Z is for… 5 things to expect when employing the so-called generation Z worker
Just for clarity let’s make sure we all know who we are talking about when we mention generation Z in this article. I am sure you are aware of, and indeed many of you reading this probably are members of, what became demographically known as Millennials. These are people who reached young adulthood somewhere around the turn of the century. Well, to put it simply ‘Generation Z’ are the people who are reaching maturity (or at least close to it) about now.
Millennials grew up digitally
Millennials were rather interesting because they were the first generation to have grown up digitally and then matured in an era of relative prosperity and peace. As a consequence, they are considered good with technology, project focused, goal orientated and career minded but also (and in my honest opinion this is rather unfair) self-centred, overly concerned with popularity, and trend focused to the point of narcissism. Despite the downside of the millennial, however, they are very career-minded and make very good workers.
Gen Z is digitally immersed
Generation Z is a whole different ball game. While millennials were digitally native, the Z-Gen is digitally immersed. They grew up not just with computing but with smart devices that link them to a world of information. They were schooled with tablets and smartphones on hand, unemployment has been low for most of their lives, fake news and instant information are part of their world, and the politics that the millennials are supposedly detached from was ever present in their news feeds.
So, what does this mean for an employer as the Gen-Z youngsters enter the employment market?
- They will be involved and detached at the same time. The Gen-Z employee has grown up with the influence of millennials and is more likely to be involved in their working life. They will see a career rather than a job. However, they grew up in a time defined by the safety of their technology, so they may well take fewer chances and look for the safer option. Also, many will have seen the recession hit their lives, and that tends to breed a need for safety and security.
- Technological immersion is part of life for them. Smart has always been there for the Gen-Z. They are likely to be quite dependent on their tech and, where a millennial may falter when presented with a non-tech solution, to a Gen-Z it may be even more difficult to improvise. That said, the skill of almost instinctive technological use may also be their greatest asset.
- A different understanding of media makes Gen-Z different. This is the first generation to not need the traditional media outlets, and that means they see the world from a global perspective and in an almost non-linear way. For the Gen-Z a story can be spread over multiple carriers and through any media. Does that make them potentially great communicators? You bet it does. Gen-Z will revolutionise marketing. The downside is they sometimes have difficulty sifting the mass of information they receive.
- Will they be defined by a lack of long-term focus? Well, possibly. The world is a fast and interconnected place for a Gen-Z person. That may mean a shorter attention span than the millennial and possibly much shorter than the baby boomers. It remains to be seen if the Gen-Zers have swapped attention for flexibility.
- They are the entrepreneurial, multitasking, information machine! One of the expectations of Gen-Z is that the constant interaction with multiple information sources such as social media, messaging and smart devices will create a ‘multi-tasking by nature’ worker. What may be lost in long-term planning could end up being more than compensated for in speed and adaptability coupled with a remarkable ability to absorb information.
In many ways, I am a fan of the idea of the Generation Z employee because they have so much to offer. Gen-Z is the next wave, and for the employer, it is important that we consider who and what they are because frankly, we will need their skills.