X,Y,Z,A - Are we ready for generation alpha? An Inspired takeover at LBF!

X,Y,Z,A - Are we ready for generation alpha? An Inspired takeover at LBF!

Inspired were honoured to take to the Focus Theatre stage at London Book Fair this year to host a very special panel and hot topic right now – ‘X, Y, Z, A – Are we ready for Generation Alpha?’ If you missed this inspiring discussion or just want a recap then do read on for some of our key takeaways! 

Chaired by MD of Inspired,  Suzy Astbury, our expert panel comprised of Sharon Marshall, HR Manager at Bloomsbury; Lisa Waterman, Group HR Director at Hachette UK; Cassie Rocks Co-Director of The FLIP and Dr Javier Bajer, Cultural Architect & Founding CEO of The Talent Foundation together discussed what it is we must be doing as employers to remain appealing and create thriving business cultures for the new generations entering the workforce.

The discussion began with Dr Javier Bajer who mentions how we are currently facing a cross generational problem that he believes stems from the expectations and believes put onto past generations that when we come into the workforce it is only once we reach the top that we will find happiness. We are under the impression that we must keep working and thriving towards the top in order to achieve happiness and all our dreams, which now further down the line has shown to be problematic. He highlights that it is important that this mentality changes and that we are going into the workforce happy, connected and with purpose right from the get go!

Javier mentions how a fifth of the working population is trying to not work anymore and so it is time to start connecting work with our passions and not necessarily just ‘what’s in it for me’ – salaries, bonuses and benefits are very important but should not be the sole reason we take on or thrive towards a certain job, but instead if we think that 50% of our career conversations are going to be about these things and the other 50% is going to be about purpose and values and passion for the work that we do we will find much more happiness at work. In the case for publishing, he mentions how great it is that if you work in Educational Publishing, you are producing materials that can go out to children and really change their future and the world – it’s time to start talking about purpose and connecting with what we can give, not just what we can get.

Looking at just what it is that’s important to new generations coming into the work force and with experience working with Gen Z, Cassie Rocks shares what she believes to be the top 3 things that are important and what new generations want to see:

  1. Flexibility – Cassie expresses how flexibility is absolutely key for new generations. They want to be building a career around their life and not building a life around their career and this is in order to support their physical and mental health and well-being. Businesses will struggle to attract new talent by expecting them to be in the office 4-5 days a week so it’s important that we lean into the new flexible ways of working whether that be implementing well-being days, core hours, career breaks, early starts or late finishes – if a business can show its willingness to be flexible you are far more likely to attract new and diverse talent.
  2. Advocacy – New generations want to feel like they are being advocated for. As an organisation it is not just enough to say what our values are and what is important to us, it is important that we stand by what we say and speak up on what we support. With advocacy comes authenticity, and organisations risk losing talent if employees feel that they are not being advocated for or businesses stay silent on something they have said they support.
  3. Transparency – New generations are in the world of social media and online where you can get access to thing instantly and get instant gratification. If they don’t see what they want they will move past it. This is particularly key to remember for job seekers who want to be able to see the pay and benefits associated with a new job. Being transparent means you will not lose their interest and push them to look elsewhere to find their perfect role.
Panel on stage at LBF

With these key things on our mind on how it is we attract this talent; Lisa Waterman moves on to speak about retention and how important it is to genuinely understand what it is that makes your employees tick – reminding us that we shouldn’t assume anything. Lisa expresses how one to one discussions are absolutely key, mentioning how it is a fact that employees will often leave their organisation because of poor line management as oppose to something the company has done.

Lisa encourages us to lean into what we are learning from the new generation saying how our Gen Z talent are ambitious and they want to understand but also be understood. They want feedback, opportunities to learn, flexibility and to be listened to. Lisa also stressed the importance of authenticity and in receiving and being open to plenty of employee feedback and their feelings on things, Hachette have been able to gain great data that they can listen to and act on. Having that balance as a business of reaching out, listening and being ahead is key as the new generations know that there are plenty of other options out there.

Moving on, Sharon Marshall from Bloomsbury mentions that it is important to remember that publishing will have that halo affect and that we can attract people into the industry who have a real passion for books and publishing. It is how we drive that passion and purpose home that is key to us attracting and retaining our talent. She mentions how employer branding and values is key at Bloomsbury, and that is why they have a real focus on informing, inspiring and following through with their purpose and it is important that they are very strongly active on their corporate social responsibilities.

Sharon also brings up looking at our workplace spaces and mentions how Bloomsbury have seen a positive response to the younger generations wanting to come back into work and the office since making it a more attractive and interactive space to work from where they can also socialise with other teams and take part in work activities and events. Creating a collaborative, creative space that employees want to go and visit and work from is really important.

As we came to the end of our discussion our panel shared some final tips and insights with us that we can take away and start thinking about to ensure our organisations and the publishing industry as a whole remain attractive and exciting for new generations:

  • Make sure the majority of the conversations we have at work and in meetings with our people at all levels mention and come back to the purpose of our organisation and everyone’s individual part in that.
  • Listen to your employees and make sure they feel heard whether that be through surveys or group vocal meetings (which Sharon mentions have been greatly received at Bloomsbury) and take active action so that our teams see positive change.
  • In a recent workforce survey carried out by The FLIP, they found that 96% of respondents have experienced burn out in their career so it is important that well-being initiatives go the extra mile to support employees – we must be supporting mental health issues before people struggle.
  • Be transparent and authentic with your values, purpose and all associated benefits that come with a role from the start. Remember also that for those entering the industry they need to know they can afford to move into publishing so conducting regular salary surveys and advertising salaries is becoming more important for candidates.
  • Throw the doors wide open and look outward not just inwards! Publishing should be keeping an eye on what other organisations and industries are doing to as there is inspiration everywhere.
  • Keep driving diversity and inclusion - there is still a lack of representation in senior level management and if people are not seeing people that look like them at senior levels, then they will struggle to see themselves there too.  Therefore, cast your net wide and actively seek to diversify your talent and skillsets. 

Over the years publishing has been known to be quite resistant to change, but slowly and surely it is listening and adapting. We are in an exciting phase of change as the new generation of talent enters our workforce it is just important that we lean in and embrace it in order to thrive! 

We would like to express a huge thank you to our panellists for sharing with us their time, expertise and knowledge as well as to everyone who came along to the event and those who asked questions. With a special thanks also to the London Book Fair team for organising an extraordinary event this year.




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