Lillie Ubeid
by Lillie Ubeid
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You don't think of Gen X as crusaders of digital transformation, essentially, putting a middle aged person on the frontline of the 4th Industrial Revolution just doesn't seem to fit the business zeitgeist. To be fair, when it comes to cutting edge digital strategy you may feel that the digital natives are better suited. Those young tech warriors that grew up with iPhones and other hi-tech weaponry in their hands.

Surprise! In the recruitment sector, and most other industries, the captains of change, digital disruption and transformation programmes are people like me. Born between 1965 and 1979 and rebels of our time.

Gary Vaynerchuk predicts that people who are in their 60s and 70s who have lived with the internet for over 20 years will be building online businesses that turn a million-dollar profit. They will be the majority rather than those in their 20s. Why? Because unlike the younger generations who believe they know it all, my people actually do. We have lived. We have worked around the world and know how to solve problems. Big problems that we've lived through.

But don't take Gary and my word for this. Forrester is backing us up. You see us middle age mavericks bring four critical strengths to any tech transformation initiative:

We are digitally savvy; we have been at the start of the revolution and when fledgling tech didn't deliver on our aspirations and needs, we cobbled it together. A little bit of MailChimp, WordPress, TweetDeck (before it belonged to Twitter) and Lead Forensics provided enough functionality to try out that inbound marketing malarky. And we remember the Fail Whale with fondness!

We are masters of leadership; conventional leadership. Firstly, we still want to be leaders and secondly, we're determined to find and nurture talent and drive business strategies to deliver tangible results. We are completer/finishers who strive to attain goals through innovation.

We are collaborators; come on, you've seen the Breakfast Club. We know how to break down silos, to generate faster results, get the job done, by working with and through people.

We handle more of a workload; we don't get our heads around the work balance thing - this may not be a good thing, but it is a thing. And we have had to learn to shoulder more responsibility as some of us also take care of our parents as well as our kids. We are also tend to get a whole lot of people to manage at work, courtesy of the point two and three!

So what's the moral of this story? Simple really, digital transformation has to be driven by a digital culture, and you will fail as a business if you don't recognise the strengths of your multi-generational team in this context. Older in many instances is better (yes I said it!)

The cornerstones of a digital culture were designed for Gen X!

Collaboration: People need to work in connected cross-functional teams - in the same way that this will inform a business strategy it will build alignment across an organisation. Embracing technology in-house will keep multi-generational and diverse teams connected and will share knowledge and best practice. No one is an expert in digital transformation it is a joint journey.

Agile & responsive: This brave new world is about rinsing and repeating. The only constant is change and staying apace of the technology now and what is on the horizon is disruptive. Recruitment organisations from the top to the bottom need to be prepared to change, making adjustments all the to strategy, process, structure and technology.

Open & transparent: Harnessing the expertise that exists within the organisation is critical, going beyond the digital natives. It is important to create an environment that makes it safe to share ideas, where concerns can be surfaced.

Risk taking and innovation: Failed experiments are successful learning experiences. Provide the environment that celebrates calculated risk and uses this to drive innovation. Keep shifting and ideation to continually drive value and empower everyone to lean into change.

I leave you with Gary's best quote on the subject: “I have this great idea. Why not turn a retirement home into an incubator -- like a Facebook campus? These people are in the game, and they are going to live to 110 or 115 because of it.”


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