Mark Zuckerberg launched Facebook from his dorm room in Harvard. He was a billionaire by the time he was 23 and his efforts were immortalised in film.
But it has been over a decade since Zuckerberg launched Facebook. In that time, we have seen a number of extremely gifted individuals, some even younger than Zuckerberg, find success thanks to their talent for technology.
Adam Hildreth set up his first company, the social networking site Dubit, in 1999 when he was just 14. In 2006, he founded the software developing company, Crisp Thinking, which developed the Anti-Grooming Engine (AGE) and made him a multi-millionaire.
Nick D’Aloisio founded Summly at the age of 15 and produced the Summly app, which can generate informative and accurate summaries of news articles for mobile devices. He sold Summly to Yahoo for £19m in 2013. He was just 17.
Despite their youth, these Brits carved for themselves fantastically successful careers in technology.
Yet the talent of their peers is being wasted; the UK unemployment rate for 16-24 year-olds is, at 14.4%, higher than the national average of 5.7%.
Soon we will see a generation of young people enter the UK labour market for whom coding is a mandated feature of the school curriculum. Many of these young people have never known life without the internet; they have grown up surrounded by technology that we once considered advanced, but that they have only known to be commonplace.
The likes of Hildreth and D’Aloisio have demonstrated the vast and untapped potential of this generation for whom technology is almost second nature; we must realise that potential.
As an entrepreneur who operates businesses globally, I am well aware of the difficulty of recruiting talented young people. But I also know it can be done.
Communication and recruitment
The first task is to ensure that young people are aware of your business, its values and its goals. Endeavour to build links with local universities and colleges; I would suggest offering work placements, internships or apprentice schemes.
Social media is a valuable communication tool; 73% of 18-34 year-olds found their last job through a social network, so consider recruiting via Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn, and relevant sector forums and websites.
Young job hunters will be interested in your business’ company culture. Use social media and your company website as a “shop window”. For example, you could post pictures of your employees at team events to illustrate that you’re company values its employees.
Businesses must demonstrate and foster innovation if they are to recruit young talent. 78% of millennials say their job choice is influenced by how innovative a company appears. I advise using media channels such as Twitter to communicate your innovative ideas to young job hunters.
Keeping hold of your recruits
Retaining talented, young individuals, demands you foster a nurturing working environment. The workplace atmosphere valued by the younger generation differs greatly from the hierarchical system of traditional businesses. In a global study conducted by Deloitte, millennials agreed it was important to work in a place that offered support, created collaborative teams and appreciated employee contributions.
This tech-literate generation values the collaborative working culture made famous by Silicon Valley and the American tech industry. They believe in working together and know that teamwork creates more value that isolated working. The traditional, hierarchical business model has no role in the workplace of the tech generation.
Investing in talent
The offer of internal training will not only be a selling point during the recruitment process, but it will help you to maximise the effectiveness of your workforce. Offering training demonstrates that you are investing in talent, which will motivate new recruits and encourage loyalty to the firm.
Nurture young talent by inviting experienced employees to become mentors. It is advisable for mentors to be neutral - they should work in a different department from their protégé and be outside the immediate management team. This will also encourage the collaborative spirit sought by younger generations and allow for the free exchange of ideas.
Young people like Hildreth and D’Aloisio have demonstrated their inventiveness and skill with technology. It is essential that we begin nurturing this young talent, regardless of the time or effort that it may require.
While not every young person will become the next Mark Zuckerberg, we must endeavour to help young people flourish by offering meaningful mentoring programmes and by creating the collaborative, supportive work environments championed by the more progressive American tech industry. Only then can we hope to keep talented young people in the business world and, importantly, see the full effect of their potential.
About Tej Kohli
Tej Kohli is Founder and group chairman of Kohli Ventures, CEO of Grafix Softech and founder of the Tej Kohli Foundation.