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What Will Gen Z be Like?

Wednesday, October 23, 2013 - 07:35

By Leon Gettler

You thought Gen Y was something? Wait until you meet Gen Z. These are the ones born from 1995. The oldest of them will be turning 18 this year and they’re coming to a workplace near you. More to the point, they will be doing it at a time when there are skills shortages and an ageing population. So what will they be like to manage?

These young workers will be arriving when Baby Boomers will be retiring. They will need a different style of attention and direction from Gen Xers and Ys.

After all, this generation is radically different from any of the others. They seem to have grown up faster, they are educated earlier and they have been exposed to marketing a lot earlier. Another point is they are technologically literate, growing up in a wireless, hyperlinked, user-generated world where they are always only a click or three away from any piece of information. From my observation, they seem to value speed over accuracy.

Certainly they’ll be more connected than any other generation. A recent study from Wikia found that 60 per cent of this group said they like to share their knowledge with others.

US blogger and commentator Penelope Trunk says these people will be different from Gen Y in one important area: they won’t be team players.

Also, she says they’ll also be processing information at lightning speed. And of course, they’ll be very well educated which means they’ll be a lot smarter.

Pam Ross at Talent Culture says we can expect some massive changes when they settle into the workplace. And they’ll be needed because many of them will be working on jobs that don’t even exist today.

“By 2019, when Gen Zers are hitting the workplace, they will be working in 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.”

Needless to say, this is a generation that will be totally across social networking so managers will have to know how to work with that. This generation wants to interact and social media is perfect for that. They don’t want to be fed information. They want to see how things work. Just as importantly, they want to be seen. Another piece of advice: being so well educated, you should give them assignments as an opportunity to learn a new skill, rather than advance up the career ladder.

Bruce Tulgan from the consultancy Rainmaker Thinking says managers have to invest heavily in continuing re-education for this group.

“The basics of personal responsibility, problem solving, time management, and interpersonal communication are way too often missing in the new young workforce,” Tulgan writes. “Employers are finding it is well worth while to make a heavy investment in building a workplace culture of highly defined behavioural norms.”

He says this requires an ongoing process of teaching personal conduct, work habits, and the conduct of working relationships, provide a laser focus on roles, and have more intense working relationships.