The media has recently slammed Generation Y for their lack of work ethic. To find out what business leaders think, Jack Delosa catches up with Janine Allis, founder of Boost Juice, to find out how she turned this generation into her greatest asset and what Gen Ys can do to get ahead.
THE ISSUE… Recent media attention has labeled Gen Y (people born in the 80’s and 90’s) lazy, unfocused and disloyal. Articles such as “Why bosses hate Gen Y” and “Gen Y too lazy and unfocused to hire” have appeared in the media at an increasing rate. With some companies going so far as to say they’re no longer hiring people in their 20’s, it seems as if corporate Australia and the media are throwing their arms in the air when it comes to the issue of Generation Y.
So how do ambitious Gen Ys differentiate themselves and how does corporate Australia capitalise on the talents of the select few?
A study from SmartCompany, Roy Morgan Research and Dun and Bradstreet indicates that 70% of employers are dissatisfied with the performance of their Gen Y employees. 48 per cent of Small to Medium Enterprises (SME’s) also expressed disappointment with the communication skills of their younger employees. To make matters worse, 90 per cent said that Gen Ys are more demanding than their 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 opportunity for the industrious Gen Ys who are willing to defy the trend. Similarly, organisations who know how to speak the language of the younger generation will be able to attract an 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.
“Our lawyers are walking around in board shorts,” Allis tells me, instantly indicating that she has a different workplace culture to most. “We try to create a fun environment. I don’t believe you should be judged on whether you wear a suit or not. A casual environment doesn’t mean a casual workplace, it’s far from it, it’s high performance.”
“They’re coming in feeling too entitled,” Allis explains 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 into 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. “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 sight of the fact that it’s a business and we have profits 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.”
With such a high emphasis being placed on tertiary education and good grades, SME’s 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. 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.” Allis explains. 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.” When asked if the fact she left school at 16 years of age has ever put her at a disadvantage, she replies, “Never. Never once.”
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-learning. Education can no longer be viewed as something that only 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 of the pack. Education in the real-world comes from making mistakes and gaining experience. Having left school at 16, the vast majority of Allis’ 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 a $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.”
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. “For those great people who are willing to do anything to succeed, you will be able to write your own ticket.”
Jack Delosa has been named in the top 30 entrepreneurs under 30, in Australian Anthill Magazine’s 30Under30 Publication. Jack is the founder of The Entourage, a movement of young entrepreneurs (18-35) leveraging the experience of top business leaders world-wide. [email protected]