Welcome to the workforce, Generation Z

by Jobbatical January 27, 2015

Photo: “Do not throw hats” Rob Chan via Flicker

Defining generations is somewhat clumsy, with the idea of an arbitrary line between two birth years feeling unrealistic, and yet the broad brush stereotypes defining the differences between generations still seeming to resonate.

The exact starting and finishing years of different generations are subject to dispute, and the monikers attached to different generations change as the characteristics of that age-group’s experiences, preferences and trends show themselves. This is how Generation Y came to be known as ‘Millennials’, with even the originators of the name ‘Gen Y’, Ad Age, eventually agreeing that ‘Millennials’ better encompassed the sense of shift and change in our generation, in technology, in global politics and economics, and in the world of work.

And so to Gen Z, which is measured as starting from around 1995. Where millennials might remember the CD Walkman, Gen Z can’t remember a life without the internet, let alone without instant access to music, videos and every possible fact known to man; and the arrival of this first wave of true digital natives is sure to change the way we work.

Who are Gen Z?

I have no doubt that, like ‘Gen Y’, the title ‘Generation Z’ will simply be a ‘placeholder’ until a better moniker makes itself known — but whatever they are called, this new generation are now approaching 20, and hitting our workforce in full time jobs, summer positions and internships. Naturally, what we know about the shift in ideas, ideals and expectations amongst this group is developing all the time, but some research and predictions are already emerging.

According to research carried out by McCrindle in Australia, Gen Z globally will number 2 billion, be true digital integrators, and be more likely than any of the previous generations to achieve a university level education.

They are predicted to have 17 jobs — and 15 different homes — during their lives, suggesting that the current trend towards a working lifetime being made up of a series of short and varied careers, will continue. This staggering figure also supports the idea that mobility will continue to increase as the world becomes a true global pool allowing people to move where their interests, passions, and opportunities take them.

Gen Z in the workplace

Many of the Gen Z predictions are exactly that — best guesses based upon evidence gleaned as this generation passes adolescence and comes of age. Researchers have, however, been able to look at preferred learning styles and interests during their school years, and from that we can extrapolate what Gen Z in the workplace might start to mean.

As teenagers, this generation have gone beyond digital natives, and become digital integrators, including technology in every aspect of life. They will spend more than ten hours a day interacting with technology in one way or another, and over half of the 2 billion Gen Z-ers are, or will be on facebook. A staggering half a billion texts are likely to be sent by them on a daily basis once they all come of age.

In the work place this will lead to an expectation of integration. Not technology for technology’s sake — the Internet, smart phones and tablets have never been a novelty for this generation — but functional, blended use of technology mixed with face to face communication and working.

If Gen Y helped the workplace evolve, Gen Z could start a revolution as they have not been part of the commuter culture and may we seek to push the boundaries of flexibility even further for all of us.

Leading Gen Z

Research on this generation whilst in school can help us imagine their learning and communication style in the workplace — they have moved from a verbal learning style to a visual, and are happier to try and see, rather than sit and listen. In this way they are a stark contrast to their grandparents’ — and even parents’- generations. Growing up with Google, the ability to assimilate real world information is more important than the skill of memorising facts, and as such this generation will become facilitators, curious to lead their own learning, rather than sponges happy to be taught.

In the workplace this promises some exciting changes, as autonomy and personal drive contribute both to learning, personal development, and an ability to drive ones own career more so than ever before.

About The Author

Claire Millard, Group Personnel Manager at Tesco, is currently on a sabbatical and exploring her passion for writing with Jobbatical.com


Image via Flickr

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