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Graduate recruitment

Change is Afoot: Tech Startups Led by Graduates in Workplace Attitude Shift

Tobias Hardy


The number of graduates starting their own business has doubled in the last year...so your next boss could be 45 years your junior.

Technology has become a magnet in the career world – tech companies are attracting ever growing numbers of qualified job-seekers, whether graduates or those in their first few years of employment, while also poaching talent left and right from other industries. Consider, for instance, Barack Obama’s former campaign manager, David Plouffe, who became senior vice president of policy and strategy at Uber, as Politico reports. Or former Morgan Stanley CFO Ruth Porat, who joined Google, as Forbes details.

However, another growing trend in the tech sector is the switch to recent graduates starting up their own companies, employing older employees with more experience in leadership – even if they don’t have the tech skills or knowledge to boot.

Plouffe and Porat, along with other tech transplants in the news like Airbnb's recent hiring of former Blackstone CFO Laurence Tosi (as Bloomberg Business outlines), point directly to the visible demographic shifts that have occurred within the tech industry. What’s key to note is that fifty-year-old Tosi will be reporting to thirty-three-year-old cofounder and CEO Brian Chesky. Even more extreme is the example of Evan Spiegel, the twenty-five year old CEO of Snapchat.

This is a direct inversion of more traditional hierarchies, wherein seniority means authority, and although it’s an outrage to some, older employees in the tech field are swallowing their pride and taking orders from people born decades before them. And that has to be a good thing for graduates looking to move up the career ladder fast in the junior years of their careers.

Change is Afoot

A study by Ricoh revealed that the entry of generation Z into the workplace is seriously going to shake up the technology industry even more, with 63 per cent of older workers commenting that tensions between the two age groups will increase in the next few years.

The reason behind this? 75 per cent of baby boomers (those aged 50+) prefer face-to-face communication over indirect communication, whereas only 56 per cent of generation Z (those aged 19 and below) prefer face-to-face communication.

Graduates also tend to be more enthusiastic and upfront with potential employers, which can be a threat to older employees. “At a speed networking event for graduates and employers that we held recently, we witnessed graduates approaching it with great confidence, interviewing their prospective employers as much as they were being interviewed themselves,” Lisa Forrester, director at GCS Recruitment told Information Age.

This is why millennials and generation Z are increasingly becoming founders of companies rather than opting to report to their elders.


Hiring at a Glance

Mobile technology is now ubiquitous within the world of HR, as companies both in digital fields and outside of them can look at applications sent in from candidates whenever they have the time and network to do so, as eligo points out. These sorts of hiring methods are often more accessible to a younger applicant pool, and more alien to older candidates.

Millennials are also changing the way the workplace actually feels, according to the BBC, placing an increased emphasis on open office spaces and welcoming atmospheres. Both of these trends have become increasingly popular in industries across the board, underscoring how effective they are. The fact that these emerging workers are digital natives has had a huge impact on how work is conducted, both in and out of the tech sector.

For HR departments, there are many lessons to be learned from these trends. It's important to understand and recognise the new digital skills that candidates are bringing with them and the strengths and behaviours these demonstrate. Has an applicant got 150k Instagram followers? That required a strategy, creativity, time and effort to build such a solid network.

Additionally, be prepared to be interviewed yourself. Candidates are increasingly looking for a company that is right for them and represents their values. The best way for them to find out whether your company fits the bill is if they ask you.

So with these changes already upon us, are you ready to embrace them?

(Main image credit: Vecree)

Tobias Hardy

Tobias is a HR professional passionate about performance through engagement. He advises organisations on all aspects of recruitment process design with a particular focus on using technology to measure and overcome unconscious bias.