Kim Antoniou identifies a new, wholly different breed of employee, but warns against ‘writing off’ the older generations.
It was during a recent conversation I had with my 20-year-old nephew, while walking along a Sussex seafront on a windy day, which gave me the idea for this month’s column. I found myself reflecting on the changes in expectations I had when I was young ‘ as well as others from my generation ‘ compared with those which he and his contemporaries currently have.
And I believe these differences certainly pose a challenge for present day business owners, such as me. My nephew Dylan, who is currently reading politics at Reading University, opened my eyes to a radically new mind-set among today’s younger generation.
They are taking a completely different approach to their careers, education, and route into employment, than the one which me and my generation followed. It occurred to me that there is a great deal we can learn from the younger generation, and that the CEOs of tomorrow will have a totally different mind-set from those of today.
The old idea of ‘getting yourself a steady job for life’, as past generations were often taught, no longer seems valid. There are no ‘jobs for life’ anymore. And even if there were, I doubt if this is the correct advice to give anyway. In my view, having an agile workforce with a healthy mix of young and older people, seems to be the best possible approach.
After all, when you only work in one industry or sector, you can quite easily develop ‘tunnel vision.’ You end up seeing things in the context of your own business or environment. Today’s young employees, those which we describe as ‘Millennials’ and ‘Gen Zers’, believe that economic conditions will dictate that they will be forced to move from job to job during their lifetime.
Today’s teenagers, and those in their 20s and possibly early 30s, are no longer fixated by the idea of staying in a job until they earn their ‘gold watch’ for 40 years of loyal service. They are not afraid to move around and develop their careers in a completely different way to the older generations ‘ those currently in their 50s and 60s.
So what is their motivation to succeed? Here’s one person’s view of the future.
According to my nephew Dylan, he says: Younger people want a brighter tomorrow, with a specific focus on businesses adopting sustainable practices. These are those that don’t negatively affect the planet. There needs to be an emphasis on the positive impacts on the wider community, rather than delivering profits for big corporations.
He also said: University degrees and textbooks do not necessarily equate to graduate jobs or provide an easy transition into working life. Times have moved beyond previous expectations of having to obtain a degree to be successful.
There appears to be a whole new breed of employee waiting on the horizon. They are not restricted by limitations of what they can do, and what they can’t do. They are more agile, more open minded, and definitely open to innovation through the use of technology. They really care about sustainability and the effects on our planet.
This is great but I’m certainly not ‘writing off’ the more experienced employee either. To do so would be a mistake. The older workforce has a vital role to play within any business, which includes helping and mentoring the younger, newer members of staff. Youth, generally, have little business awareness. They can cope when technology works, but have little to fall back on when it doesn’t.
They sometimes find it difficult to deal with leadership over older more experienced employees. They may struggle with negative feedback and dealing with complex situations. They sometimes find it difficult to discipline others, or adapting to rigid workplace requirements such as the importance of good time management.
All the above requirements are understood and accepted by older, more experienced members of staff who can teach the younger employees by example, mentoring and training.
In conclusion, a healthy and dynamic business requires a good mix of experience and youth. Young people bring energy to the table, as well as a thirst for learning. They also offer new perspectives and up-to-date thinking. But this alone is not enough. All businesses need to continually change and adapt, and remain relevant. But this must be balanced by a solid dose of experience, stability and wisdom.