Leading a Multi-Generational Workforce – Generation Z

They are true digital natives for whom digital technology is ubiquitous.

Leading a Multi-Generational Workforce – Generation Z

They are beginning to enter the workforce. The oldest amongst this group are just 20 years of age. If you thought GenY were a handful in the workplace, then you might be surprised about the emergence of Generation Z. It is entirely possible that you haven’t even heard of GenZ, so let’s put some parameters around this generation. The eldest GenZ have just turned 20 and the youngest are just starting school, at 5 years of age. So as a workplace cohort, they are yet to make any impression at all, but they soon will. By total numbers, GenZ are the largest generation ever, comprising around 20% or 4.5 million of Australia’s population. Consequently, they will dominate the workforce within 15 years.

As discussed previously, the way each generation sees and interacts with the world is shaped by their experiences, particularly as early teenagers. Based on this, at least half of GenZ are yet to have their world view fully formed. The major social, political and economic events of the next decade will define this generation.

There are however, some features of GenZ which are already well defined. This is the social media generation. They are true digital natives for whom digital technology is ubiquitous. They are living digital and virtual lives. Their world is an entirely connected world. Whether it is streaming friends on the other side of the world into tonight’s dorm party, or simply playing FIFA Football with a cousin in Belgium or Brazil, their virtual relationships are as natural and up to date as if they travel and chat on the bus with these people every day.

What may be of some surprise is the likelihood of GenZ being relatively conservative. Compared to the freewheeling GenY, they will look positively boring; more often content to stay home and engage via their devices. This generation are the children of GenX, so their conservatism is partly environmental, but also being shaped by the events occurring around them. The GenZ world is a world of global terrorism, Ebola and extremes of poverty and wealth; all streamed directly to their screens, with minute to minute updates on body counts, climate catastrophes and Kim Kardashian’s butt status. That reality is re-enforced by ‘told you so’ GenX parents.

One upside is that GenZ are going to be savers. In a return to habits of times that seemed long gone, GenZ will show the way by actually saving their own money to purchase goods and services. They will exercise an economic balance that older generations seemed incapable of finding.

They will enter the workforce fully expecting to work until well into their 70’s, so cannot visualise what retirement may look like. Demographers tell us that any child born in Australia since 2000 has a 50% probability of living until 100. That is reassuring to GenZ, who are prepared to take things as they come, knowing there will be many more tomorrows.

But most notably, GenZ care for the environment and climate. It is more than a sentiment. It is THE issue that will define this generation. GenZ are environmental activists and may just reverse many of the global climate crises in the nick of time.

So what can we expect of GenZ at work? Anything less than fully digital workplaces will repel GenZ. Virtual work and telecommuting will be their norm. They do not understand the need for face to face meetings that do not add significant value and they will not put up with such nonsense.

GenZ will be attracted to ‘results-only’ workplaces, of which there are very few today, although many more will emerge over the next 10 years. This will complement their experience of ‘results-only’ universities. Getting a degree is a serious business to GenZ. They have a “Get in, get out” attitude and if it can be done on-line, then all the better. Yes, they will have fun, but their experience of university will be very different from generations before.

Businesses that demonstrate their environmental credentials and walk the talk will become highly sought after as places for GenZ to be associated with.

Many GenZ will balance two and three jobs simultaneously, able to manage the loads through their mastery of emerging digital and yet to be developed technologies.

GenZ are a surprising and refreshing generation. The oldest are quietly joining your workforce today. Unless you can meet their very new and different needs, they will quietly disappear and join somebody who can.