Forget Generation Z, it’s all about Generation Direct: these are the customers and employees that will define your business

It’s been just over a decade since Facebook entered into the mainstream. Since then, social media has undoubtedly had a profound effect on all aspects of our lives.

But what has the impact been on the generation of young people that grew up surrounded by, and immersed in, social media and other digital technologies?

At TCS, we wanted to examine the impact that growing up in a social media world has had on the generation of young people that will be shaping the future of business in the years to come. That’s why we conducted Europe’s largest ever youth research project, surveying more than 5,000 Europeans aged 18-29 from across 15 different countries to find out more about how they use social media in their work and personal lives and how this will affect businesses in the future.

The report – Shattering the Myths: Social Media is Now Serious Business for Young Europeans ­– finds that social media has had a major impact on the generation of young Europeans that have grown up immersed in digital technology. By changing the way we share ideas, discover, learn and communicate, these young people have been empowered and conditioned by social – creating a new breed of future employees across Europe.

We call this new group Generation Direct. Characterised by their instinctive use of technology to circumvent traditional processes when learning, working, starting a business, or expressing themselves politically, Generation Direct are ambitious, creative and unimpressed by received wisdom, which will have far-reaching consequences for employers and businesses.

Generation Direct in the workplace

Rather than relying on traditional applications or recruitment agencies, almost half (45%) of young Europeans have used social media to find a job. It is also a critical tool for young business owners, who are using it to bypass traditional barriers to growth. In fact, 70% of young entrepreneurs use social media to attract potential investors and three in five (60%) use social media to find freelancing staff.

Three out of five young people use social media to connect with colleagues about work-related issues (62%), with 29% doing this at least once a day.

Reaping the rewards

We found that less than a quarter (23%) of employees think that their use of social media has improved their prospects of achieving recognition at work and two in five (38%) report that one or more social media platforms are restricted in their workplace – demonstrating an antiquated approach to social media taken by many businesses across Europe.

As Generation Direct continue to play an increasingly important role in the workplace, employers and businesses will need to make sure that their understand their attitudes, preferences and behaviours in order to attract, retain and get the best out of the talent entering the industry, by following these core principles:

  • Embrace digital transformation – traditional industries and institutions must adapt to the power that digital gives consumers, as typified by Generation Direct. If you are a service provider that facilitates a process or market interaction, you must add discernible value or risk being leapfrogged by faster, more direct, digital alternatives. Generation Direct uses social media to access markets and collaborate directly and will bypass you if you’re seen to get in the way.
  • Prioritise speed and agility – Generation Direct expect speed and agility and are impatient when confronted with process and bureaucracy, which they see as a barrier to achieving their goals. Failure to meet these expectations will mean losing revenue and market share to more agile, collaborative competitors.
  • Empower employees – Organisations should also review IT and security policies on social media usage and explore emerging opportunities to deploy tools that drive productivity. This will involve using professionally focused social media tools and, where practical, adapting consumer tools.

It is only when businesses start meeting the demand of these young people’s new and direct approach that they will begin to harness their entrepreneurial energy, attract their spending power and gain their loyalty.

Shankar Narayanan, Country Head, TCS UK & Ireland