According to the latest GenNext Youth Behaviour Report, young people represent a sizable market in South Africa; not only for their spending power, but also for their influencing role in shaping their household’s spending power.
With the median age of South Africans being 28 years old, understanding this market is clearly key for organisations that want to capitalise on the potential of this segment, and develop a competitive advantage to breed customer loyalty. While young people are the customers of today and tomorrow, organisations often lack a prominent youth voice that can help them innovate and push their boundaries.
In a recent LinkedIn Live, we discussed how partnering with young employees can help organisations create a competitive advantage with Bentolina Nnandi (Head of Talent, MamaMoney), Kelebohile Ramoolla (Digital Transformation Consultant and Member of the Youth ExCo at Vodacom South Africa), and Nyimpini Mabunda (Chief Executive Officer at General Electric, Chairman of the US-South Africa Business Centre, and author of Take Charge).
In this blog, we have summarised some of the crucial insights from the discussion.
1. Reversed mentorship in bridging the generational gap.
Often invididuals from different generations don’t share the same approach to tackling and solving issues. In traditional corporate culture, young people don’t often feel like they can share their opinions. During the discussion, Relebohile encouraged young people to challenge the culture by using the systems available, “I wanted to challenge the generational approach and traditional culture -the mandate of the Youth Council at Vodacom, founded by Nyimpini Mabunda, is to bridge the generational gap. As I am a Youth Exco member, the Chief of Commercial Operations mentors me; there is also reversed mentorship as I can impart knowledge to him too.
Structures such as the Youth Council incentivise the promotion of a culture of inclusion; they also signal that young people are included, and that their voices matter. “Young people deserve a seat at the table- it doesn’t need to be the biggest table ever but the table needs to be connected to the space where they operate.”
2. Build a culture of learning.
The role of informal and ongoing learning plays in a company culture was also raised during the discussion. Bentolina shared the experience of MamaMoney, as a young start-up:
“Learning can be anything, from social to technical skills – being a young business, at MamaMoney we have many young people; But one doesn’t need mentorship funding or formalised programmes. We have set up our culture as a culture of learning and cross-collaborations”.
Bentolina explained how MamaMoney makes strategic use of cross-functional teams to allow employees to be exposed to different technical skills as well as different team members, and learn from each other. The cross-functional teams and projects promote exposure to new skills; the process gives young people opportunities to explore different pathways.
3. Improve job specs.
Generally, job specifications need to be improved; the more specific they are, the better they give potential applicants an understanding of what the position requires. Moreover, the job specifications determine the individuals an organisation can attract.
Nyimpini shared that two of the top 10 most valuable companies in the world are run by CEOs who would have never been hired through the traditional executive search. “These organisations, Tesla and Meta, are currently more valuable by organisations run by the usual suspects”, commented Nympini.
Bentolina shared that MamaMoney’s job specifications include the skills required as well as the Key Performance Indicators and goals to be achieved in the first 30, 60, and 90 days. The interview process is also critical as “the person might not have the specific skills, but transferable skills that will allow them to reach the goal”.
4. Onboarding fosters innovative thinking.
Once the right person has been hired, it’s important to manage the transition into the new work environment. On this point Bentolina reflected on the importance of focusing on the type of support that can enable new employees to love their work and give it their 100%.
Sometimes we get someone in and we need them to run, but how can we support and nurture them so that they can run even faster?
To answer this question, MamaMoney has created an intensive onboarding programme, where the new starter gets to meet the Departmental leads- this allows them to understand how individual departments work to achieve the company’s goal, as well as the impact of the tasks that the new starter will perform.
Social connections play a role in the process of onboarding, and this is why every new starter gets an onboarding buddy assigned, to help them navigate the first few months, and to make new friends. Bentolina noticed how this is a special glue that keeps the teams working together.
Welcoming new people is integrated into the company culture of innovation, as new starters are encouraged to send ideas and suggestions that have a positive impact on the business. If the idea is chosen for implementation, the person that sends the idea through is kept in the loop and integrated into the fruition of the idea.
Nyimpini agreed with Bentolina, urging the need to take risks. “We as leaders want to hire ourselves, people who look like us. If that was working, why AVIS didn’t start Uber? And why didn’t Marriott Hotels start AIR BnB? The thinking is homogeneous and you only get to innovate when you make unexpected connections- and that comes from a diversity of background, thinking, influence, and generation – that is where these generational mixes become quite useful to find new paths and breakthroughs.
5. A competitive edge starts with listening.
Nyimpini noted how organisations need to take risks and realise that what got us here won’t take us there. “Partnerships and collaborations are the future. We need to create spaces where members can have real conversations and question assumptions all the time”, said Nyimpini Mabunda.
An inclusive culture starts with genuine listening, and with the creation of a company ecosystem that enables the generation and implementation of ideas. “Designing for inclusion beyond suggestion boxes and open-plan offices- think about the approval process and decision-making process; we need to design an ecosystem that enables the execution of some of these ideas”, Nyimpini added.
Designing for inclusion beyond suggestion boxes and open-plan offices- think about the approval process and decision-making process; we need to design an ecosystem that enables the execution of some of these ideas.Nyimpini Mabunda
Nyimpini concluded by saying that a company can get a competitive edge from the market – in SA, 60% population is under 30 years old. Being a young country, all our consumers are young people and every business need to understand them.