Get these Digital Natives a job!

There are plenty of technology observers today who tend to pitch Digital Natives against Digital Immigrants in the generation conflict of the early 21st century. Isn’t that going too far? Can we really brand the arguments with my son when he refuses to stop playing on his Wii or my iPad a generation conflict? Maybe we want to see generation conflicts everywhere, as evidence that our society is making progress. The same was said twenty years ago when I just finished my studies. They pitted my generation against the so-called “generation 68”, as they did this one against the previous generation. But there were strong arguments then, and the conflict came to the streets and opposed radically different visions and ways of life. I personally doubt this is what we are seeing this time around, at least for the time being, with the digital age.

If I look around and talk to youngsters today, I find most them turned towards the same aspirations of finding a job, a home and starting a family – not reinventing the system. Of course there are others less fortunate who are struggling for food or good health and at the opposite end of the spectrum there are these who inherited the leisure of seeking the latest refinements in entertainment, fashion or luxury. In our connected world we are trying to bring the benefits of technology to the former via so called social innovation projects while catering to the “wildest dreams” of the latter with innovative concepts such as the LTE Connected Car, the Virtual Personal Stylist or the Gametime Media Table. But are we doing enough to really change the lives of our “middle class” Digital Natives and give them an easier time fulfilling their ambitions?

The question occurred to me as I was reflecting on the job market and how little it has truly evolved in the past twenty-five years. Granted, new and powerful tools have appeared such as online job websites like Monster or LinkedIn which instantly give job seekers access to thousands of opportunities anywhere in the world. Software has been created to allow employers to better manage applications, interview processes and candidate selection.

But in essence we have remained at the same stage. It’s all about candidates selling their perceived abilities and competencies via resumes and applying for barely described positions in companies relying more on name and image to attract the best talents.

Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic License  by bpsusf

So here I am going through dozens of resumes and absorbing loads of information and past experiences really irrelevant for the jobs I am offering. I take the time to have conversations with all candidates, even those I could have rejected just from looking at their resume, and I find myself listening to them describe how well they performed since graduation. None has offered to really address my requirements, look into the future and tell me how they would do on the job. And part of it is my fault, as I did nothing else but complete the job description template, a one pager with a job title, a quick mission statement and a high-level list of required competencies. I did… the usual.

Things could be different. The tables could be turned. I could be the one selling my project and the context for which I am seeking new talents, and applicants would put their skills and competencies to the test, bidding for the position with proposals, content and roadmaps on how they would meet my business objectives. I would select the top viable proposals and have interviews with the project bearers, as the human factor remains the principal key to successful recruitment. Instead of talking about the past, we would talk about the future, the project, and we would still assess the interpersonal chemistry, driven by passion for tomorrow rather than the current wariness between a manager under pressure to make the right decision with little clues about the future and the candidate, dealing from a position of weakness and ready to force his/her traits to win the decision.

Instead of looking at a resume we would look at a career expansion, a future career resume – which could be called the Itinerary – starting at the date the candidate takes on the job, stating what they would achieve in the job, what competencies and skills they would expect to gain or reinforce and how they would evolve from the job. These are discussions I would love to have.

Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic License  by velkr0

This process would take a bit longer – but not much by my experience – and demand a bit more work from the different parties, but the gains promise to be significant. Getting the right person in the right position is the biggest challenge of any organization and this system would certainly reduce mismatches.

In fact during the last ng Connect Ideation Workshop, my group proposed a similar use case which we baptized “Speed Recruiting”. A young manager would go to a school to recruit one or several young employees: he would start presenting his current business issues, opportunities and expectations. Students would then, separately or in teams, work on proposals to address these and after half a day or so, present them to the manager who would make a choice. Schools could organize such events, job fairs could be changed.

A social networking platform could be put together where talent seekers could record multimedia presentations and add other materials related to their needs and job applicants could bid with proposals (again as individuals or in teams) and complete their “Itinerary”.

I was getting excited.

But the concept did not make the cut. It was not rated high enough in the innovation and business potential categories. Yet it seems to me truly innovative as changing the game of recruitment while indeed relying on well established technologies. It addresses an issue almost every one of the Digital Natives is facing or will face: in other words there is a potential market for this, and after demand always comes business models.

Maybe this post will help the ng Connect ecosystem or someone else take a good second look at it. Who knows, Digital Natives may be grateful for it.

Vincent Weyl

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