Camilla Hessellund Lastein stepped onto the stage at Nordic Business Forum Norway to get really clear about mission-driven companies and the next generation of workers: Generation Z. Generation Z is comprised of those born in the late 1990s and early 2000s.
Camilla dropped out of college when she was 20 to found a company called Lix with the purpose of “completely changing higher education as we know it for students all over the world” by making the consumption of textbooks flexible and affordable. Since then, she sold the company and is now focusing on investing and her role as the founder and managing partner at Celestial Group.
Getting to know Gen Z
Through her work, Camilla has seen the change in the way that younger generations look at work and life. “For Gen Z, purpose is one of the most important things when it comes to job and career,” she stated. It cares less about work-life balance and convenient working hours—the two values essential to Millennials—and more about a company’s purpose or goals. Research indicates that this generation is more driven by the big picture and how they personally can contribute to making the world a better place.
Camilla reminds the audience that Gen Z is “a generation that has never known the world without the internet”. The extreme media exposure has caused Generation Z to perceive the world as being in constant turmoil and becoming a worse place to live. “I believe that purpose, especially in the workplace, can be motivation [for Gen Z] to create a better world and a better life,” she explained. “A lot of the research I’ve been through shows that they’re quite discouraged about the future.”
A new generation in the workplace
After watching their parents experience the financial collapse in 2008, Gen Z is cautious towards big corporations and the government. Camilla said this means hiring them isn’t as easy as promising a big salary. Gen Z’s are concerned more with working on something they are passionate about and taking pride in the work they do at a company with which they can identify.
“I think that this is a generation that wants to work hard for what they believe in”, Camilla continued, “They have the knowledge and access to constantly adapt their skills and are highly driven to do so”. Given the right goal, Gen Z could make a massive difference for its employers. Another important element of Gen Z’s experience is that it is exposed to an extreme amount of pressure. Some of the pressure is external, but most comes from within itself.
“[As a generation] they are bombarded with the illusion of the perfect life”, argued Camilla. This creates a ripple effect in social media, and the news media paints a picture of overnight success that isn’t healthy to continually consume. “I think this pressure, together with all the options they have to choose from, is a good way to explain why Gen Z is the most anxious generation to date.”
How to join forces with Gen Z
“In many ways, Gen Z is a very misunderstood generation. It’s a generation that is highly driven”, Camilla explained. In her opinion, working hard comes naturally to them if given a purpose. To entice Gen Z to work at your company involves ensuring the vision or mission of the company becomes a reality. By doing this, it shows the company has a purpose.
Camilla has two useful pieces of advice for companies looking to employ young talents. First, explain to them why you are doing what you are doing. “Establish your purpose clearly and mean it. Show it in everything you do internally and externally.” Gen Z is quick to tell if messages are phony; they want the whole company to be invested in the mission.
Second, show them how. Gen Z wants to see how it can be successful within your company. “It could be through a new employees program, giving them mentors, or taking the request for mental health support extremely seriously,” Camilla explained.
There are many options in how to go about making these changes, but the bottom line is, as Camilla states, “If you’re not a company worth fighting for, they will start fighting for themselves. And in some cases, come to disrupt you instead.”
This is a summary of Camilla’s keynote at our Nordic Business Forum Norway event in 2019. If you want to read what the other speakers said, download the full event summary.