techUK launched it's new SME programme on 16 October, when Dhiraj Mukherjee, Co-Founder of the music identity app Shazam along with Brunel University delivered a talk to members to provide information and inspiration to help them grow. As part of the evening Dhiraj's Chief of Staff, Cormack Jackson, a recent graduate of LSE presented on the landscape of Generation-Z, and gave his views on how and why we as businesses should harness their potential. Following the event we caught up with Cormack to learn more about the work he's doing and shine a spotlight on Generation-Z.
Tell us a bit about your self?
Having grown up herding sheep on my family farm, I was delighted to graduate top of my class from LSE. Now, working as Chief of Staff to Dhiraj Mukherjee feels like a remarkable turn of events, and a journey that’s only just begun. The main thing that drives me is simply a passion for life, we have endless possibilities of working with exciting people, on interesting things! What’s so brilliant is that there is usually a way we can help someone, and always something that we can learn; this mindset definitely informed our generational work, but it’s also something I try to live by. It’s certainly useful at the moment, as I’m currently studying a degree in Mathematics alongside work... this is an ‘interesting experience’ given my prior knowledge of mathematics is a Sociology degree!
Tell us about the work you are doing around Generation-Z?
Generation Z are those born roughly 1996 and onwards. For context, Millennials, were born after 1980. Investigating this is particularly helpful, because the way in which today’s youth, consume technology and culture, gives an over the horizon perspective of what the future might hold. Generation-Z now take up over 25% of the global population, and have the largest generational spending power when accounting for their influence over household purchases. So this is a future that is rapidly approaching.
After cofounding Shazam, Dhiraj worked closely with Save the Children and Virgin Money Student, since then he has been passionate about the power of young people. As a young person myself, I too believe that we’re a relatively okay bunch. Young people have always been a disruptive and innovative force in society, and research indicates that peak creativity usually occurs in early 20’s, but what makes this specific Generation so special, are the unique context and tools that they have grown up with.
Generation-Z are the first to grow up without any memory of life before the internet, life before social media, and some barely remember life before smart phones. This ubiquity of information means, whenever they’ve had a problem they’ve always had the solution accessible freely & instantly online. Need to learn a new skill? Watch a You tube tutorial. Need to try a new restaurant, or compare challenger banks? Google it, or just ask Siri! What this means, is that while it’s much easier for everyone to be entrepreneurial today, for Gen-Z, being entrepreneurial has always been the easier route. They are incredibly resourceful, because since day 0 the internet has enabled them to tackle the issues they care about entrepreneurially, with peers across the globe. They have been downloading information, assessing, and collaborating at a scale no other generation could at their age. It’s this ability to rapidly combine old things in new ways, that literally defines innovation.
From a socio economic perspective, Gen-Z came of age during the global financial crisis and its aftermath. Experiencing parents lose jobs, exposed them to uncertainty and resilience during their formative years. As such, they are keen to keep ahead, and to keep ready. They had to grow up quickly, with a parental messaged that emphasised responsibility and hard work, rather than entitlement. It’s this adult dialogue with their parents, that also gives them greater influence over household expenditure as well as innate entrepreneurialism. Similarly, they have grown up in a time where traditional social norms are being torn down. The disruption of binary sexual identities is just one example. Concepts of gender fluidity have been framed by many commentators as Marxist university conspiracy’s, but ironically, the result is the complete opposite and far more interesting. Instead, it is symptomatic of a generation who take nothing for granted, nothing is set in stone, instead everything is up for negotiation. Concepts, institutions, ideas are all fair game in being torn down and rebuilt, and given their entrepreneurial upbringing, they are probably the ones to do it!
How can SMEs harness the potential of Gen-Z to grow their businesses?
- Don’t assume it’s too expensive because you need to hire an outside agency, set an intern loose on the problem. They are a blank slate so this creativity is there to be harnessed, rather than drilling into them existing ways of doing thing, give them space to look at your systems and problems differently. This is especially useful when it’s unclear what the solution might look like.
- This applies to working with technologies within your businesses, they have grown up with today’s emerging technologies, Smart Assistants, AR, VR, and AI etc. Try and create opportunities where they can experiment with technologies inside and outside of your business.
- Access a group of them to super charge their creativity and problem solving. A single perspective is insightful, but a group gives you a cross-section for how they perceive not just your business, but also the world, and the part you can play! This will undoubtedly help you position yourself as both an employer and to customers!
- To motivate Gen Z focus on what they can learn, not just what they can earn. They perceive themselves as a business and that long term investment in themselves is just as important as immediate financial gains.
- Understand and act on the ways that your business can have a positive impact. This sense of purpose is no longer a joke, it’s an essential driver for Generation Z.
- Sell self-development, not just a lifestyle. You’re product isn’t just about making their life easier, it’s about making them more effective.
- Help them be part of the solution. Give them a reason to buy other than that, your product is just better or cheaper, what do you stand for? How does this choice make them a better person?
- Celebrity endorsement is often seen as out of touch, focus on specific groups you can reach in a personal way. Influencers are an obvious choice, but youtubers who are passionate about your industry is ideal!
- Think visual, images not words, and focus on their time and needs.
4) What are the preconceptions of Gen-Z, do they hold any truths?
- Generation-Z are the most diverse group to date. In this sense, work place diversity is not a selling point, It’s an expectation, and will stick out like a sore thumb if it’s not there.
- Generation-Z understand that they have to make things happen themselves, they are driven and resourceful. They have no doubt they can find a quicker and cheaper way of doing things.
- They expect to be constantly learning and adapting on the go, and don’t expect to be limited to traditional education models.
- Issues such a climate change and gender equality have engulfed them from day one. They carry these torches with them in their personal and professional lives.
Feel free to reach out to Cormack via LinkedIn.