I’ve been a mid-sized business owner for many years, and I’ll be the first to admit that I dug in my heels when it came to “going mobile.” My HR team had been plateauing when it came to finding “dream candidates,” which seemed a little off since everyone was hungering for a job (any job!) in the past few years. However, considering that some of our positions required niche skills that were difficult to come by, I let it slide. We were suffering from a higher turnover than I would have liked, and it seemed like some people we hired were just looking for a job so they could get by until a better fit came along.
Somehow during all of this hoopla, I sustained our popular internship program, partnering with local universities and community colleges. I had a great experience as an intern when I was an undergrad, and wanted to continue that fostering of young adults now that I have my own successful business. Of course, the interns are young, tech savvy and—as I learned—a great way to gauge how future employees think and act across the board. Had I been paying closer attention, I probably would have seen tell-tale signs of a shift towards mobile, but instead it hit hard with my latest intern “Aimee.”
A Generation Gap
On paper (and during interviews), Aimee was everything you could ask for in an intern. She was smart, driven, truly interested in the industry and had a great personality—our interns often interact with customers, so this was a must. We require intern applicants to go through two personal interviews as well as a group interview with an ad hoc team, so the process isn’t easy. However, Aimee was the standout applicant and I had no doubt she would bring as much to the table as she would take away.
Things changed once she actually came on board for her 20-hour per week internship. Even though I’m the founder and owner of the company (and keep a heavy plate), I always make it a point to at least spend some time each day with our interns—and there was something I noticed about Aimee right away. She was on her phone (constantly!). At first, I didn’t quite know how to respond. Doesn’t everyone know you can’t make personal calls at work, let alone have your own phone attached as an extra limb?
Things Get Pricklier
I brought this up to Aimee casually, and she seemed completely perplexed—and that’s when I realized there was a bigger chasm between millennials and “my” generation than I realized.
She had no idea that using a phone was considered unprofessional. “How can I keep up with the company’s social media posts, respond to the blog comments or see if extra tickets to the tradeshow become available?” she asked me. Well…she had a point.
No Strings Attached
Once I sat down with Aimee and got a better understanding of what the intern manager asked her to do (which was basically be connected every minute she was on the clock), I couldn’t believe what I found out. She didn’t even have a desktop computer at home! She had a laptop for “big projects” but mostly depended on her smartphone and a tablet to take care of most tasks. No wonder she shied away from her cubicle. “It seems like a pretty isolated work station for a social internship,” she said. It was true—how could we expect her to get to know the heart of the company if we tucked her away out of sight?
I’m not saying I think Aimee was 100 percent right, and I’m pretty sure she was sending a few texts and checking her own Facebook comments while she was toiling away. It was clear that her smartphone was the “remote control” of her life, both professional and personal. But I have to admit that during her six-month internship, she accomplished an enormous amount including racking up an impressive social media campaign, actually getting the blog to engage the community, and the reports I saw about the improvement in traffic to numerous company sites couldn’t be denied. She’d done more part-time in six months than we’d accomplished in years.
Seeing Aimee in action gave me the kick in the pants I needed to take a closer look at this mobile wave. What I found out is that Aimee was far from unique (at least when it came to her mobile usage). In fact, there are more phones than people on the planet. We lucked out with Aimee because she counted on her university’s Careers department to place students with companies like ours—but what about when we hire employees? I asked Aimee one day at lunch how she would look for a job after graduation. “There are a few niche job boards I know, plus Craigslist and sites like SimplyHired are always a good start.” I feigned otherwise, but I didn’t know much about what she was talking about.
However, I soon found out. An astounding 71 percent of mobile users use their device to look for jobs. It became clear that if we didn’t “mobile up” our job search efforts, we were going to lose an entire generation. The company was already losing touch with a huge slice of the workforce—it was like we were speaking another language. In six years, according to research, Aimee’s generation will make up 50 percent of the workforce. I can’t afford to miss out on an entire generation (the most tech savvy yet) because of not being mobile. Can you?