There was a great discussion, and at times, debate, on #TChat last week, all about Generation Z and the workplace. It feels like we just learned about Gen Y and how to engage them in the workplace, and it’s already time to prepare for Gen Z!
Most people consider Gen Z, also called “Digital Natives”, to be those young people born around the mid 1990s to the mid 2000s. They are the first generation to be born into a completely digital age, hence the name “digital natives”.
Before I get into some research and predictions around this next generation, let me say this: I don’t believe in generalizing an entire generation. I have worked with amazing Gen Yers who had work ethic in spades, with Gen Xers who weren’t latchkey kids who depended on mom for many things, and with Boomers who know more about computers than I ever will (I’m a Gen Xer). However, there are bound to be some trends as different generations are brought up through such different social, economic, and technological times.
Intro to Gen Z
Gen Z’s most formative years have seen America attacked by terrorists, people losing jobs and homes in a severe economic recession, and the first black President of the United States. They have seen the power of social media in creating superstars and taking down governments. They have computers in their classrooms and many have their own websites or at least Facebook pages by age 10. Gen Zers have a benefit that Gen Yers missed: Their parents – mostly Gen X – were already adept at navigating social media, had seen mistakes made, and are more prepared to coach their kids through that space strategically.
Now for a few predictions and suggestions for the workplace.
If you’re not going social, you’re not going to get the best talent. Building a community around your brand and its values will help to engage these new workers. They were born on Facebook, quite literally. Use Youtube, use humour, go viral with your recruitment efforts.
Posting your company culture statement on the wall and preaching it to your employees never worked, but as time goes on, it continues to be less and less effective. Your employees, your customers, your business partners, are all talking about you. Publicly. If you’re not living up to the words on your poster, they will know. It will become more and more important for companies to build positive, transparent, and trusted cultures in order to attract talent.
Types of Jobs
By 2019, when Gen Zers are hitting the workplace, they will be working jobs that we never heard of or could imagine, even in the year 2011. Contract work will be the new normal. Multi-tasking will also be more prevalent – and more productive. Gen Y is the first generation who actually can multitask effectively, as shown in recent studies. Gen Z will be even more adept at paying attention and working productively at more than one thing at a time. They will expect it, and will be bored if they don’t get it.
It will finally be time to do away with Diversity departments and initiatives. For these workers, Diversity is a given. If you have to focus on it, you don’t get it yet. And they won’t get you. Gen Z will expect that everyone has a voice regardless of opinion, socio-economic background, or race.
Gen Zers don’t quite have the entitlement mentality often associated with Gen Y. Their parents, while protective and micro-managing, saw the effects of the Trophy generation and are trying to resist it. But Gen Zers will still expect to be involved. They see sharing and collaboration everywhere, from social media sharing to Taylor Swift partnering with T-Pain.
Social and Technology at Work
By 2019, forms of social networking for collaboration on projects and recognition will be a given. HR needs to get involved now, or be left in the dust. Innovative companies are employing internal blogs, newsfeeds, e-recognition, and socially networked performance management to align everyone towards the same goals. Check out companies and applications like Rypple, TribeHR, Careerify, Yammer and Achievers for examples of this type of technology. Email is not as popular with this generation. Texting, IM’ing, and Facebook is how they communicate.
Learning will need to be byte-sized and bite-sized. I picture Gen Zers with the iPhone 23S, scanning QR codes to watch a bite-sized video of learning they need, just in time to complete work. I picture them collaborating in building training, adding to Wikis to build content.
Gen Zers are used to communicating by text and in status updates on Facebook profiles. They are used to brevity. They may need additional training and coaching in business communication and grammar. Some say their propensity to blog will make them better at written communication, but I have to disagree. The form of communication in a blog is often not grammatically correct, and often times may not be entirely appropriate in business. Although, by the time Gen Zers are running the business world, that will likely change too.
It’s hard to say whether these predictions will come to fruition. We’ll know in about 10 years. In any case, I’m excited to see the impact Gen Z will have, and how the workplace will change. What do you think?