What can we learn from the new generation in our industry?
Last month we popped up to London to attend Silicon Beached 2018, an annual conference that this year saw ten speakers under the age of 25 share their experience and thoughts on digital, creativity, and innovation.
The speakers covered everything from the changing role of design to appropriate utilisation of internet memes, but collectively demonstrated the incredible value that young people are adding to digital and creative spaces.
So, why should we be listening to the new generation in our industry?
With the amount of information available at their fingertips and many key conversations occurring through social channels, it’s unsurprising that so many under-25s have been able to develop clear, strong, and thoughtful voices both online and offline.
Whether you’re looking for a fresh perspective or to learn how to better position your brand’s digital presence, you might be surprised at the level of insight your youngest employees are able to provide.
A well-worn criticism of young people in expertise-sharing environments is that a lack of ‘real world’ experience prevents them from contributing anything of value.
Of course, this attitude fails to recognise the value of experiences that young people do have - that there’s something to be said for experience acquired outside of the workplace, and in online spaces. But more than that, it severely underestimates the power of a millennial with internet access.
With no lack of accessible information, resourceful under-25s are able to bring well-researched and fully formed insight to any discussion. They’re leading with their own ideas, but contextualising their thoughts using a plethora of ready-and-waiting information.
Social media is the bread and butter of any digitally-inclined millennial. They know how it works, how it’s changing, and what you need to be doing to engage in a way that doesn’t age your brand or poorly mask your intentions.
If you ever need to understand how to navigate difficult online situations – particularly if your brand is consumer/public facing – your youngest recruits might be your strongest weapon.
Career paths have evolved from ladders to full-blown jungle-gyms, and the prospect of working the same job for forty years is not only undesirable but extremely unlikely. Many young people are indirectly preparing for jobs that don’t even exist yet – and just as many are finding their own ways to make money and kick-start careers.
With the average age for starting a business getting younger and younger, the 2016 BNP Paribas Global Entrepreneurs report claims that ‘millennipreneurs’ are launching twice as many companies as their boomer predecessors. Why? It might be easier to start a business today than twenty or thirty years ago, or it might have something to do with a millennial triumph in failure. It might even just be that as people start families later and later, we find ourselves with fewer commitments in our twenties, so can muster courage and take leaps more so than previous generations.
Either way, these twenty-somethings know how to use the internet, social media, and online audiences to create their own opportunities. You might want to pay attention.
Around 46% of ‘millennipreneurs’ define their professional success in terms of the positive social or environmental impact generated by their business.
One Silicon Beached speaker identified the top three things a brand should do to engage with young people as (1) being authentic, (2) creating a sense of community, and (3) offering a positive contribution to culture. Other speakers made a case for the importance of accessibility in arts education for young people, and led a convincing defence of ‘generation snowflake’, a term thrown about online to reference ‘overly-sensitive’ individuals on the internet.
If what the New York Times described as ‘Generation Nice’ reflects a positive trend towards more wholesome models for business – led by the youth – it’s worth listening to and unpacking these ideas. Get on board with the things people care about (especially when those people are future leaders in your industry) before you get left behind.
It makes sense: if your company is trying to reach a younger audience, you need to interact with them. Even if you’re not trying to sell them anything, it’s a good idea to engage with the future of your industry. You need to understand how they think and what they care about in order to present viable career options to them, especially as career possibilities veer away from the traditional.
All of this is made more complex with one simple fact, as Hannah Owen drew our attention to: ‘Your future employees wanna be YouTubers’. In order to appeal to a new generation of employees, digital and creative industries need to accommodate a new age of desires and motivations, strongly influenced by the rise of the self-made internet celebrity and online communities.
Twenty-somethings in digital understand their generation in ways that you can’t – unless you hire them, and listen to them.
Events like Silicon Beached are fantastic opportunities to listen to and interact with young people in our industry. In a series of engaging and well-researched talks, the speakers demonstrated the breadth and depth of knowledge ready to be harvested from a new generation of digital creatives.
Head to our Instagram to view our ‘Silicon Beached 2018’ story highlights, for a quick summary of every talk!