I love exploring generational differences, both in the workplace and generally in society. Whilst of course there are some generalisations that get applied, and not every member of every generation has the same foundational experiences, but it’s hard to miss the fact that there are certain changes, events and experiences which form the behaviours, attitudes and beliefs of new generations.
Whilst we’ve all heard more opinions than most of us care to imagine about the Millennials (otherwise known as Gen Y), who have really mixed it up inside workplaces, we’ve been a little quieter and more reserved when it comes to Gen Z.
So to you Gen Z – welcome to the workplace, it’s fabulous to have you here, and I for one can’t wait to see the impact you are going to make on how we work, how we approach careers and how we can do things differently and better.
If you’re wondering who Gen Z is – they are the generation born roughly between 1995 and 2009 – so at the time of writing this they are around 12-26 years old, and so yes, at least half of them are in the workplace right now. There are 5 million Gen Z’s in Australia, so they currently form just under 20% of our total population.
By 2030 – Gen Z will represent a third of our workforce. That’s not too long away, and it’s a significant slice of the pie.
Now if you thought the generations before them were tech savvy, wait till you see Gen Z. They are the first generation of true digital natives and integrators. They are the first generation who grew up with an iPhone and iPad literally in their hands – hence some refer to them as ‘iGen’.
As a result, there are some really interesting things to learn about this generation. Given their natural inclination and exposure to digital technology, it’s no surprise that technical literacy in the workplace matters to them – and they may therefore be frustrated by workplaces, or people within the workplace, who are not strong in this space. They will also be seeking work environments where they can work with exciting new technology – no matter the industry or career path. Cutting edge tech is something they will crave and will chase the opportunity to work with.
Another fascinating factor is that they communicate more in images than text – another by product of growing up with iPhones at the ready. Oh, and you won’t be surprised that this tech exposure can also mean they can be less focused, with a shorter attention span – meaning they will shift focus often and easily. In fact, it’s estimated that most Gen Z’s will be comfortable working off 5 screens simultaneously. Now I’m a huge fan of multiple screens and have been known to struggle when only my laptop is available – but 5 – wow! There is no doubt they will be amazing multi taskers.
Unlike their millennial counterparts, thanks largely in part to the more challenging economic climate they are growing up in, they are seeking more security in work, they are realists and are more financially cautious than you might expect.
Gen Z love social interaction – they want to interact with people. This is important to factor into the workplaces, teams and environments we build for them at work. Whether it is around projects, problem solving, tasks and careers, social interaction is valuable to them and integrating this into the workplace will really help.
Studies show that Gen Z see a weekly check in – face to face – with their leader as optimal. They much prefer shorter, regular, in person catch ups when it comes to their work than rare, longer form check ins.
You have no doubt been hearing the push towards values based organisations, and read studies showing that businesses with strong and well articulated values, which are demonstrated in what they do and how they do it, have a stronger ability to attract and retain the best people – and Gen Z will absolutely continue to push for this.
In fact, as many as 63% of Gen Z believe that values and culture alignment is more important to them than salary and remuneration packages – a huge sigh of relief to all the NFP and values led businesses who may not be able to match corporates with dollars, but win every time when it comes to well articulated and demonstrated values. If they can see their role making a positive impact on not only the organisation, but also some other lofty objective or purpose, even better.
Perhaps most exciting to me – is that this may be our biggest generation ever of entrepreneurs, partly attributed to their innate love for autonomy. Any group that can put a fresh injection of talent and ideas into the entrepreneurial pool I think can make huge impacts on a scale perhaps never seen before.
So truly Gen Z welcome – I am so excited to see how you shape the way of work in the future.
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