Business leaders might like to raise their heads from the piles of legislation, frameworks, reports and data that fill their days and remember what it was like. When they were full of vigour and a determination to change everything.
Back when a young Richard Branson was opening Virgin record shop after shop, simply because he didn’t know what to do with all the profits. Rather than a man grappling with an empire stretching from finance to transport.
Senior players can daydream or they can simply look around them to see what they were like. Because the latest cohort entering the workplace is more closely aligned with the Baby Boomers and even those who came before than any group for many generations.
GenerationZ is self-reliant, self-aware and often self-taught.
While Millennials put into action the mantra that ‘there’s no I in Team’, the cohort catching them up has the mantra that ‘there’s no Team in I’.
A lot of Baby Boomers and the Generation X that follows them grew up hearing about the realities of wartime and hardship. They saw that much had gone and the world had changed. It wasn’t theoretical, it was real.
It’s not the same, but GenerationZ has seen first-hand the hardship brought by the 2008 meltdown. That was very real, often for their own parents. It has made them resilient in a way that will be familiar to those earlier generations.
But you can add to that the influence of the go-getting Silicon Valley entrepreneurs, with a depth of technical and technological knowledge that adds up to a fearsome combination.
As if that wasn’t enough of a combination, there’s yet another element that harks back to an earlier less risk-averse period. GenZ people want to start their own company and if it fails they see that not as failure but as simply part of the learning process.
With 62% of GenZ saying they’d rather work for their own business rather than someone else’s, and with 71% saying they’d see the failure of that business as part of the learning curve, this sounds like the heady days of the 1960s and ‘70s, where people tried new things every day.
Like when a 19-year-old Mike Oldfield created the unique sound of Tubular Bells. Nobody knew what to do with it but it was the first record produced by Virgin Records. Its owner was a 23-year-old Richard Branson.
GenZ is the most plugged-in generation the world has ever seen. They’re constantly ‘on’ but on their terms. Which means some of their most valuable time is when they are ‘unplugged’. There’s plenty of data to show that they like books, preferring physical to ebooks, and even a possible preference for hardback over paperback. For some reason they seem to love the ‘90’s vibe, but there’s also a liking for quality kit like turntables and vinyl.
As they arrive to work at large companies, these GenerationZ people are going to be hard to handle, not least because of their drive and determination to take personal responsibility – and credit. But as they arrive at the bottom of corporations they’re going to find those at the very top may well look on them as kindred spirits.
Which could make for an interesting dynamic within companies as the most senior and the most junior find plenty to bond them together. Bonding, perhaps, over a vinyl record or a hardback.