THE BLOG

Millennials in the tech sector: playing for keeps

13/02/2017 16:57 GMT | Updated 13/02/2017 16:58 GMT

Consider the 'Millennial.' They're effectively our first generation of digital natives, content creators and cause followers. There are around 13.8 million millennials in the UK and they will make up 75 percent of the workforce by 2025 globally.

And because they're digital natives, Millennials are incredibly important for the tech sector from a talent perspective. Right now, the average employee age at the world's top five tech companies is between 28 and 31 - and the new ideas, approach and ethos of the Millennial are increasingly becoming the drivers of innovation in the tech industry.

Here in the UK, job creation via the tech industry is 2.8 times higher than other major UK industries - but even the best tech organisations are struggling to keep pace when it comes to finding appropriately skilled candidates. This means that it's critical, once we do find them and hire them, to keep every single employee engaged and fulfilled as they progress through their careers. This is particularly true with Millennials. They are critical for the industry to fulfill its potential, so we need them to stick with the industry once they choose it: to develop innovations, to explore their own capacity for growth and leadership within technology, and, in the future, to lead the tech industry in the UK and globally to new heights.

However, keeping Millennials is anything but straightforward. In fact, recent research found that 71 percent of UK-based Millennials would, given the choice, choose to leave their current organization in the next two years.

Why? While it might be easy to assume they are looking for big pay cheques or international fame, for the average Millennial, it turns out that the reasons are far more complex. One of the top issues cited for Millennial "itchy feet" was that many feel like their skills are not being fully developed by their current employers. I can't say I blame them for feeling that way, and throughout my career I've noted that employees of all generations stay in both their jobs and their career longer if they're actively learning and engaged. Millennials in particular, tend to be more impatient to learn.

A hands-on approach

There are plenty of things that our sector can do - and in many cases is doing - to nurture and transform millennials into becoming the tech leaders of tomorrow.

But one of the most effective initiatives too often overlooked is mentoring. And as a mentor to several Millennials at Salesforce and outside of the company, I can certainly attest to its value.

Here are three reasons why I believe it's absolutely worth investing in mentoring:

1.Millennials want a personal touch

A recent Future Workplace survey shows that Millennials like to communicate face-to-face, particularly when it comes to more senior or experienced colleagues. Given that these people grew up texting, Facetiming and Snapchatting, this might come as a surprise. But, mentoring creates new ways for millennials to benefit from the real life engagement they value. For example, one of my Millennial mentees has said that the in-person element of our relationship means she prepares much more and consequently she gets much more value out of our sessions.

2.The benefits of 'reverse mentoring' are considerable

It's worth remembering that both mentor and mentee have an amazing opportunity to learn and develop through the relationship. It's therefore vital that mentor and mentee are a good match. I always recommend an initial 'fit' meeting to discuss what both want to get from the relationship. If a mentee or a mentor doesn't feel that the relationship will be valuable, then either should feel completely empowered to say so and work to find a different mentoring partner for the other party.

Growing up as digital natives in our mobile, connected world, the Millennial generation has a genuinely unique perspective - and can offer great insights and ideas from everything regarding product innovation to company strategy to giving back to the community. Mentoring provides another way of sharing this sought-after creativity. I'm currently mentoring a French Millennial, and I can certainly say that her viewpoint has enabled me to look at some challenges from a different angle than I had done previously!

3.Research backs up the power of mentoring

According to Deloitte, a whopping 94 percent of Millennials in a mentoring scheme feel the advice they receive is good, and 83 percent are satisfied with mentoring. The Millennials I've worked with say that a formal mentoring programme has also had a significant impact on the speed of their career development.

To me this makes a lot of sense: most Millennials are still in what I call the 'heavy-learning' part of their career and so mentoring at this stage can be particularly beneficial. Further, from what I've seen, it creates a very powerful tie to an organisation and by extension, to an industry.

Many of us in the tech industry already offer our time as mentors, via initiatives such as Stemettes, and through our own company programmes. I hope that many of my contemporaries will continue to be inspired to give their time, energy and focus to this next generation of technology leaders - together, we are building an even stronger, innovative and successful tech sector for in the UK.