I have four teenage children, so as you can imagine, wi-fi usage is pretty high in our house. They each have several connected devices and they use all of them, (a lot!), both at home and when out and about. They are pretty typical teenagers and like their peers are really interested in new technologies. For them, tech is cool. For me, their attitude heralds great things.
Across Europe, we are facing a technology skills shortage. Demand for mobile applications and other consumer-technology is burgeoning, but we just don't have enough computer scientists or other tech-skilled graduates or school leavers. According to the European Union, by 2015 900,000 IT-related jobs will be unfilled. I think the situation is partly due to the fact that engineering and software development are wrongly perceived as something that only very clever, mathematically minded people can do.
I also think it is partly because, to date, coding and related jobs have been seen as geeky and boring. (When in reality most are pretty creative). I hope that the widespread exposure to, reliance on and delight in technologies that today's teenagers are experiencing will change that view and encourage more young people into the profession. Indeed, many of today's programmers were once teenagers who enjoyed playing games on their Commodore 64's.
So that is why I think teenagers' relationship with technology has the potential to bring about great, positive change. The fact that they think tech is cool and have integrated it into their lives to such a degree, also heralds another change.
Whether they follow a technical path or not, these teenagers are entering the workforce. The millennial generation that they are part of will account for 70% of the global workforce in just ten years time. They are bringing their tech-savvy ways and attitude into the workplace.
This is something all of us need to be ready for and embrace. Businesses in particular need to factor this tech evolution into their sales and engagement plans. They need to ensure that their sales teams are technology savvy and adaptable. They need to be comfortable with downloading and using new technologies and they also need to be adaptable enough to quickly understand new products and services and assimilate them into their working life. Why? Simply because they are likely to be selling to these millennials who themselves are heavily invested in consumer technology and who don't see adoption of new processes or technologies as anything other than the norm. Sales teams that can do this will be much more successful.
Let me give you two examples. Some of my colleagues work in a dedicated mid-market sales team. They tweet a lot and regularly post to LinkedIn groups that are relevant to their target market. Not only do they now have thousands of followers, but they are forming professional friendships there too. They can learn about customer issues, collaborate on business cases and offer examples of how Avaya has worked with similar companies to help them implement strategies that resolve these issues. Indeed, some of our own customers can collaborate and share best practice examples there too. This can all be done from the sofa before their peers, who take a more traditional approach, have even hit the motorway. This social selling is not an approach you would necessarily expect from a business to business company, but it is one that is working very well for us.
Similarly, the expectation of quick, easy assimilation of new technology into working practices that millennials bring into the workforce is already having an impact on the way our customers want to buy from us. This 'Android generation' expects the same easily deployable, open standards, and pay-per-usage model in the enterprise space that they have quickly become accustomed to in their social lives. The ability to turn services on and up as the business need dictates rather than as the vendor's licensing terms allow is a commercial model that sales teams need to assimilate fast.
Teenagers and young millennials have grown up in a world where they take technologies like the internet for granted. Now, they are fast becoming a sizeable force in the workplace. Yet many of the people who run the companies that employ or partner with them are of a different generation and are not necessarily interacting with these potential customers in the way that best suits them. It's time for all of us adapt to new ways of working.