How NOT to Woo Top Digital Talent

It's not the money or your distance from Silicon Valley that determines whether you can woo these resourceful young people

Written by Rick Spence
Don’t Be Afraid of Gen Y: Millennials Could Be Your Greatest Asset

These days there’s really no such thing as “an Internet company.” Virtually all businesses need a digital-marketing component—which means your business needs to compete for bright, motivated tech talent against world-class software, media and web-service companies.

But how do you get these skilled coders and marketers to come work for you instead of Facebook, Google, or CTV?

The good news is, it’s not the money or your distance from Silicon Valley that determines whether you can woo these resourceful young people. According to HugeInc.com CEO Aaron Shapiro, in a recent blogpost adapted from his new book Users Not Customers: Who Really Determines the Success of Your Business, the differentiator is the attitude in your business.

Chances are, you’re not offering these people the right opportunity, says Shapiro. “The talent you want would be happy to work in an un-air-conditioned garage in New Mexico if it meant the chance to change the world.”

According to Shapiro, “the opportunity to do great things, to make a real difference, is what drives most digital talent—whether they’re developers, designers, producers, marketers or business folks.”

In Canada, most small and medium enterprises don’t consider themselves out to change the world. But that innate modesty won’t help you land the top people you need to grow and thrive in today’s economy.

The good news, however, is that many companies can offer today’s digital knowledge workers a unique opportunity: the chance to help an ambitious but slightly-behind-the-times organization transform into an Internet-savvy business with global potential.

But words alone won’t tempt them. You have to make sure that your company really wants to go down that road—and that old-line management is truly prepared to listen to and learn from top young talent.

Shapiro notes five characteristics of a business that is likely to scare off Gen Y talent:

  1. Multiple layers of bureaucracy

    “In a technology environment, new products and businesses spring up daily,” says Shapiro. “Reining in the momentum will be read as inaction and a clear signal the company isn’t willing to grasp the new way of the world.”

  2. Mediocre is good enough

    Today’s best digital workers aren’t drones, says Shapiro. “Their leadership, and those they rely on to get things done, must match their appetite for success.”

  3. Trial and error is condemned

    Young employees want to take initiative, make their own decisions, and learn from their mistakes.

  4. Your company is structured so it takes a lifetime to get to the top

    Digital talent need to see a clear path for uninhibited career development based on merit, not years spent on the job.

  5. Your offices are cold, impersonal or stodgy

    A traditional office layout, says Shapiro, is designed “to communicate power among certain individuals and barriers between departments. This does not support the collaborative ethos which is intrinsic to the web.” Make sure your digital team has newer, friendlier, open office space—preferably in a hip, young neighborhood. In all of this, authenticity is key: unless your leadership team is sincerely committed to the digital economy and all its potential, the whiz kids who grew up with the Web won’t engage with your business. As Shapiro notes, you probably need them more than they need you.

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Originally appeared on PROFITguide.com