Kelly Lovell challenges businesses to understand today’s youth

Challenging perceptions

Companies should embrace youth and their unique ideas, not ignore them to achieve future success, Kelly Lovell, one of Canada’s youngest motivational speakers says.

“I truly believe we are a changed generation,” Lovell told a packed house at the annual Spring Breakfast of the Mayors on Friday in Oakville. “Youth are not the leaders of tomorrow. We are the leaders of today.

“It’s the matter of giving youth the opportunity to discover their potential and have the courage to act on their ideas.”Named Youth Entrepreneur of 2014, Lovell was the keynote speaker at the event organized by the Halton Industry Education Council (HIEC) and held at the OE Banquet and Conference Centre. The theme – Amazing Young Minds Under-25. HIEC also celebrated its 25th year of presenting programs and initiatives.

Leaders from the business, political and industrial sectors were captivated by Lovell’s speech as she demonstrated why they needed to understand what motivates today’s Generation Z – those born after 1991 – and why traditional business environments and practices don’t meet the needs of today’s youth.

As soon as companies understand the values and needs of today’s youth the better they can “harness their energy and passion,” Lovell said.

She described how today’s youth needs “feedback” from their employers because they have grown up in an environment of social inter-action with their friends where they receive instant text replies and immediate action from Internet posts.

“Social is a very hot topic with youth today. It’s one of the biggest challenges. But I usually advise organizations trying to connect with youth to provide feedback,” said Lovell, a youth advisor for Fortune 500 companies. “Our generation lives on immediate feedback.”

They’re not just needy, said Lovell, adding today’s youth simply needs re-assurance they’re progressing in their job and their bosses are paying attention to them.

“A simple thing like saying ‘you’re doing a great job’ let’s them know they’re valued and appreciated,” Lovell said. “The smallest of things makes a big difference.”

Being young also doesn’t mean “inexperienced,” or “entitled, naïve, addicted to social, technology slaves or out spoken,” Lovell said. “This generation is eager to learn and driven to create; they’re tenacious and confident to learn.”

Inspired every day by the youth she mentors as a CEO of four companies that provide resources for youth, Lovell said “this generation is advancing their knowledge and enriching their leadership skills” at break-neck speeds.

There is also big difference between Millennials (born between mid-1980s and mid-2000s) and Generation Z (born after 1991) although most business leaders think they’re all the same, Lovell said.

Whereas Millennials are graduating and starting families, Generation Z are “entrepreneur driven” and don’t see a post-secondary education as the only path to career success, said Lovell, who lives in Waterloo.

“They want to create their own futures. They’ve seen the debt Millennials have gone through,” Lovell said. “They don’t want to be stuck in the box that society has created for them. They’re advancing at lightning speeds and businesses can advance with them but they have to believe in today’s youth and help them gain the confidence they need.”

Lovell said companies also need to understand how today’s generation views work.

“Instead of living to work today’s youth work to live,” Lovell said. “Work is not the end goal for youth. It’s a means to achieve their ambitions; where they want to end up in life.”

She said today’s youth won’t follow the classic path of working their way up the ladder, slowly but surely. Instead, they stay and average of two to three years in a job and then move on.

“The turnover rate is high. If the job doesn’t satisfy them on their path, they will leave,” Lovell said.

The reason – today’s youth doesn’t rely on their job as much for security reasons. Many lives at home where they have more freedom to be selective on choosing employment.

“Money is not the driver for choosing their employer or career. In fact, it is No. 3. The No. 1 thing they look for in a job is personal development,” Lovell said. “They want to grow.”

No. 2 is work flexibility; the ability to be able to work outside the office, including at home as well as flexibility in their hours of work, she said.

“Companies need to understand they’re a stepping stone for them on their longer journey and that they need to accommodate them and retain their interest,” she said. “If you show them you’re the start of their trajectory they will give you their undivided attention and dedication.

“If you can motivate today’s youth they’ll be the ones showing up bright and early and staying for overtime. But you have to give them a platform where they feel they’re valued and that they mean something.”

Lovell also urged business leaders to invite youth into their boardrooms.

“Give them the chance to speak their minds and they will share what they see in your future,” Lovell said. “The student will be the one to point out the elephant in the room and question and say what everyone else is thinking but dare not ask.

“This is what makes youth such great leaders. They’re not afraid to do the things they do. To challenge the status quo….They have fresh perspectives…Being not jaded gives them the imagination to view possibilities.”

Lowell also urged business leaders to not be afraid to use today’s youth as ambassadors for their companies.

“Some 98 per cent of youth believe what their friends post on line over an organization’s posts and 91 per cent make decisions based on what their friends says so you need to get your message in the voice of the youth,” Lovell said. “Make them your ambassadors. Have them share your message, your programs and your values with their peers. They listen to their peers and respect them.”


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