By Leona Barr Jones Change Management expert and Managing Director of Barr Jones Associates
According to statistics published last summer, the average company boss is 54 years old, male and privately educated. With the rise of the millennial generation – otherwise known as Generation Y – shaking up the business world, I believe that businesses need to embrace diversity in both age and gender in order to survive in the 21st century. Here I will look at the important role that younger generations can play in today’s business world.
Future leaders are already shaping how we do business. Technology is a driver for Generation Y – their aspirations and the changes they envision for the future are key to understanding their potential. A whole generation of young entrepreneurs born in the 1980s to mid-1990s and technology savvy had a quick rise up the pecking order, facilitated partly by the global recession. While some businesses sank without trace, many entrepreneurial young people set up their own businesses, making the most of new technology and succeeded in making profitable businesses out of their digital creativity and knowledge. Phenomenally successful business people came through at this time including Mark Zuckerberg founder of Facebook.
As the business and competitive landscape changes, companies are beginning to understand that they need to both bring in new talent and retain their top employees to remain relevant.
So what can Generation Y bring to the business world that those who are older, wiser and more experienced cannot?
In terms of how they do business, Generation Y tend to be entrepreneurial, innovative and more alive to the needs of the digital consumer fed by a social media world than older generations. Forward thinking businesses both large and small are increasingly understanding the importance of someone who is at home in this world and that the rise to the boardroom is not just about accumulating decades of experience in a particular sector but it is about translating digital knowledge into business strategy. Organisations are increasingly realising that they need board members that understand the digital world and have a global outlook. Generation Y provides this.
Using technology well can transform many businesses and open up new customer channels that may have been previously untapped. This is an area that Generation Y often excels in and they can bring fresh thinking and a new perspective to a business. A great example of this is Holly Tucker MBE, founder of Notonthehighstreet.com who used the growing power of web based shopping to build her successful business online.
Although the millennial generation can bring fresh thinking and tech savvy brains to a business, that is not necessarily the complete picture. There is very definitely still a place for older, wiser and more experienced business entrepreneurs from the baby boom generation and Generation X. Nothing can outweigh the breadth and depth of experience doing time in middle management brings you. Experience helps a business through the hard times and can put the brakes on if the business is growing too fast.
A good business board should allow space for the millennial generation and not allow themselves to become cut off from the real world. Let’s make sure that boardrooms of the future are diverse and a true representation of their customers and the wider world.