to be sold to and convinced of the right match.
The employer brand has therefore never been so important. In fact, like the consumer brand, the employer brand has moved from being defined by the employer, and is now defined by the job seeker. Employers need to continue to invest in their employer brand and engage with their brand advocates in a world that is increasingly defined by the choices people have.
2. Digital natives – how social media has changed everything
For the first time in history, the youngest generation to enter the workforce are an authority on something that actually matters. We (I was born in 1984) are the authority on the internet, social media and new forms of collaboration. These innovations are being created by young minds and these tools are now driving the greatest change in industry. This gives young people a new power and influence in the workplace. Never before have the youngest people in the workplace understood something that is business critical better than the management team. This has added to the pace at which the workplace hierarchy is being flattened.
As this generation is fluent in social media, organisations have had to think differently about how they engage and recruit them. As the saying goes, “One should go fishing where the fishes are“. I believe the best starting point to recruit this generation is to use social media to engage with them. I believe recruitment is changing from a transactional model to a relationship based model. By interacting with Gen Y in a medium they are familiar with, employers are able to gain the upper hand, while building a strong employer brand. Statistically speaking, 96% of Gen Y start their job search on the internet. This goes to show how important it is to have a strong online employer brand. However, so many employers misunderstand this generation and continue their persistent interruption rather than interaction. In fact, the average digital native receives more than 3000 adverts a day. Studies have shown that only 14% of these adverts are trusted, whereas, 78% of peer to peer recommendations are trusted. Gen Yers are making their career decisions based on the online reputations of the firms they apply to. Despite this, so many employers still have their heads buried in the sand when it comes to the online discussions about them. They prefer to pretend that it is not happening, rather than join the conversation. Web 1.0 was about a one way consumption of content, web 2.0 is about a two way interaction of the participants.
The very model of online communication has changed from monologue to Multilogue. Engaging in multilogue is more than the one- to- one dialogue that happens online. Multilogue is one- to- many; the most talent-savvy of employers have already seen the rewards of building talent communities using social media.
3. Recruiting and developing youth for the new world of work
We are living in times of exponential change. Consider for a moment the change that industry has seen over the last 20 years. It could be argued that the last 20 years saw more change than the 200 years before it. My question is: Could the same be said of the education system? I would argue that the formal education system is broken and out of date. While industry innovation has developed exponentially; education innovation has largely flat lined. The graph below demonstrates this and how the gap being created is the ever growing ‘skills gap’.
Everything starts and ends with education. In the words of the great Nelson Mandela: “If you wish to make an impact for one year, plant corn; if wish to make an impact for a generation, plant a tree; if you wish to make an impact for eternity, educate a child.”
The education system as we now recognise it has its roots in the industrial revolution. I believe the economy has moved into a new paradigm as significant as the last change from an agrarian economy to the industrial age. The age we currently live in is what I would term ‘The Digital Enlightenment’. We have moved into the networked economy. The education system needs to make a similar transition. In fact, according to UNESCO the next 30 years will see more people go through formal education than in combined history of the Modern Age.
I believe that there is a close connection between education and recruitment. The very act of searching talent, revolves around assessing someone’s education, and the skills they have gained in their experience thus far. The biggest bottleneck in the growth of any economy is access to the right skills and talent. In order to ensure that supply of talent meets demand of talent, we must look beyond the formal education system. We must begin to look at those best placed to deliver scalable education for the 21st Century. I believe that it is the social media industry that is best placed to deliver this, as it is companies that is driving forward innovation.
In the near future, I have a desire to see employers taking an active role in participating with training and encouraging the development of youth. This will add value to their social responsibility credentials, engagement marketing and, of course, their need to recruit the best talent.
To conclude, Gen Y is unique, and need a new management approach. However, they can also be recruited and developed differently.