Future Proofing & Diversity

Are you ready for Gen Y and Gen Z?

Across all sectors – corporates, brands and SME’s are sitting on a ticking time bomb. By the end of 2018 Gen Y will be the most dominant in the workforce. Gen Y believe that they have access to the tools they need to succeed on their own terms. They see no need to invest in ‘non-listening’ corporate verticals that are not designed to invest in them. Who is curating for Gen Z?

The value chain will break for the future economy because we are not attracting the right talent. This is the most fundamental problem facing established businesses – how to preserve the talent value chain? In London, where 29% of the population comes from diverse communities, less than 5.4% of the creative industries is diverse according to Creative Skillset

You want Diversity? Don’t mention the ‘D’ word

All sectors have tackled ethnicity or gender (to name but two D’s) in isolation and got lost in a maze of hand-wringing debates, metrics and quotas. A bigger picture is addressing the skills crisis and the income and opportunities gap. Don’t tackle race or gender through silos or quotas – the most significant barrier for diverse talent is lack of finance. The Creative Industries have seen a decline in diverse recruitment since 2012. Retention of this talent is at crisis point.

Quotas alienate the people industry seeks to recruit – I now routinely classify myself as a ‘tangerine’ in diversity questionnaires!

Engaging with untapped diverse community experts and impact investment is needed now. All sectors will miss out if they don’t connect and seed this talent throughout their business.

Driving the future of work

We started by building trust with Gen Y & Gen Z diverse communities including them in everything we do. We set up Teen forums, research groups and then partnered with brands, corporates and SME’s who are ‘listeners’ – providing practical steps that industry can take to avoid “doing a Kodak”.

We also partnered with web scientists:

By the end of 2018 – 80% penetration of the IoT across humanity, will realise an extra
5 billion online market

By 2020 – 40% of all economic spend will be by Gen Z. Those that do nothing now will see their bottom line shrink by 40%

This 5 billion is already diverse. If you want to trade internationally post-Brexit you need diversity in your company’s DNA.

Tech verticals such as e-sourcing, Blockchain, Mobile, Social media, TV (non-broadcast) Entertainment by FAANG companies (Facebook, Amazon, Apple, Netflix, Google) are set to define the success of London tech over the next two years if the industry can get the engagement with Gen Y and Gen Z right now.

Since September 2017 we have seen an explosion of digital platforms made by and catering for Gen Z. They are coming of age and many of them see no need to engage with “us” – meaning Gen X.

They are value driven and they don’t like the values of old corporates and companies. They have the tools and the mindset to engage directly with the 5 billion and they are already doing it. They don’t talk about diversity because that’s who they are – it’s “baked in”.  They don’t need us. This isn’t the future, it’s already here.

How to survive the mega trends and thrive

Listening is key for Gen Z to engage with industry. They value learning and Gen Xers like “us” still have a lot to give if we offer genuine dialogue. Gen Y value collaboration, we have organically become super connectors between these untapped diverse communities and the ‘listeners’ in the corporate and business world.

So what happens next?

– Making diversity a business imperative at boardroom level to change the way you recruit. According to McKinsey, having diverse teams = 35% better financial performance.

– Invest in diverse hiring at all levels.

– Expanding diverse leadership and recruitment through community partners to increase outreach. Make diverse role models part of industry ‘talent drives’, through career days at universities, colleges, schools. Invite them as speakers and contributors to high profile industry events and roundtables.

– Sponsorship and investment in diverse community partners, hubs and accelerators is vital.

5 practical steps industry can take now

1. Make inclusion a priority for the CEO/MD brief – the company will follow their lead, increasing diversity in a real and tangible way and retain talent further up the chain

2. Sponsorship and impact investment is vital to develop talent pipelines through well-established, grass roots and already diverse community based partners like So You Wanna Be In TV?

3. Social media, video content and campaigns by community experts that are authentic and engage Gen Y & Gen Z

4. Accelerators/hubs must demonstrate internally and externally that they are integrated and part of the community. Offer easier access to diverse communities through subsidised or sponsored places by corporates/industry seeking talent

5. Mentoring is vital. You will retain diverse talent and seed your organisation with a work force that represents this change. Data, analysis, tracking and measurements can be delivered through these practical steps.

Rioch Edwards-Brown was  named UK Changemakers by London Tech Week 2018, One of 50 Most Influential Women In UK Tech 2017, she also won a Propeller TV (UK & China) Award for Innovation, the ‘Hero Of The Year’ at the European Diversity Awards and Entrepreneur Of Excellence at the UK National Diversity Awards