Not that long ago we would laugh when Kanye West claimed to be a “writer, poet, artist, fashion designer”. Now it is the biog du jour. Show me an intern that doesn’t have a 2:1, writes a blog, has 10K followers on Instagram, makes films in their spare time and is launching a fashion label in the New Year – so let’s all hail the new breed of employee.
We are all part of suffocating competitive industries where there are hundreds of thousands of brilliant agencies, with talented teams and a cabinet of awards, versus an ever weakening client pool finding cheaper ways of making creative work – hiring in-house, working with “brotographers” or going direct to media partners who now can do everything. To be ever relevant in a ridiculously fast changing landscape, to be able to lead tech innovation, push creative thinking and show a deeper understanding of consumer trends, we need this new breed of employee. While we work on deeper consumer insight, the strategic thinking and the big creative idea, they feed us the “new”.
The Millennial generation grew up in an uncertain world of recession, cut backs and limited entry level jobs. Their school and college days spent reading dark stories of an economic gloom destined to never lift. Maybe that’s why we now have supersonic first and second jobbers, with a solid work ethic and a brain in tune with everything around them? Maybe it’s because of the lack of opportunity this new breed of employee faced that they knew they had to innovate and become multi-skilled to stay competitive? Or maybe it’s because the tech immersed world we live in has super-charged their ability to absorb information and learn and this is the new norm?
Gone are the days when the grads sat quietly taking notes. The under 30s in our business speak frankly and are fearless in voicing their opinions and ideas. Real insight and fresh thinking are now trumping experience and seniority. Agencies have created much more fluid roles for the under 30s in response to them being be hard working, multi-skilled and able to assimilate torrents of information masterfully. This mentality has led to a greater degree of collaboration between levels as well as disciplines.
This young innovator is allowing our industry to be sharper thinkers, agile movers, offering a more competitive and interesting model for clients. That’s why we’ve created our own “collective”, for want of a better word, of under 30s staff that we tap into to get the lowdown on what’s hot and what’s not. This team have become the blood pumping through our business, a collaborative centre that adds a freshness and relevancy to both our work and the way we run our business, to provide an interesting perspective alongside those of us “experienced” enough to remember the Milky Bar kid.
But it’s not just employees changing things for us but the business landscape itself. Today, companies compete more on speed, agility and innovation. The speed and variety of new ideas makes technology innovation harder than ever before. To stay at the top of the game, we try to facilitate rapid understanding and adoption of emerging technology to account for the demands by clients to innovate themselves and stay ahead. It’s simply not enough to be creative, strategic and digital savvy anymore. Agency staff need agile entrepreneurial thinkers to advance the direction of businesses. Through a balance of discipline and freedom to explore new ideas and ways of working, we can create the employee of the future and in doing so, a bright future for our business and our clients.
Joanna Davies is CEO of ZAK