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What does the future of business look like? Gen Z are ripping up the rulebook

Gen Z’s business potential is huge and internationally-minded but needs support, writes Clara Nobre, Head of Business Product at Wise.

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Clara Nobre/Wise

Take 5 minutes to scroll through the #WorkFromHome hashtag on TikTok, and you’ll see a growing dissatisfaction, especially among Gen Z, towards the traditional 9-5 model of working. Gone are the days of a graduate turning up at their first job and leaving 40 years later when they retire. As we enter a new era of flexible working, the way people build businesses is changing too — and Gen Z is leading the way. 

The Deloitte 2022 Gen Z and Millennial survey showed that flexible working is a major priority for Gen Z. It found 75 per cent want either hybrid or fully remote working. They are also more vocal as employees, putting pressure on employers to take action on environmental issues and prioritise mental health. With many frustrated by feeling that their employers are not focusing on this, one-third of Gen Z in the UK wants to start their own business. 

Described as agile, creative and curious, this age group is unique in its experience, priorities and dedication, having navigated some of the biggest challenges of our lifetimes before they’ve even left school. Undeterred by the difficulties of the pandemic, they’re harnessing the shift towards workplace flexibility, and the Great Resignation, to pursue their own passions and projects that create solutions for society’s challenges. 

Apps like TikTok and Youtube have made it easier for Gen Z to connect and build business relationships with others around the world. Though they’re often criticised for jumping from one trend to another too quickly, it’s this constant determination to adapt that defines their way of doing business. As a result, they’re able to spotlight their passions by taking advantage of how people consume news today. 

Work-related hashtags on social media are filled with young professionals sharing how they revamped their careers and built a better work life balance. Many are also going viral for their innovative marketing techniques and by newsjacking social media trends. In turn, companies have either responded by lifting them up — or by firing them, inevitably provoking a social media backlash and highlighting their resistance to change. 

One example includes an American teen working for paint company Sherwin Williams, whose videos of him mixing paint garnered millions of views — probably the most attention videos of paint have ever had. 

With all this engagement, he put together a pitch deck to show management how they could harness this on a company level, but he ended up being fired once his employer found his videos. He ended up being hired by another, lesser-known paint company, who ultimately benefited from the social media buzz and gained many new customers.

Through this, a major marketing opportunity for the company turned into a social media firestorm. Employers should instead recognise the fresh perspective their younger employees bring, focus on developing a forward-thinking workforce, and incorporate them into their existing strategy to help them reach new generations of customers.

With the omnipotence of the internet and the changes that the pandemic brought to how global teams work together, company building has inherently become more international. 

Businesses are entering new markets earlier on in their lifecycle, with less capacity and budget than companies in the past, who would start international activities further down the line. This translates into a more global customer base, paired with companies’ increased attention to their social media strategies and followings. 

However, existing business infrastructure is built for primarily domestic SMBs —  historically, the companies that have started international activities were big multinationals, who had the budget to navigate overseas trade.  International banking is an example of this. 

Big companies can easily and cheaply send money overseas, but SMBs are not so well served. Banks offer these smaller businesses expensive, inefficient services that make it hard to send and manage money across borders. 

This is no longer good enough, especially for businesses started by internationally-minded young people. Whether it’s paying a supplier, paying salaries or navigating customs fees, international banking services are needed from day 1. With a domestic-focused banking provider, businesses will need to set up a new bank account in each market they enter, a process which is often slow, and adds extra expenses that could instead be reinvested into improving their product and services. 

To tackle this, companies need to recognise the needs of these businesses and focus on creating adaptable, affordable banking solutions that can accompany businesses on their international ventures. Their services need to reflect the multinational environments today’s businesses operate in. Young business owners should be focused on their passions and unique ideas, and not be forced to waste time and money trying to navigate clunky international banking systems. 

Gen Z’s potential is huge and internationally-minded businesses need support. Indeed, those services that support them now will be future-proofed as Gen Z’s businesses flourish. 

Those providers that are resistant to innovating, just like employers that are reluctant to embrace the flexibility that the modern workforce wants, will end up losing out to incumbents that have figured out how to cater to this group. 

Though Gen Z has been vocal about its vision for the future of work and business, it can’t achieve this by itself. Businesses need to recognise this generation’s potential and harness their talents to help build a business ecosystem that is designed to solve tomorrow’s problems. Otherwise, Gen Z’s potential will be stunted and their entrepreneurs will look elsewhere.

The views and opinions expressed are not necessarily those of AltFi.

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