I don’t want to alarm anyone – after all, it feels like only a short while since we were talking about the arrival of Gen Y, the Millennials, in the world of work – but Gen Z are now well and truly on their way. Splitting generations is always a somewhat arbitrary process with an imaginary line drawn and debated, and clearly a rough measure at best. But we do tend to see unifying features in different generations making them useful at least as a broad brushstroke illustration of what to expect.
And so it is with Gen Z – the starting point for this generation has been set at 1995, with the eldest of this group now hitting the workforce in full-time jobs and internships as they turn twenty. But what more can we expect from this new generation as they come of age?
Although many of Gen Zs are still children, research has already been carried out to try to predict and extrapolate what this generation will bring to the world. With 2 billion Gen Z people globally, we can be sure we will see an impact – with a generation more likely than ever before to achieve a university-level education, and who, when they all come of age, are likely to send half a billion tweets per day. The research also suggested that this generation will continue the trend away from a ‘job-for-life’ model and towards a series of short careers, with 17 jobs and 5 mini careers over a working lifetime looking likely.
Beyond digital natives
Digital natives, those of us who have always grown up with computers and internet technology, have an affinity with tech and see it as useful gadgetry to make everyday life easier. Whether we are early adopters or not, we see the benefits of new ideas and perhaps like to show off a little with our knowledge of what’s hot and what’s new.
The signs are that Gen Z will take this even further, becoming digital integrators who draw from technology all of its useful functions; integrating it so far into their lives is not an additional extra, but a building block. The potential advantage for this group is that they see technology for what it is – some of the novelty which leads us to buy gadgets, which are superfluous or ultimately useless, will have been lost on a group that has never experienced the clunky, non-intuitive tech of the 90s and early 2000s.
Changing leadership styles
The other change which will affect the working world is Gen Z’s preferred learning and communication style. Whilst the research has been carried out on the generation before many of them have reached maturity, their schooling experiences are actually a very good predictor of how they will want to learn and be managed in the workplace. We can see that they will take the ’sit and listen’ model of learning, and replace it with a learner-centric ’try and see’ way of working, preferring to make their own way, and collaborate, rather than be led within a hierarchy.
Gen Z looks likely to prefer to contribute to work by problem solving, rather than being the possessors of facts and pure book learning; they seem set to value flexibility in their career more than previous generations, and will seamlessly integrate technologies we can only yet dream of into their everyday lives.
All this research, of course, may be subject to change as the generation matures and comes of age – what is for sure, though, is that Gen Z will shake up the world of work every bit as much as us Millennials did.