Listening to your young employees could mean the difference between success and failure

By on June 19, 2014

People are often quick to dismiss their inexperience workers’ views out of hand, says Faisal Butt. But in most cases, they’re wiser than you realise.

When I was growing up in South Asia young people were seen and not heard. The generational divide was palpable, and for a young, ambitious entrepreneur with unconventional – often controversial – ideas, patriarchal Pakistan was far from the ideal environment to sow and harvest my entrepreneurial seeds.

It was only when I moved to the US, and later the UK, that I saw family businesses give youth a chance. Parents empowered their children by giving them capital to build businesses, and those businesses seemed to flourish while the ones back home stagnated.

It’s seeing that dichotomy between the two cultures which made me realise that the younger generations are the real innovators of our societies. As someone rejected countless times for my youth during my early twenties while trying to find my own footing, today as a thirty-something with a firm foothold in the Mayfair VC scene, I believe the three generations in the workplace – Baby Boomers, Generation X-ers, Generation Y-ers – need to operate under a structure that allows the younger generations to be heard.

These Gen Y-ers have an in-depth understanding of ideas, morals, and concepts that you may not know exist. When looking at the world from this perspective, the future is indeed behind you, not ahead of you.

Vive la révolution

Although each generation is different, a result of their upbringing, each start adolescence as dreamers and revolutionaries. Baby Boomers were behind the counterculture revolution of the 60s and early 70s where young people sought to change the world for the better. Yet – as they grew up, they quickly became less idealistic and more motivated by money and status.

Generation X-ers, my generation, were the first ‘latch-key kids’ where both parents worked and they were forced to become self-sufficient. In adolescence, X-ers were called unambitious ‘shoe gazers’, but as mature adults their ability to work independently has transformed them into entrepreneurs and top managers.

Generation Y-ers were brought up during the boom years of the 90s and early 2000s by their successful Baby Boomer parents who – with their counterculture ideologies – taught their children they could achieve anything they put their minds to. Their revolution is to improve work/ life balance. They seek rich experiences rather than just riches. To them, work is more about learning and being challenged than money.

But they are also the first generation to grow up with Wi-Fi, laptops, smart phones, and tablets – all the tech that has made working remotely and flexibly possible. Their office is a café in Shoreditch where they can combine business with leisure.

Each generation has a revolution, and then they become settled in the new world they’ve helped to create, leaving the next generation to initiate subsequent revolts. For this reason,

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