Ten years ago, we didn’t have social media teams or app development experts. It’s a clear sign that the world’s evolving – and at a fast pace. To stay ahead, businesses need to recruit people with the right attitude to adapt to these changes.

In my role at O2, one of my primary goals is ensuring that we have a workforce fit for the future – helping us to find the leaders of tomorrow.

There’s a wealth of extraordinary talent right under our noses, but many businesses could be missing it.

Hidden talent

There’s a misconception that the unemployed youth are also unskilled. 974,000 young people aged 16-24 were unemployed between October and December 2012 – that’s 11,000 more than the previous quarter1. The reality is that these people have a heap of skills in digital and social media that just need honing to bring out their full potential.

These young people are what I call ‘digital natives’– they’ve grown up surrounded by the internet, smartphones, tablets, apps and online services like on-demand TV. Often, they don’t realise that these built-in skills could be put to use in employment. It’s up to businesses – large and small – to seek out and nurture this talent to avoid missing a generation of embedded social and digital skills.

Supporting young people on their journey to work

Businesses only need to take some simple steps to help young people into work – from advice on what to wear on the first day, to what to take into a meeting. Work experience should be valuable. One of my graduates created a presentation for the board for me – a fantastic opportunity for a 20-year-old. It’s about the quality of opportunities, not the number of opportunities.

Attracting and retaining talent

To attract young people to the business we use the latest digital channels – whether that’s Twitter, Facebook or YouTube. It’s about reaching people in the places where they spend a lot of time, and in the language they’re used to.

How businesses nurture and develop this talent is equally important. Schemes should be put in place to ensure that people gain experience and put their skills to good use. At O2 we offer apprenticeship schemes, internships and graduate programmes. These are flexible, enabling our trainees to gain experience across the company.

Flexible working is also important for both attraction and retention. Our people really value this way of working – three-quarters of them told us that flexible working made them more productive.2 

Looking ahead

Businesses that invest now in young people who have digital literacy in their DNA, will win out as their skills develop and they become tomorrow’s leaders.

To find out more, visit o2.co.uk/enterprise, follow @o2businessuk on Twitter, or call Matt Worth on 01235 433 507.

1 http://www.ons.gov.uk/ons/dcp171778_297429.pdf

2 O2 internal survey, 2012

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