Employers across the world are preparing for the first members of Generation Z to enter the workforce. And research suggests a brand new proposition, very different to that of their predecessors from Generation Y – or ‘the millennials’ as they have become known.
Gen Z is a group of individuals born between 1994 and 2010. And, with the cost of attending university continuing to rise, many are choosing internships and apprenticeships – bringing them into the world of work sooner rather than later.
In 2001, education consultant Marc Prensky introduced us to the concept of ‘digital natives’ – those who have grown up surrounded by online technology.
The ‘millennials’ proudly held this title for the past decade or more. But, with my background in technology, I feel this term better describes those who about to enter employment for the first time.
I have seen, first-hand, how online technology has shaped the way they view the world. Now reaching their teens, they have been using digital devices since they were old enough to hold them – and will start work with a great deal of knowledge and experience of advances many employers can only dream of.
The emergence of employer policies like Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) will suit Generation Z down to the ground. Businesses are already reaping the rewards of allowing workers to bring in and use their own smartphones, laptops and tablets. And employee benefits like these will grow in popularity as the next generation enters the fray.
Although viewed as somewhat risky by some, allowing people to use devices they already feel comfortable with to access corporate information and complete their work can be hugely beneficial in terms of morale and cost savings.
Interestingly though, these techno wizards are more likely to respond to traditional forms of communication than their predecessors. They might know all about texting, Snapchat and Instagram – but many are online gaming connoisseurs who enjoy an audio connection with those they are ‘hooked up’ with.
They like to talk and to listen – and should respond well to meeting requests, rather than a constant stream of emails and imessaging.
Generation Z has another hugely significant influence. War and terrorism. These young people were shaped by a world transformed by the events of 9-11 and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Those who grew up surrounded by the uncertainty and insecurities of a world at war with terrorism are likely to be far more cautious – possibly more than any generation since their great grandparents who were born in the 1920s and 1930s.
They’re also acutely aware of the need for austerity – having spent their formative years living through the depths of recession. Even so, employers could actually find it more difficult to retain talented Generation Z workers, as many seek out new opportunities to gain experience and add extra strings to their bows.
It seems that money is not the big motivator among our forthcoming swathe of new employees. The off-spring of Generation X, they appear to be more entrepreneurial and strategic than their elders. They have seen the difficulties prompted by the economic recession and are intent on finding ways around them. The prospect of succeeding through challenging times is more of an incentive than money alone.
There are many reasons to be optimistic about this exciting new generation. Above all, proving as an employer that you are honest and trustworthy will gain you loyal additions to your team who are equipped with a will to succeed and excellent communications skills – online and otherwise.