How to provide a multi-generational company culture and why one size doesn’t fit all
With new talent focusing on culture when considering joining companies, Parry Jones, Deputy CEO of the What’s Possible Group explores how to create a winning workplace for all ages.
The first rule about creating a multi-generational culture is you don’t talk about creating a multi-generational culture.
In marketing, we use data to spot trends. We put people into demographic boxes, surface insights and build campaigns around what we learn. We tailor creative to increase effectiveness.
Age is almost always a key consideration. But no one ever introduces themselves, saying, “hi, I’m Claire, and I’m Gen Z.”
Until now… Hello, I’m Parry, and I’m a Xennial.
Parry Jones, Deputy CEO, What's Possible.
Xennial is a micro-generation that sits between Generation X and Millennials. I was brought up playing outside ‘until it got dark’. There were no mobile phones. Film night meant a trip to the video counter at the local shop.
But Netflix launched when I was 14, and Google when I was 15. A year later I got my first mobile phone. My formative years were part Gen X, part Millennial.
50 per cent of students rank culture as the most important thing they look for when job hunting.
This influences me and people my age. But none of it defines us. What’s Possible Group is a collective of around 200 people, not a company of three or four generations. Our culture must embrace the individual while harnessing collaboration.
We have a duty to create an inclusive culture that attracts and retains a diverse workforce – and we do this because it is the right thing to do.
We don’t need to make a business case for diversity, but that business case is clear, proven, and particularly pertinent to the creative industries. In his book Rebel Ideas – the Power of Thinking Differently, Matthew Syed demonstrated how diverse teams can collaborate for maximum effect. He also gives practical ways you can make this happen.
The dangers of homophily – the tendency for people to be attracted to those who are similar to themselves – can be seen in some of the most criticised campaigns. Samsung’s Night Owls, an ad featuring a woman running late at night through dark streets and alleyways, was created by an almost all-male team.
I’m not criticising any individual working on that campaign, but collectively, the lack of diverse minds on the project (the lack of a senior woman) led to it being described as “unrealistic and blinkered” by the editor of Women’s Running Magazine, Esther Newman.
Our B Corp journey shines a light on where we are strong and where we need work.
How the industry markets to over 50s often miss the mark. Generations of people brought up on rock ‘n’ roll, punk, funk, soul, reggae and acid house are being spoken to in a way that is not connecting. These are people running marathons and running businesses.
More importantly for brands, the over 50s have the biggest spending power. Our regular YouGov Pulse survey on consumer confidence shows that affluent 50-65 years olds are the most confident and will keep spending.
Unlock full credits and more with a Source + shots membership.
Some commentators felt Samsung's Night Owls ad could have benefitted from a more diverse creative team.
Mary Portas, Dave Trott and countless others have discussed ageism in our industry. I don’t claim to have all the answers. I know enough to start to understand how much I don’t know.
We have done a phenomenal amount of work to create an inclusive culture. But that gets us to the starting line. Each year we should be better than last, but not as good as where we will be next.
It’s the influence of Lily, our first openly non-binary employee. It’s the diversity group set up in reaction to George Floyd...
There are excellent organisations helping us improve. We are in our second year working with Creative Equals, the global award-winning equity, diversity and inclusion consultancy which partners with companies to build your new ROI: return on inclusion. Creative Equals is helping us create a strategy and plan to become a better, more inclusive business. We are also on our B Corp journey, which shines a light on where we are strong and where we need work.
While I couldn’t recommend Creative Equals and B Corp enough, the most powerful influence on our developing culture comes from the people within.
It’s the influence of Lily, our first openly non-binary employee. It’s the diversity group set up in reaction to George Floyd. It’s the dedication of Annalisa and the people team, organising Lunch & Learn sessions around things like menopause, timeTo and the challenges of parenthood.
But it’s too simplistic to view this change as one caused by younger people entering the industry. Yes, 50 per cent of students rank culture as the most important thing they look for when job hunting. But older people in our business cite culture as the number one reason they stay.
We are all unique and we can all build a special culture collaboratively.