Beth Leslie is a content writer for the UK’s leading graduate recruitment agency, Inspiring Interns. Check out their website if you’re looking to hire a graduate, or are on the hunt for an internship or for graduate jobs London.
Digital natives, Generation Y, Millennials… the names and start dates of this complex cohort differ almost as widely as the opinions they inspire. Are they lazy, or innovative? Assertive, or fickle? One thing they certainly are not is ignorable: by 2025, they will make up 75% of the UK workforce.
One thing they are particularly noted for is their affinity with technology, particularly in areas -such as social media- beloved of digital marketers. Such aptitude would seem to make them a shoo-in for digital marketing roles, yet their other attributes may make employers wary: 45% of millennials want to leave a job within two years.
Do the benefits of digital natives outweigh the cons? Read on:
PRO: Digital natives are naturals in the world of tech …
CON: … but they’re inexperienced in the world of work.
As the world becomes increasing digitalised, so must the world of business. Yet over 12 million adults “lack basic digital knowhow”. Digital natives, raised in the age of computers, are naturally suited to plugging this gap. Their expertise is especially valuable when it comes to social media – an area of such growing importance than it will soon swallow up 25% of the average marketing budget. Digital natives’ innate knowledge reduces training costs, minimises the chance of embarrassing mishaps and encourages creative uses and original strategies.
The flip side is that most digital natives are, by definition, young, and may not have the level of experience required to manage complex marketing campaigns. In the fast-paced world of marketing, more experienced executives may not have the time or patience to babysit baffled graduates.
Yet the most effective marketing teams are those who can meld the experience of old-timers with the digital know-how of millennials. Giving an equal platform to both to express ideas and share knowledge allows both parties to learn from the strengths of the other, and should give rise to creative solutions that appeal across a wide customer base.
CON: Digital natives are flaky …
PRO: … but they’re flexible.
Digital natives waste more time at work than any other generation – often by messing around of the aforementioned social media. Two thirds of them expect to leave their job within a few years, and 60% of them admit to faking an illness in order to get the day off work. For bosses, that seems to make them an expensive waste of money.
Yet Millennials are also able to work in new, different ways which can benefit businesses and is particularly suited to the digital realm. They’re comfortable switching between multiple devices – smartphones, work station, personal laptop – and they’re good at working on the go. This is an advantage in the age of more flexible work policies such as hot-desking and working remotely.
Evidence suggests that these two side of digital natives are interlinked – excessive overtime and lack of flexitime are two of their top five reasons for quitting. The solution is simple – give them the flexibility that they want, and their productivity is likely to soar. Making promotions and work reviews target-driven rather than hours-driven ensures slackers can be rooted out and millennial stars can thrive.
PRO: Digital natives are ambitious …
CON: … but they’re entitled.
The best thing about Millennials is that they all think they can be a CEO one day. The worst thing about Millennials is that they all think they can be a CEO one day. 72% of millennials strongly desire to have “a job where I can make an impact”. Harnessed correctly, such ambition encourages them to give 110% to their role and continually strive to fill knowledge gaps. But it also creates employees who are complacent, easily bored and who feel menial tasks are beneath them.
Getting digital natives on side is relatively easy – they want to feel appreciated and respond well to praise and consistent feedback. Employers may regard this expectation of a “well done” for simply doing their job churlish. Instead, they should remember that older employees demand motivators too, but in the form of money. Millennials are not necessarily more demanding than other generations, but simply have different priorities; according to one survey, they would take a $7,600 pay-cut for an “improved quality of work life”. Constant congratulations may be churlish, but they’re cheaper than bonuses.
CON: Digital natives don’t do established work practices …
PRO: … but they represent future ways of working.
In many ways, digital natives are synonymous with the digital revolution they grew up with. Both have disrupted normal work practices, both demand new, flexible ways of doing things and both are constantly evolving and adapting to the world around them. Such shared idiosyncrasies make them uniquely suited to each other. Those who wish to successfully ride the digital marketing wave must be more adaptable than ever before; quick to pick up new trends, and quicker still to drop old-fashioned ones. They must be more personal and individualistic than ever before as marketing becomes ever-more tailored and targeted. At all these things millennials excel.
Each phase of digitalization -the world wide web, e-commerce, social media- has quickly taken over the business world and foundered those companies that were too slow or too ignorant to adapt. Digital natives should be regarded in the same way; they can be confusing, unreliable, and incongruous… and should be ignored at your own peril. They’re taking over the world.