Howard Lake | 15 September 2022 | Blogs
Jahkini Bisselink, Gen Z Expert at Whetston Strategic, talks to Howard Lake about her insight into Gen Z and how this translates into advice for businesses and charities.
1. You’re speaking at Revolutionise 2023 in March next year, the three-day conference for accelerating people with purpose. You’ll be talking about the importance for people and organisations to understand and respect young people and Gen Z. Do tell us more about what you will be covering on the day.
Thank you. At Revolutionise 2023 I’ll be talking about how employers can attract/integrate/retain Gen Z team members, how businesses can attract Gen Z consumers, and how businesses and individuals can avoid getting cancelled by Gen Z!
In particular I’ll be exploring the trends that underpin activism by younger people. For them it is digital of course – but I’ll be challenging the stereotype of us “always being on our phones”.
This generation has very entrepreneurial characteristics, not least because it has been catalysed by COVID.
Young people are very vocal and outspoken, which many businesses don’t expect from employees. But then what do we expect from them, given what they face?
These concerns as activists can be damaging to young people’s mental health. They know the situation in the world is not going well. But then they are very open about mental health issues and want to tackle them too.
2. Tell us how you developed not just an interest in the shared and varied characteristics of your generation but turned it into business where you now advise organisations and carry out research.
At 18 I started as a youth representative for the United Nations. I travelled around, listening to young people. My focus was human rights and security.
Young people make up more than half of the world’s population: young people are the present. I felt a moral obligation to support their concerns and ambitions.
I was aware that important decisions affecting young people were made elsewhere – in NGOs, educational institutions, businesses. So I have focussed on getting Gen Z’s voices into those settings.
Yet lots of people are not used to young people in political participation.
3. In three years time Gen Z will make up a third of the workforce. How can employers attract/integrate/retain Gen Z team members?
My tips include understanding how Gen Z tends to communicate. There is a preference for temporary over permanent content, hence the popularity of Snapchat, Instagram Stories etc. Some companies now choose these channels specifically to recruit Gen Z.
As activists they already see themselves as part of the decision-making process. Businesses and charities should expect that and make space for their voice and contributions.
Businesses and charities should also recognise that knowledge does not just include education but also experience. We are experts in being young.
Organisations need to give Gen Z the tools to become an equal discussion partner – which is true of any minority group as well.
What might this look like? Companies who get this do things like setting up a Gen Z “shadow board”. These help diversity the perspectives that business leaders encounter, and help them understand changing market and social conditions.
Harvard Business Review covered how this approach had produced financial benefits for Gucci and Prada, as well as other businesses.
And turning the question around, what do Gen Z founded or led organisations or movements look like?
The recruitment methods used by an organisation can certainly bring significant changes that both help recruit and retain Gen Z people. For example, in the Netherlands there is much greater focus on personality traits at interview – along the lines of the Strong Suits game which uses cards and games to help people talk about their strengths and how they work together.
4. How can businesses and charities attract Gen Z consumers? Do existing not-for-profit organisations still attract younger people, or are less formal approaches more appealing?
Do you see a positive change in attitudes, particular over the last few challenging years? And is change happening fast enough?
Gen Z certainly appreciate the values that a company embraces and acts on. They are keen to work for companies that put values first and profits second.
For example, the chocolate brand Tony Chocolonely was at one point publicly advising its customers not to eat too much of their product as it would be unhealthy. Yet this unusual approach did not lead to a financial loss.
5. You’ve worked with and advised a variety of organisations on how they can work better with Gen Z. Given the growing power and influence of younger people, what should businesses and organisations consider to avoid seeming irrelevant or out of touch, and getting cancelled by Gen Z?!
Change is underway, but it needs to be faster. We’re a different generation, more open and democratic.
We’ve grown up with the idea that our voice is very valuable.
6. What opportunities of working with Gen Z do you most wish older people and people in positions of power/influence would recognise and act on?
They must recognise the diversity amongst young people. Uni students are not the norm amongst young people.
Yes, we are inexperienced and have much to learn. But we have fresh perspectives and we ask questions. So use these fresh approaches and ask how we can help. Gen Z offers the perfect opportunity to take a new look.
Thank you Jakhini for your time. I look forward to hearing your session on day 3 of Revolutionise 2023, the day of ideas.
Jakhini Bisselink is Gen Z Expert at Whetston Strategic. She researches trends amongst her own generation, generation Z. Her strong suit is that she is able to give an authentic insight in the world of her own generation, whilst clearly understanding how to translate this knowledge into business take-aways.
Jakhini will be speaking at Revolutionise 2023 next March. It is a three-day gathering at Crossbasket Castle in Scotland for purposeful individuals and organisations who want to balance achievement with contribution. Many hundreds of high-level professionals from the private, public, and charity sectors will come together to explore how we can lead more purposeful, successful lives and collectively tackle some of the biggest problems the world is facing today.
About Howard Lake
Howard Lake is consultant editor of UK Fundraising. He founded and the site in 1994 and successfully sold it in 2022. As director of Giving X Ltd he is exploring growing giving on a massive scale. He is the founder of Fundraising Camp and co-founder of Utopy.co (formerly GoodJobs).
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