Changes are Coming — From A to (Generation)Z
There is a new generation of employees starting to enter the workforce. Generation Z (or GenZ or Zappers or Plurals or Post-millennials or Digital Natives or iGen or, my personal favourite, “screenagers” ) are made up of those born after 1995. This group makes up more than a quarter of the US population, with similar numbers for other regions in the world (if not even larger percentages in some nations), including Canada.
Once completely entered into the workforce they will make up the largest population of employees, although right now they are just beginning to come into the employee market so have not yet taken up their rightful place. And when they do arrive, they will be large contributors to shifting the workplace — forever!
Generation Z is a generation that is: a) global; b) social; c) visual; and d) technological.
They have grown up with 3 core themes that have not been present for any generation before them:
a) crisis periods of terrorism and the threat of terrorism;
b) global recession and financial crisis with all the resulting restructuring; and
c) climate change.
For Generation Z (the first of this new century), coming of age in the 21st Century has created a unique generation — from the global financial crisis to expanding cultural diversity; from global brands to social media and an increasingly digital world. Generation Z are the most materially endowed, technologically saturated, formally educated generation our world has ever seen. On average they will: live longer, stay in education later, and work across more careers than any prior generation. Only occasionally does massive demographic change collide with huge technological growth, coupled with significant social change — yet this is exactly what Generation Z has experienced so far. The coming together and overlap of these trends has so transformed their (and ultimately, our) society, it is radically different to the times that shaped their parents and is positively unrecognizable to the world their grandparents first knew.
Gen Z is the first generation to be truly a global one. Not only are the music, movies and celebrities as global for them as they have been for previous generations, but through technology, globalisation and our culturally diverse times, the fashions, foods, online entertainment, social trends, communications and even the “must watch YouTube videos and memes” are global as never before.
As a generation with many unique qualities and experiences that have contributed to their view of the world as well as by virtue of their shear numbers, this incoming generation will impact the working world of the future/change the world of work:
a) highly connected, active users of alternative communications and media technologies — as the first generation completely raised with technology with a capital “T”, they are early adopters of new technology and will require training delivered in a more instantaneous and visually stimulating manner;
b) existing internal communication systems, such as email, will be replaced with other methods of team based/individual tools. GenZ will be overall instant minded, have a faster life rhythm and will have a tendency more towards being individualistic and self-directed;
c) technology investment (either for initial implementation or for upgrades) will need to comprise an increasingly greater portion of budgets in order to keep up with demand/expectations;
d) “just in time” learning will be more prevalent than traditional routes of education. i.e. as secondary and post secondary education content and delivery continue to evolve and shift, recruitment will be drawing from talent pools that have graduated from alternative education sources/modes of delivery;
e) collaboration will be a greater requirement for job satisfaction and accessed through a broader number and type of channels e.g. work units will increasingly be no longer required to be face to face and can span locations however will require tools and frameworks that support collaboration as well as the sharing and distribution of images and information;
f) social media drivers — communication with this group will be through non-traditional methods and platforms for communication. GenZ will use advanced communication channels and online social platforms but they will play a complementary rather than substitute role in their life, which differs substantially from GenY/Millennials;
g) they are not “readers” and visual content/soundbites guide their assimilation of knowledge e.g internal training materials and communications will need to be adapted to the needs of the incoming generation — voice/phone calls replaced with video chats;
h) environmental and social issues are core to their value system and will need to have a level of commitment demonstrated from an employer along with policies that support, in order for a GenZ to feel connected as an employee, which will be desired due to their increased need for affiliation and belonging;
i) household and work structures are changing and their expectations for a work environment will reflect those changes, everything related to the W5 — who, what, when, where, including how e.g. greater percentage of employees will be working remotely; eldercare will continue to increase as a priority; spirituality and belonging will be strong drivers; organizations will be flatter and relationships within the organization will be less hierarchical due to levels, and accessibility, of knowledge.
Generation Z is global, social, visual and technological
As a result of these evolving needs and drivers that will be shaping the workplace of the future, there will be challenges and opportunities for HR and leaders along the way. To follow are some areas that will show a peek into the broad spectrum of shifts that we can anticipate in our future:
a) leadership practices — increasing number of employees will be virtual/remotely delivering work, resulting in needs for alternative methods of collaboration and fostering team connectivity — less monitoring and more empowering;
b) training — leaders of this generation will need to be retrained in how to manage remote workforces/teams. Although GenZ have a strong need for empowerment and flexible working conditions, the context of growing up around the threat of terrorism, environmental issues and political/societal upheaval will result in their being highly concerned with satisfying safety and belonging needs — strong needs for social interactions will be noticeable, as a result of the power, draw and significance of peer or collegial groups/teams;
c) communication — ensuring that employees are being reached through their preferred mode and type of communication — they will be native speakers of technology as opposed to earlier generations who have technology as a “2nd language”;
d) employee development — traditional methods of assessing performance are becoming out of step with the level and type of feedback required by employees; these evolving methods will need to be such that they connect and satisfy the hunger for development and growth opportunities;
e) management/leadership training — for the 1st time, due to recessional issues and the length of time that workers are remaining in the workforce, employers will be managing 4 generations at the same time, with very different expectations, communication styles/needs and skills for working in a technologically oriented workplace;
f) employee relations — managers will be providing leadership to many employees who will be more advanced in their knowledge and adaptation skills and are expecting flatter organizational structures, input on collaborative work and definitions of success in the workplace. Coaching provided by HR and senior managers will need to add in these modifications into their leadership development programs.
g) compensation — total compensation plans will need to incorporate not just cash compensation but rewards & recognition programs that are built around social and environmental contributions back to the community e.g. opportunities for eldercare, access to more comprehensive tuition programs as options for post secondary education continue to diversity.
h) recruitment and selection — accessing talent pools will continue to involve continually shifting sources of recruitment. e.g. use of current or emerging technology will require HR and recruiting teams are on top of not just current trends/technological advances but must be continually forecasting where the next trend will occur.
All of the above cannot be characterized as “good” or “bad” for HR. It does however indicate a need for significant change and adaptation with a pretty substantial push for urgency, in order to meet these shifting workplace needs. Education and development of HR Leaders must incorporate how to manage this level of evolution in order to be proactive enough so as to positively contribute to what will be a phenomenal generation for change in the workplace.
Thanks for reading — I’m Debra Walker. I’m a business coach, content strategist, researcher, content creator and writer. For all of my career I have been helping individuals/organizations set and realize goals. You can ask me to work with you, invite me to speak at your event, or set up a conversation on your podcast. I’m excited to hear from you!