Having only begun getting to grips with Generation Y, we are now faced with welcoming Generation Z into our workplaces, those born in or after 1995. Z make Y seem like an easy ride; I am Father to two of them. While my kids are still in secondary school, we know a number at third level and this group have some significant characteristics. If Generation Y was the “Now” generation, those that expected everything in life to happen at the push of a big red button, Generation Z are not happy at even having to push the button. They grew up in a world where everything is done through the internet and they are complex. On one hand their attention span is almost non-existent but on the other, they take a real interest in current affairs. They have grown up with faces locked to a variety of screens, absorbing a huge amount of data and seem content to take it all in.
EXTREME WORLD EVENTS
Generation Y challenged us in our workplaces. We initially mistook their outlook as them believing the World owed them a living, ultimately they showed us the importance of having purpose and meaning in our work. Generation Z seem to have an even broader perspective again. They have of course grown up through a period of extreme terrorism and economic instability, a time of considerable focus on social inequality. Consequently they seem more focused on and connected to the need to have a good job and valuable career. They certainly see fewer barriers than Generation X or Generation Y and are likely to be more entrepreneurial as a consequence. My eldest daughter travelled to Uganda with her school to work on a project and had to raise her own money to enable this. Her experience throughout Transition Year was similar; get out and work, raise funds and give your time to those that need it. A far cry from the summer bar work I did when I was her age.
Generation Z present the ultimate challenge to employers seeking to attract their attention. They have rules on what they deem acceptable and intuitive practices around social media which are a mystery to the rest of us. They prefer information on job opportunities by text rather than phone calls (which they can find intrusive and rude) and shun explicit job advertising. This is the most connected and networked generation yet. Many have moved on beyond Facebook and make more live (albeit not real to me) connections through apps like Snapchat and WhatsApp. The planet is truly a very small place for them and this generation will expect your organisation to be reflective of their diverse and accepting World.
It is still perhaps too early to fully understand what their drivers in the workplace will be, the mission will need to be important and aligned to their purpose and we can expect the same emphasis on work life integration as with Generation Y. Integration is different from balance, it includes authentic cultural fit and life alignment, this generation is maturing fast and has a clear and reasonable view of how society is meant to be. As adults we are of course the interlopers in their world, what is already remarkable, is the clarity and firmness by which they defend their perspective.
Every year we look to the graduate outcrop to try and evaluate what each layer of the new generation is like, what their drivers are and assess if they are ready for our workplaces. Generation Z we believe, will be the first of these to pose the question back, are our workplaces ready for them?