Generation Y has been slammed in the media for a lack of work ethic. To find out what business leaders think, Jack Delosa caught up with Janine Allis, founder of Boost Juice, to learn about how she turned this generation into her greatest asset and what Gen Ys can do to take advantage of the recent media attention.
Articles such as “Why bosses hate Gen Y” and “Gen Y too lazy and unfocused to hire” have been peppering the media at an increasing rate. Recent media attention has labelled Gen Y lazy, unfocused and disloyal, with some companies going as far as to say they’re no longer hiring people who are in their 20s. It seems that corporate Australia and the media have thrown their arms in the air when it comes to the issue of Generation Y.
So how do Gen Ys differentiate themselves in the marketplace and what can employers do to capitalise on the talents of the select few?
A recent study indicated that 70 percent of employers are dissatisfied with the performance of their Gen Y employees. Forty-eight percent of SMEs also expressed disappointment with the communication skills of their younger employees. To make matters worse, 90 percent said that Gen Ys are more demanding than our counterparts and that we’re 79 percent more likely to ask for a pay rise.
Although this data paints a bleak picture for Gen Ys in the workplace, it represents an opportunity for the ambitious Gen Ys who are willing to defy the trend. Similarly, organisations that know how to speak the language of the younger generation will be able to attract energetic and tech-savvy talent.
Janine Allis is one person who has managed to turn the troublesome Gen Y into a strong commercial asset. Founder of Boost Juice and the winner of several awards, including Telstra Business Woman of the Year (2004) and BRW Fastest Growing Franchise, Allis has been listed several times in the BRW Young Rich List as a result of her entrepreneurial aptitude.
“They’re coming in too entitled,” Allis says to me of Gen Ys. “If I was a young marketer and I wanted to get involved with a brand like Boost, I would come in to the Marketing Director and say, ‘I’m in. Whatever it takes. I’m in. I’ll work for one month for nothing and prove to you that you can’t let me go.’”
Some of her highest performing employees came in this way, starting at the store level and working their way up, gaining a practical education of how the business works. But that’s not typical of Gen Y.
“Instead, they come in and say, ‘I want $105,000, but I don’t want to work after 5:00pm.’ I think the mistake is they lose perspective of the fact that it’s a business and we have profit and losses.”
With Boost Juice, Allis has managed to create a youthful brand that not only attracts Gen Ys as customers, but employs them as the bulk of their workforce. Allis explains that although there may be a higher portion of Gen Ys that come into the workplace feeling “entitled”, it’s about recruiting the right people that are suited to the culture of your business. “We’ve got the right Gen Ys in the business. By getting the right Gen Ys and giving them a direction and a goal, that’s the answer.”
The Education Myth
When asked if the fact she left school at 16 years of age has ever put her at a disadvantage, Allis replies, “Never. Never once.”
With such a high emphasis being placed on tertiary education and good grades, SMEs and corporations can fall into the trap of placing too much importance on the grades of a student rather than the character of the person. “I wouldn’t not hire you because you don’t have a degree,” says Allis. “If you had an MBA, great, that’s nice, but I wouldn’t hire you because of it. I go by the attitude, the drive, the passion, the ability to succeed. That doesn’t come with a degree. That’s inbuilt.”
She also indicates that she is not worried in the slightest that some companies hire purely on a grades basis. “There are some who are old school, who won’t hire people without a degree. But I love those people because what that means is that these people who didn’t do a degree, these great people who will help me make my business successful, are free.”
Gen Y has drawn criticism due to our lack of practical experience in the real world. This is a position which is consistent with the majority of business owners I have come across. It is a downside which the most ambitious of the Gen Ys are overcoming through self-education.
Education can no longer be viewed as something that happens within the four walls of a high school or university. University is fantastic, sometimes even necessary if you’re looking to become an accountant or a lawyer. However, this can’t be where the education stops. The Gen Ys who realise that the majority of their education needs to happen outside of those four walls will ultimately break free from the pack. Education in the real-world comes from making mistakes and gaining experience.
Having left school at 16, the vast majority of Allis’s education took place outside the classroom. “Talking about university courses, I see lessons in mistakes. I did a $300,000 course in site selection. I did an $800,000 course in getting the right person to do brand. I’ve done a lot of courses to get to where we are today.”
“Every generation needs a new revolution.”
— Thomas Jefferson
According to Allis, recent media attention puts ambitious Gen Ys at an advantage.
“There are some amazing Gen Ys that are passionate and driven. They’ll make a lot of money and be highly successful because there’s less competition.”
The biggest challenge for companies is to find good people that will genuinely help them drive the bottom-line of their business. “The greatest challenge for the milk bar down the road is the same greatest challenge they have at BHP, and that is people.”
The revolution will come when a select few Gen Ys put their hands up as the achievers of the bunch. Because of the negative media attention around the younger generation, the ones that do stand up as leaders in their field will be very visible.
In the words of Allis, “For those great people who are willing to do anything to succeed, you will be able to write your own ticket.”
Jack Delosa is the General Manager of MBE Education. Jack has been named as one of the top 30 entrepreneurs under 30 in Australian Anthill’s 30Under30 Awards and BE was recently featured in the Fast 50 by Smart Company. jack [at] mbeeducation [dot] com [dot] au