There have been numerous articles, podcasts and YouTube videos warning us about this different breed of employees – Generation Y. Generation Y or Millennials are born between 1980 and the end of 1994 and usually the offspring of Baby Boomers. If you have done your maths Millennials are between 20 and 35 now and are not only owning and staffing most tech start-ups in Silicone Valley and across the world but they are also are moving into senior positions in large organisations now.
If your HR team are still running presentations on how to prepare for the coming of Gen Y you’re too late because Generation Z are very close behind them and are already in your workforce and research shows that they are even more different.
Entrepreneurial Learning Culture
Generation Y’s optimism and resilience is being tempered by Generation Z’s recession forged practicality and resourcefulness. Learning and entrepreneurship are the new currencies for success with 61% of Generation Z would rather be an entrepreneur instead of an employee when they graduate.
While technology is important to Millennials, it is essential to our Gen Zs. Whereas Millennials use 3 screens on average, GEN Zers use 5 and they watch between two and four hours of YouTube and less than an hour of traditional television per day. According to the World Economic Forum Facebook has a population substantially bigger than China, India is third and WhatsApp has the 4th largest population in the world.
Contact and Authenticity
Despite this almost full integration of technology 51% of Gen Z say they prefer in-person communications with managers, as opposed to emailing (16%) or instant messaging (11%). For a generation starved of the genuine through spin, Photoshop and sponsored, product placement, authenticity is highly prized.
The Future Laboratory has nicknamed Gen Z Generation Viz or Visual; as advances in accessible technology and skills mean that videos are the new PowerPoint and animation the new infographic. Messaging will be shorter and sharper reflecting the nature of the social media that surrounds their world.
The Shape of the Workforce
Contract working and portfolio careers will change the way our organisations operate and grow. With a world over half full of entrepreneurs there will be less traditional employees and therefore the powerbase and the need for different relationships will enviably need to shift. Reward, recognition and retention concepts will need be overhauled too.
Noreena Hertz spent 18 months interviewing over 2000 Generation Zs and nicknamed them Generation K after the powerful female Hunger Games character Katniss Everdeen. Gender neutrality will become not only more commonplace but an automatic or intrinsic part of company culture. Gender, disability, sexual preference race, and religion gaps will all but disappear in the work place too. Facebook offers 4 months paternity leave to males employees including same sex couples.
Collaboration and Ownership
Generation Zers like to co-create, they like to be part of a solution and have their own stamp on it. This is exemplified by the Pokéball Frappuccino and the somewhat obviously named he Purple Drink in Starbucks; not on the advertised menu, but there is a secret menu (go ahead, look it up) where customers are creating their own variations on the advertised options. The concept of co-creation goes beyond customized cold beverages, the majority of the workspaces created by the new generations are open plan and collaborative, engineered to be flexible and build communities.
- Whilst many large organisations relish the concept of an entrepreneurial mindset, it rarely fits comfortably with the structures, systems and cultures of behemothic organisations. How are you going to build cultures that attract and flourish entrepreneurial activities to accelerate your business growth?
- So many of today’s organisations still only share the “extra kit” with the executives where the “senior iPad” gathers dust in the offices of the top floor and still I argue with leaders and trainers who ban devices form meeting and training rooms. Does your IT strategy recognise who will be more effective and efficient with the appropriate technology?
- More and more businesses are adding to the traditional email by embracing instant messaging, video conferencing and contrary to popular opinion Gen Zs are crying out for authentic, human contact. How are you maximising genuine face time with your people and does your leadership strategy demand and measure authenticity?
- I have seen so many organisations so very excited about how they have managed to get their IT strategy into an infographic whilst my son has written and edited a film to form part of his introduction and induction to college. How are your After Effects skills and how are you focusing your internal and external communications for Gen Viz?
- Large, traditional organisations still talk about retention and still foster long-term incentive plans; the workforce of (literally) tomorrow don’t care about these things their motivators are very different.
- In many organisations, those that hold the purse strings for facilities like their offices and their individual desks, they may well have tried buying a couple of sofa fro IT as a test but truly collaborative and flexible spaces are still largely in Silicone Valley or their local offices. If you won’t let the creative minds help you create your future they will go and do it for themselves or worst for your competitor.
There are many debates about should we give way to these changes or just “teach them how to operate in the workspace”. The change is coming and the change is a good thing, like evolution it will drive survival and success it s time to embrace it and make the changes.
I believe that whilst highly descriptive, these “generational behaviours” are not limited to strict age groups, you can by 20 with a Baby Booker mindset and you can be over 40 with a Gen Z mindset. I’m off to enjoy my Purple Drink.