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Future of work: Who is cool and who is cooler?

March 17, 2015, by Jaspar Roos in: News

Where does all the talent go? Let’s think about it – Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram, Snapchat, Spotify, Airbnb, Tinder, Uber – and those are only the big names out there right now. I cannot even start to enumerate all the small startups across countries that are sucking in young graduates. If the tendency is that freshly graduated talents prefer to kickstart their career by joining the startup scene, what is left for the giants on the market? Are corporates eventually going to run out of fresh talent? Or being used as a springboard if the talent program is good enough, but leave as soon as the development program ends?

Indeed, there is an obvious age and experience discrepancy between the talent in established companies and the one at startups. Take for instance, companies such as Intel, Cicso and IBM – there used to be times when all the buzz was concentrated around them. Everyone wanted to know what they are up to next, and all the young (and all) techies and engineers wanted to part of their doings. They dominated the talent market. Nowadays, creating tangible innovations and manufactured inventions such as semi-conductors, micro-processors, routers, etc., is not that cool anymore, as those are considered to be only supporting elements. And that only in a couple of years.

The reality is that big and stable corporates are not that appealing for the majority of bright kids out there anymore. Of course, for the countries where the crisis hit the scene, many people are happy to hang on to their jobs, but actually most research on millennials confirm that the new-new generation prefer to change their jobs the moment they can. Moreover, looking at the trends in recent years – more and more talented, young people dropping out of university, and even high-school, to start their own companies. Quite big is the number of tech grads that are joining small companies to develop the next big great dating platform or the next viral app. But why is that? Aren’t big companies providing compelling enough working conditions, skills development opportunities, learning benefits and perks?

1Part of the answer, I believe, relates to lifestyle and culture. Startups are like a breeze of fresh air in comparison to the “don’t color out of the lines” corporates. Startups allow freedom and room for experimentation and mistakes. That is something that rarely happens within risk-averse companies no matter how forward thinking they are. And what most young, creative graduates are looking for is a platform to be themselves and express their talents and ideas. Somewhere where they would speak the same language and be part of the same “tribe”. Another part is prestige. Smart kids what to work for next big FinTech app because other smart kinds what to work for them too. It’s all about pursuing the latest and the coolest.

Sometimes I like to imagine what it would be like if I was a graduate right now, freshly walking out of the university. Would I make the same career decisions or would I choose otherwise. My background is in corporate banking and as much as I have learned along the way I am currently active on the startup scene. But what if I had to do it all over again – would I go to the corporate or the startup side? I remember in my young years that the startup scene started as something new and cool, but that banking was also an Eldorado with golden handcuffs and stuff. Many of my friends advised me not to enter the startup scene, as that was insecure and just a fad. How things have changed.

I believe the future of business requires a combination of the two. Take traditional banks, for instance, alongside other industries, are failing to keep up with the growing demand for digital solutions that small businesses are competitively addressing. In a similar manner, online education platforms (MOOCs) such as Coursera and Udacity, radically disrupted the higher education and knowledge market, making universities obsolete in a sense. Within large organizations, decisions are being made by the grey and wise, not the young and eager. The startups the large organisations need to work with seem like a breath of fresh air compared to the corporate suit culture where compliance regulations and reputational fears overrule any creativity.

It shouldn’t be a battle of the dark versus the light side of the Force. Big companies should go hand in hand with startups and learn from each other to deliver competitive value to their clients. It is obvious they need each other to grow and sustain. They need to stop running in opposite directions and meet in the middle – that’s where all the talent will be.

Note: with Future Ideas we help young talent get more out of their thesis work. Maybe start a company, sell their knowledge to corporates or pursue an academic career. Companies like Hype Innovation, PWC, AMREF and USG People support us reaching this goal. The global competition is running for a couple of weeks, so check it out…

Jaspar Roos Chief Inspiration Officer at Future Ideas

You can contact the author on Twitter or via e-mail.