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Generations: Now and Then

Since joining this fabulous industry more than 30 years ago, I’ve been seen huge changes, some of which I touched on in earlier blog about how the industry and the ISBN have changed. But someone asked me the other day if the individuals in the industry itself have changed over that time and I began thinking about the people we work with every day and if the young people are really so different today compared in the 1980s. There is so much talk about what a Millennial is and how they behave, much of it negative, but are they really that altered? Actually, I think there is an element of truth in the claims, but the differences aren’t all bad. There are a lot of improvements in this generation, and the youngsters coming up behind them, the GenZ or iGen.

The young today are super-eager to learn, and they pick things up faster. Perhaps it’s being reared on a constant stream of media via their devices, but I do think they are leaping ahead in a different way to the youngsters of 30 years ago. However, I worry we are not doing right by them regarding education, especially when they are so keen to learn. Too much emphasis is being put on virtual training. It does get us over the hurdle of delivering a consistent education to our teams separated by geography, but I don’t believe it replaces hands-on education.

The passion of stylists past and present is, if anything, even stronger today. They soak up inspiration like sponges, accessing so many ways of watching others. Previously, the only channel to see others work was in the magazines, which they didn’t read. What’s exciting today is that they don’t just look at images on social media, they analyze them and, being a confident generation, talk to one another across borders and thousands of miles. They’ll think nothing of messaging their heroes.

New recruits still consider themselves ‘creatives’ and are proving as reluctant to adopting a more sales-driven approach as they were in the 80s and before.

We have to make them understand that their success doesn’t come from simply keeping up with trends and new techniques; they must also think with a business head. How can they drive their own personal business; get clients to rebook as they leave or buy home care from them; or persuade clients to try more services? The polarization of the industry means that huge swathes are wallowing in the lower end, struggling to make ends meet. These guys definitely need to push their ticket sales.

I feel there is also a greater sense of commitment among many young people. They’ve been brought up without the ‘job-for-life’ security that new recruits in the early 80s might have felt. This fuels their hunger to learn but it might also encourage them to be even more transient – moving from company to company. Or it could make them sit tight when they find a good salon to be part of. Fewer women are leaving to be full-time mums than previously.

It all feeds into a greater professionalism within certain sections. But they can also be guilty of being unrealistic. They want to rule the world without putting in the hard work it takes to become good enough to be an educator or salon manager. And while they are respectful, I think sometimes it is a challenge to rein in their ambition to realistic levels. But, I guess, it’s always been a challenge.

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