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    GENERATIONAL FRICTION. FACT OR FICTION?

    SNOWFLAKES, AVOCADOS, SELF-ENTITLEMENT & TECHNOPHOBIA.

    So what happens when you bring together a group of Baby Boomers, Generation Xs, Millennials and Gen Zs?

    Well, there was some lively debate. The sharing of some ideas based on real life scenarios. And some great suggestions as to how to harness different energies.

    Confession time. We had planned to use an even more provocative title for this event. It was going to be “Are Gen Z dicks or are the rest of us all past it?”. It was vetoed by our Gen Z colleague. Quite rightly too.

    Cutting to the chase, Gen Z aren’t dicks. But they do have balls.

    This lively Leadership Dynamics event was hosted by Cooper Parry’s Ben Eason with Liam White, the co-founder of Dr Will’s, and Ian Wilson, co-founder of Wattbike. Successful businesses from opposite ends of the generational divide.

    A bit of background

    After an illustrious rowing career, Baby Boomer Ian became MD of Concept2 rowing machines – having identified the need for sports teams to effectively test their elite athletes. As co-founder and now President of Wattbike (annual t/o £35m across 30 countries), he now single-mindedly pursues one goal – to build the world’s most accurate indoor training bike

    Twenty-something co-founder of Dr Will’s Liam left the world of investment banking at J.P Morgan in 2017. Dr Will’s create healthy condiments from natural ingredients with no added sugar, preservatives or additives. As a B Corp brand, they are on a mission to make food better – better tasting, better for you, better for the planet.

    Around the table were people from a wide range of sectors. Retail, digital, social care, hospitality, engineering and construction. All multi-generational businesses. All shared examples of good, bad and the not so ugly reality of managing multi-generational businesses.

    Food for thought

    Ahead of the day, we’d run a survey to try and identify differences between the generations on business issues. From loyalty in business and purpose-led passion to exploring the impact of intergenerational diversity on business performance. We wanted to see if leaders from different generations have differing views and perspectives on the big issues impacting growth.

    Here’s what we found:

    Lazy stereotyping?

    As Millennial Taylor Swift sings “when you are young, they assume you know nothing”.

    Yes. Millennials and Gen Zs have embraced technology. Try getting them to put down their smart phones. But that’s not a bad thing. They can help businesses find new ways of working. They will challenge the ‘it’s always been done this way’.

    Baby Boomers can be set in their ways. But that business knowledge and experience has a value, as Dr Will’s has found when growing their business.

    Everyone around the table agreed that there needs to be mutual respect between the generations. Well, obviously. This doesn’t have to mean total agreement. In fact friction can be a positive energy.

    As is often the case, talking is usually the answer. Not every problem has a digital answer. For example, reverse mentoring can make a real difference for both ends of the generational divide. Boomers can learn about tech. Gen Zs can learn from their experience. And so on.

    There was a consensus around the positives of employing Gen Zs. They care about purpose. They will challenge and question. They value businesses that are aligned with B-Corp principles. They’re not afraid to move on.

    So, what’s the learning?

    • The world is changing and will continue to change. The key is to be open minded. Today isn’t the same as the past.
    • Leaders of businesses set the culture. The Gen X ‘greed is good’ Wolf of Wall Street approach is no longer appropriate. Business needs open minded self-starters, whatever generation they come from. They don’t need to chain people to their desks – where old school ‘presenteeism’ reigns.
    • Culture and purpose are key – integrating it is the tough bit. Retain your purpose as the business grows. A top tip from Dr Will’s. Stay small with a committed core of people. Outsource functions that you don’t need in-house.
    • Embrace the breadth of experience. It’s not always the generation divide that’s most challenging: it can be corporate versus start-up experience.
    • Try reverse mentoring particularly around digital transformation. It can make a real difference.
    • Turnover of staff is ok – you don’t need lifers. Embrace the turnover. Get the most of peoples’ talent whilst they’re working with you.
    • Recruit the right type of talent – feed mutual respect between the generations for understanding.

    Want to have your say?

    If you want to know more about what was discussed and what our survey said get in touch. We’d be happy to tell you more.

    Even better. You know what? The conversation was so good and there’s so much more to discuss we’re running this event again. This time in Birmingham on 18th May – 6 to 8pm. As the Baby Boomers would say “be there or be square”. Let us know it you’re interested in coming along.

    What the heck is Leadership Dynamics?

    Leadership Dynamics is all about exploring how Founders, Owners and Entrepreneurs can share, learn and then impact their business with fresh, ballsy and vibrant thinking.

    We get straight to the heart of any prickly matter by provoking open and honest discussion in an intimate, peer-to-peer setting. The series is punctuated by dazzling insights from our quarterly round-table events, hosted by Ben Eason, Director of Cooper Parry Business Relationships.

    We spotlight outstanding leaders in their field to share their stories of trial and triumph and spark deep discussion into real life issues. Key learnings are continually shared to take away, apply and learn from.

    Above all, we keep it real. You get the drift.

    Want to come along to a future event? Register your interest here.

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    AUTHOR

    Ben Eason, Head of New Business Relationships

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