“Young People, When Informed And Empowered, When They Realise That What They Do Truly Makes A Difference, Can Indeed Change The World.” - Jane Goodall
Young people today are growing up in a world very different from that experienced by any other generation that has come before. As a 2000's baby, I fall into the Generation Z category, also known as the 'Digital Natives'. Spanning those born between 1995-2010, our generation are the first generation to grow up in a truly digital universe and with that, research shows that we work with each other, and technology, in very different ways to our parents' and our grandparents' generations.
As well as being tech savvy (i.e. knowing to try turning your computer on and off again when it freezes & just how many devices you can have logged onto the same Netflix account before they get suspicious) we also make up a pretty sizable chunk of the Australian and global population. Recent statistics show that there are about 4.6 million Gen Z's in Australia making up about 20% of the Australian population, and globally it's been announced that there are now more people under the age of 35 than over the age of 35.
So with young people making up such a large part of our population, this poses a unique opportunity for organisations big and small to think about how they are going to engage with Generation Z as both potential employees and potential consumers.
Currently, we're seeing a varied approach from brands with organisations, such as Amsterdam's Schiphol Airport turning to Tiktok to find their new public announcement voice, Australian startup Canva issuing weekly design challenges as they hunt for fresh marketing materials and potential affiliate partners or employees, and even IBM creating free online courses for young people to help them build the skills they will need for a career in the tech industry.
Whilst these initiatives all sound like something that could have been cooked up in a simple team whiteboarding session, one thing they all have in common is that they were meticulously designed in consultation with young people.
Enter The Concept Of A Youth Advisory Board!
Advisory boards are not new concepts. Most companies will already have either a board of directors or a board of advisors that their CEO or core team will report to for advice, guidance and accountability to ensure they are acting in the business's best interests.
Quite often a board will be consulted in order to greenlight new products, marketing campaigns, and out-of-the-box strategies as companies work to innovate and stand out from their competitors. During this process, it's also quite common for certain board members to get more hands-on with projects depending on their area of expertise, often offering support with brainstorming, reviewing ideas, making connections and validating new concepts.
All going well, a board can be incredibly helpful for a business as they provide a wealth of knowledge, experience and insight that business leaders are able to tap into.
A youth advisory board is not too dissimilar. Often made up of 10-15 young people, a youth advisory board will meet semi-regularly to provide insight on current projects, generate new solutions to challenges being faced by the organisation, and in some cases work closely with key members of the team to provide additional support, guidance and advice where appropriate.
These boards are typically made up of Gen Z's that are in the upper high school/lower university age bracket, and are a great way for organisations typically full of Millenials and above to tap into the Gen Z mindset in order to source some truly unique ideas.
So you may be wondering why you need a youth advisory board. Well, here are a few top reasons for you:
1. Sourcing Fresh Ideas: This generation don't know a world without touchscreen devices, wifi connectivity and social media. For many of us, MySpace and videotapes are things we've only heard about and never actually used. Because of this, we inherently use technology and think about innovation in very different ways from other generations that have come before; this making us a great resource to tap into for a different way of thinking.
2. Engaging Top Young Talent: Recent studies show that young professionals under the age of 30 are willing to take up to a 30% pay cut to work for a company or a cause they truly believe in. Because of this, a traditional stall or flyer at a careers expo is no longer enough to capture the attention of top young talent. Engaging young people in a youth advisory board is a great way to build long-term relationships with potential employees, whilst also finding out from them what the rest of their generation looks for in workforce opportunities.
3. Professional Development Opportunities: One of my favourite concepts at the moment is 'Reverse Mentoring'. This is essentially where you pair some of your most junior team with your most senior for mentoring opportunities. This creates a unique learning opportunity for both parties with the junior members of your team learning so much from the experience of their mentor, but at the same time, the more senior members of the team learning just as much from the perspective of a young person. Youth advisory board provide you with an excellent opportunity to do this!
4. It Makes Business Sense: Luxury brand Gucci famously implemented a 'shadow board' of younger team members in 2015 with the task of meeting regularly with the senior leadership team. People involved in this program said that it "served as a wakeup call for executives" and between 2014 and 2018 the company saw its sales increase 236% primarily driven by the success of its internet and digital strategies, advocated for by the shadow board.
Youth advisory boards and initiatives should be living and breathing organisms that are designed to suit the organisation, team, and young people engaging with them. When designing these initiatives it's important to have a clear goal in mind for what you hope to get out of the engagement, and what you can offer the young people involved as well.
About The Author:
The tech-head prodigy behind BOP Industries, Scott Millar is a young entrepreneur taking the world by storm. Compared to a young Steve Jobs after turning a year nine business project into a thriving business, Scott finished high school and deferred university to run BOP Industries full time, now with a growing presence around the world. As a now 22-year-old, Scott has recently been named one of Australia’s top 30 under 30 in business, Asia Pacific’s Inspiring Youth Leader for 2019, Queensland's Small Business Leader for 2021, Griffith University Entrepreneur In Residence and an LGBT advocate and leader in Australia and overseas.
To find out more about Scott and to see if he's available to speak at your next event, head to: www.iamscottmillar.com/speaking