Move over Millennials, Gen Z is here!

Last week, 15-year old Eddie broke the internet. The BBC first ran a news story on the teen who ran a Railway’s Twitter account for a day, then profiled him the next day. The Washington Post, HuffPost, and other outlets ran with their own stories. The Telegraph reported:

The teenager quickly became a social media sensation, after his quick witted responses won over Twitter users who began asking him questions using the hastag #AskEddie

So who is Eddie, and how did he break the internet?

Eddie is a 15-year old, who handled the Southern Rail company’s Twitter account for a day (that then became two) as part of his summer work experience. As a true digital native, he took to his role with pizzazz. Customers loved his snappy comebacks to silly questions, and left off the grumbling and complaints that the company’s Twitter account usually received. An internet sensation was born- and an unexpected PR win for the company.

There have been many studies on different generations in the workplace, and some disagreement about the validity of differences between generations. Google’s Laszlo Bock is on record saying that at Google, he attempts to create a great work environment for all generations, because all employees want the same things from their employer (I paraphrase here, he said it more elegantly).

I have no doubt that Eddie’s familiarity with the digital world – he wouldn’t have known a life before Twitter, Facebook or Google – made him far more comfortable sharing his thoughts and comments. He did not see a need to evaluate his responses, or run them by managers, or even think twice before responding to customers like they were old friends.

What stood out for me though, is the simple success of the old HR mantra – put someone with right skills and attitude in a job that brings out their strengths, then get out of their way and watch them shine! Despite the Southern Rail’s clearly bureaucratic structure, they put Eddie in front of customers, and let him free, with all the publicity (good or bad) that it could bring. I can’t think of many organizations that would do that. Southern Rail (or more specifically, Eddie’s managers), took a risk, and it paid off.

Eddie’s Twitter comments brought a smile to my face. Look up some of the articles if you want to know more.

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