E1: Learning to inspire younger generations entering the workplace

I’ve just had a reflective chat with Mike Shaw (fellow blogsquadder) and Jon Kennard (of Training Journal) – thank you both – I’m adding some thoughts to this blog… these comments and thoughts are in italics:

Take a look at Zoe Jackson’s linkedIn page and read how incredible she is: “multi-award winning entrepreneur” with an MBE award in 2015. She “set up the Living the Dream Performing Arts company at the age of 16 in 2006 to inspire young people” – bloody brilliant… and it goes and grows from there. “Last year Zoe set up a charity, the Dream Foundation to, change the lives of young people at a disadvantage”.

I’m waiting for this session to start and hoping that it’s not going to be another generational generalisation…

And we’re off….

“Today we’re going to talk all about millennials…” Okay then, let’s do that.

I’m wondering if the point is ever about what millennials need and want, OR is it actually about people. 

Zoe is going to share her journey in setting up her business and engaging young people thought the arts to believe in themselves and follow there dreams and thrive! First a video… Zoe wanted to prove what a group of teenagers could do by themselves – at 16 she put on a show to raise money for her performing arts course. They called it ‘Living the Dream’ … she has done amazing things: watch the video here

I love Zoe’s story. This workshop is so far…mostly about that.

Here is the flashmob she organised with 100 young people, in St Pancras NYE 2010. From this, she created her performance arts business – after being asked to come into organisations and teach people at work how to do their own flashmob.

The then 2011 riots … where young people got a bad press. Zoe started her charity The Dream Foundation “I knew how powerful dance could be for young people” … confidence, self-belief, self-esteem. They worked with Young Offenders in custody – on a mentoring and dance programme … they performance for everyone.

Zoe also got involved in Virgin Media Pioneer for young entrepreneurs – Richard Branson has been a huge mentor and support. Mantra “do good, have fun and the business will come”. So that’s what she does.

Now the millennials… who are they? and do they matter?

Millennials in the room – I am one! We are lazy, addicted to technology, and the big one… entitled. They represent 60% of the workforce. We have a responsibility to create an environment they can flourish in. Zoe mentioned Simon Sinek and Start with Why and his talk about millennials. He says that some of things that are holding people back are parenting and school where people are told they are special and can do anything… and then get well done certificates when they don’t come first. Its not the real world and it won’t happen in work. And they loose self-esteem when there isn’t they quick and easy praise.  What millennials need… And organisations have listened to research and given millennials free food and bean-bags – but it didn’t make a difference and they still were happy.

I’m not sure about this.

But wait… we have grown up in a culture where we can see, and access (via social media) positive and successful role models. Young people are using technology – but underneath it all … we are human and still vulnerable. We want it now… the shine perfection and success we see on media, and we want it now… and if we don’t get it quickly we get bored and give-up because it doesn’t happen quick enough. We need to teach them that it sons happen that quickly… and it takes a slower-burn and hard work and determination… and failure.

Zoe talked about an apprenticeship programme they offer for teachers… We create a place where its ok the make mistakes. And fail. And learn from it. To learn direct from the people they aspire to be like and here how they make mistakes too.

Right now, 20% of all leadership roles are held by millennials. By 2020 they will make up 75% of the workforce. So we need to train and support these people…

Zoe has taught senior leadership teams to dance… to street-dance… to get everyone together out of their comfort-zone … and dance-battles in groups. And through this did leadership development and coaching. We saw the video and it looked BRILLIANT!

Another passion of Zoe’s is personal development. 20% of millennials report having depression… she believes we (companies, leaders, employers) should be doing more to support people. For example yoga sessions, mindfulness.
She also thinks we should bring in motivational speakers – like her – to inspire millennials.

Zoe talks about needs in the workplace… a space to work that allows creativity and freedom not sitting at the same desk everyday in the same place – and shows pictures of google offices. Lifestyle perks:

  • casual dresscode
  • telecommuting
  • rewards for fitbit steps
  • less hours in the summer
  • paid day off on your birthday – or lunch with the CEO
  • actual flexible working

Work perks:

  • free breakfast
  • fitness on site – or discount at the gym
  • discounts at local businesses
  • bike to work scheme
  • discount on buying tech
  • away days – trips – socialising

OR ASK THEM … what more could we do to keep you engaged and valued at work OR “feel special rewarded” as Zoe put it.

Are all these needs and suggested perks about what ‘millennials’ want and need about a generation or age? Or are they about the time, and mindset?! And not about age at all. I want to work in difference spaces, and have a (often very conflicting with norm) idea of what work is: bad work, good work and great work… but that’s not about my age. Is it? It’s about what I think and believe about people and the world. Anyone of any age (I imagine) would love a free weekend away with work? OR/AND are we suggesting that employers nd the workplace should be fulfilling our needs – we are on a spectrum here where one end is ‘the circle’. I’m think about how the world of work and organisation want people to be passion about what they do, and about their org – which makes it ’emotional work’ with buy-in and high engagement and fulfilment …. and sometimes working too many hours (emotional exploitation) for the good of the service users/customer/purpose AND then … people expecting their work or employer to fulfil all of their other needs too: food, fitness, leisure, relationships. Is this the future or the balance imbalanced.  

53% of young people are more likely to seek an employer who users the same technology that they do…

Zoe talks about recruitment and recruiting processes requiring experience and skill set that young people are finding it impossible to have – what about taking a risk? This is relative to what the Benchmark Recruit survey and ‘Hard to Fill’ report found in the Sheffield City Region – that expectations of the ‘person spec’ required to even graduates to get roles is not realistically going to align to what they can demonstrate at offer at that stage. Take a chance. Grow people.

Her confidence is infectious and she’s funny too!


[This blog was written live in session at the CIPD Learning and Development Show 2018, Olympia, London on Thursday 26th April. My intention is to capture a faithful summary of the session highlights, but my own bias and views will undoubtedly contribute to the tapestry of this story. Please excuse any typos, and don’t hesitate to join the conversation on Twitter with me @Jo_Coaches and the blog-squad #cipdldshow]


1 thought on “E1: Learning to inspire younger generations entering the workplace

  1. Pingback: That was the L&D Show

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