Why every business should invest in Generation Y

Written by
Michelle Adams

04 Jul 2016

04 Jul 2016 • by Michelle Adams

Digital sector demands

This goes to show how vital a role businesses and government will have to play in coming years to tackle the digital skills gap and help awaken the business community to the benefits of digital.

So what can we as businesses do to tackle this skills gap, and ensure that we don’t fall behind other European countries when it comes to maximising the benefits of the digital revolution? Act now! Hire people with the right skills and experience at the heart of our workforce – and where better to look than the board members of the future. Here’s why I believe every business should be investing in Generation Y, and how to go about it.

Why should businesses invest in young digital talent?

At O2, we employ thousands of young people, many through our young talent schemes; apprenticeships, graduate programmes, internships and traineeships. That’s because we recognise that hiring millennials is a brilliant way of bringing in the talent that will fuel our business in years to come. This generation is the first to have grown up with the internet; they have digital skills at their fingertips that so many other workers don’t. And with every industry, not just tech, catching onto the necessities of digital skills is something no company can afford to miss out on.

But having digital skills isn’t just about being computer literate. It’s about being able to use digital skills creatively for the benefit of the business. Our experience is that young people approach problems in different ways to other generations, using their experience of technology to provide creative solutions. For instance, a group of O2 interns were tasked with creating a handbook for future interns joining the business. Rather than create a written series of FAQs, they developed a bespoke app called Discover - a digital guide to life at O2. It was so successful, it’s now used by all new starters.

So what can we do to inspire young talent to go into these digital jobs?

We must start by giving young people the awareness of the range of opportunities available for them in digital. This will involve everyone in the chain of influence – not just teachers, educators and parents or guardians, but also businesses. This is particularly the case for businesses in STEM, many of whom are struggling to fill their junior talent pipelines with a diverse range of men and women. Research we carried out in January, for example, showed that outdated gender stereotypes are still far too prevalent in the next generation, with almost half of 11-18 year-olds thinking the tech sector is more suitable for men. In response, our most senior employees have pledged to dedicate time each year to go into schools and speak to pupils about the opportunities within the tech sector – and we’ve called for businesses countrywide to do the same.

Only by going into schools, and working closely with both parents and educators, will we be able to engage young people about the opportunities that exist and ensure we tackle the digital skills gap once and for all. After all, this is the young digital talent that will form the backbone of our digital economy in years to come.