In September, it’s back to school for kids in the UK – an interesting time for both parents and children alike.
September is also the time lots of university graduates first enter the workforce.
But what is significant about this year’s generation of graduates?
Well they are arguably the first fully post-iPhone, post-Facebook generation.
The first iPhone was released in 2007, just as they entered into high school, and this is also the year that many people cite as the moment when Facebook and social media in general really took off.
Add into the mix that 2007 was the formative year of the financial crisis that went on to shape the last decade, and the “iPhone generation” could represent a very significant cultural shift in the office environment.
So what will it mean to have the first class of truly post-smartphone, social-media savvy graduates in offices up and down the country?
Why was 2007 such an important year?
As we’ve already mentioned, 2007 was an important year for tech, however a brief synopsis doesn’t quite cover it.
When you look closely at what happened in 2007 it’s easy to see how different an experience people growing up at this time will have had compared to people just 5 years earlier.
Here are some of the events that took place.
Apple launched the first iPhone
With the launch of the first iPhone Apple changed the way we communicated forever. With the iPhone, everyone could carry the internet in their pocket, making people connected with the entire world 24/7.
This was a radical shift, and although the rest of us have now adopted smartphone technology, for the generation just entering the workforce they have never known anything different.
This makes their perception of how best to communicate completely different to those of us who remember calling our friends up on the landline.
But this wasn’t the only thing Apple had in store.
2007 was the year that Apple dropped the word “computers” from their name, and it was also when they launched the first Apple TV.
This is arguably less important than the launch of the iPhone, but it shows a significant trend in tech that is relevant to how the iPhone Generation see the world.
Today, tech is everywhere, not just in computers – and the generation joining the workforce this September are more likely to be streaming on their smart TV than they are sitting down at a desktop.
Social media came into its own
Social media had been around for a while before 2007, with the likes of Myspace and Friendster being some of the early versions of the format.
2007 however is the year many people identify as the moment social media went mainstream.
Two of the most significant factors however actually came in 2006.
Not only was 2006 the year Twitter launched – meaning it really took off in 2007, 2006 was when Facebook launched The Newsfeed.
The launch of The Newsfeed in 2006 completely changed social media into what it is today, and proved to be the final blow to Facebook’s main rival Myspace, which Facebook overtook for the first time in 2007.
The Newsfeed is important because it introduced the idea of the public status update to social media. Prior to this, social media worked more like a directory of people, and if you wanted to know what people we’re talking about you’d have to actively seek them out, look on their wall, and find out what they’d been posting.
With the launch of The Newsfeed, people’s statuses became highly visible to everyone.
Without public status updates, social media simply wouldn’t work the way it does today. There would be no viral aspect, no political movements (like The Arab Spring), and no trends. You’d simply check in with your friends every so often to see what they’d been talking about.
This year’s graduates have spent all of their teenage and adult lives with instant social media, which is a massive societal shift compared to everything that went before.
Google broadened their offering
In 2007 Google broadened their offering with the launch of both Google maps and Android. Today Google is completely ubiquitous. After all, you don’t search for something anymore, you Google it.
The fact that it is only 10 years ago that Google launched these two staples of their product portfolio goes to show just how recent the Googleisation of our web space really is.
The people coming into your office probably won’t even remember Ask Jeeves – Google is their go to source for all information.
The financial crisis began
Although 2008 was the year that the global economy really took a hit, it was 2007 when it all started in the form of the sub-prime mortgage crisis in the housing market.
This is significant as the effect of growing up under a time of economic stress has already started to shape many young people’s views.
Reports already show that Generation K (the generation coming after millennials – often identified as being born after 1996) are more concerned about money than generations who’ve gone before, and especially than those who came of age around the high spending high credit times of the millennium.
You can see it clearly in this piece from UK Business Insider where a young Generation K member says “When it came to deciding on college, I purposely chose a school that would not leave me in debt when I graduated, I also saw what happened to many of my friends’ parents and families during the Great Recession, and because I never want to be in that position, I am already very aware of how I save and spend money.”
Compare that to the attitudes of people just 15 years earlier who would happily take out a 110% LTV mortgage and you can see how far the attitudes of young people entering the workforce today have changed.
How has this affected graduates entering the workforce
So with all the radical changes this generation of graduates have experienced compared to those just 5 or 10 years earlier, what should you expect as an employer or potential colleague of these bright young people?
From connectivity to tech usage and even basic social skills there’s a lot to consider.
This year’s graduates are better connected than ever before.
Nearly 4 in 10 young people say they interact with their smartphones more than real people. This shows a lot about how exposure to being better connected has made people want to communicate.
Rather than having a face to face conversation once or twice a day, the young people entering the workforce will be much less inclined to come and seek you out in person, but will expect to be constantly connected online through tools like Slack, Skype or simply email.
If you or other people working in the office aren’t familiar with using these channels, or don’t understand this preference in younger workers, it could cause an issue.
For example, an older more traditional person might find younger staff rude or uncommunicative because they don’t drop in for a chat on a regular basis – the reality is if you get that older colleague on Slack your new staff member will be confident and happy to keep them up to date with little online chats throughout the day.
It works the other way though too.
A graduate might be so unfamiliar with working together offline that in meetings and face to face conversation they feel less confident getting their point of view out there. It’s important to dispel these fears so you make sure you get all the best ideas out of the young graduate staff members.
Ask the majority of young graduates to imagine a world without social media and they won’t be able to do it.
To be honest though, this isn’t a bad thing.
If your business hasn’t yet embraced social media then you’re behind the times, and hopefully employing a couple of young tech savvy graduates can help you get back on track.
The way in which this year’s graduates use social media permeates every aspect of their lives – it isn’t just for keeping up with old friends.
Whether it’s getting customer service, watching the latest videos, or even researching into industry trends it can all be done on social media.
Another interesting thing is that the social media channels this year’s graduates use might surprise you.
For example, you think do you social media right? You’re all over Facebook and Twitter.
What if I was to tell you however that nearly 60 percent of Instagram users are between the ages of 18 and 29 compared to only 36% of twitter users.
Facebook and Twitter have been around for over 10 years – they’re no longer new technology.
Even if you were in your 20’s when Facebook came out and think you know all there is to know about social media, I’m sorry to say it, but now you’re behind the times.
To people over 25, social media is still just a fun way to stay in touch with friends, and maybe snoop on what celebrities have been up to.
To Generation K, social media is the ubiquitous tool that has always been there, and it provides much more than just a way to chat to friends.
If you want to target young people on social, listen to the young people in your workforce and learn from them.
As we’ve already covered when talking about connectivity, the way today’s young graduates like to talk to each other is quite different from anything experienced before the advent of smartphones and social media.
This can been seen in the fact that the actual telephone function on today’s smartphones is only the 5th most used app.
When it comes to things like providing customer service over the phone, or generally any customer facing duties, it could be the case that young graduates find this more of a challenge than those people who grew up before smartphones and online chatting.
After all, we’re simply talking to real people less and less these days.
What this means is that while your young graduates might be fantastic tech whizz kids you as a business might need some support when it comes to providing real person to person interaction for older and more traditional customers.
A great place to start when you’re looking for this support is an outsourced call answering service.
So based on all this, what are today’s young people expecting from office life?
Well for starters they’re much less patient when it comes to basic office management tasks like finding written documentation. In fact, 18-24 year olds are 10% more likely to find looking for paperwork frustrating than the rest of the workforce.
When you consider this generation were brought up on the super slick user interfaces of the iPhone, and are more likely to think of Dropbox than a filing cabinet when it comes to document storage, then it makes sense that the idea of rifling through stacks of paper would seem like a chore.
Another big cultural shift a younger workforce will bring to the office is the expectation for flexible and remote working.
Already, 92% of millennials want to work remotely and 87% want to work on their own clock, instead of the confines of a 9 to 5 workday. This trend will only become more pronounced as Generation K enters the workforce.
The final big shift this year’s graduates will bring to office life is a change in what they want from their working lives.
We are far from the heady days of the 1980’s when red braces were in and we all wanted “loadsamoney!”
Today, 30% of young people think meaningful work is important, compared to only 12% of their managers, and only 28% of young people think high pay is important.
What this means is that rather than getting the best staff by offering the best salaries, it will be corporate culture that attracts the best young graduates to businesses.
So maybe we’ll start seeing less company cars on our roads, and we’ll start seeing more sleep pods in our offices.
“Generation iPhone” will change the face of office life
When you look at the wants and needs of the young graduates entering into today’s workforce, it’s easy to see just how profound an effect the ethos behind the iPhone has affected people’s expectations.
Much like the iPhone, people want to take their work anywhere – in a world that is fully connected there’s no need to come into the office every day.
Again like the iPhone, experience is what matters the most to today’s young people.
When the iPhone came out it was pretty expensive, but that didn’t matter because the experience it provided users with was miles beyond any other phone at the time.
That’s how many young people view working life today – the numbers don’t matter providing the work is enriching and enjoyable.
And finally, the most significant change is the preference (or you could say reliance) on tech.
Already, a large amount of the jobs we did are now done using a computer.
As today’s young graduates enter the workforce it could spell the end of many more manual processes, and see us take the final few steps towards completely paperless office environments.
After all, thanks to cloud storage there is really no need to keep anything in a none digital format.
In the coming weeks, the kids who first stepped foot into the scary world of high school back in 2007 will be shaking off hangovers, folding up their cap and gowns, saying goodbye to education and entering the working world.
What’s special about this wave of graduates is – we could be in for as much of a shock as they are.