We know. Millennials are all the rage in the workplace. They have been called the “thinkers of today”, the generation with the social conscience and are the darlings of workforce planners looking for reasons to implement new programs and processes; because after all, planners love any reason to plan new stuff. Having read their own press, millennials (and they may reject my use of a lower case “m” here, but the jury is out) may be a little tainted with “success entitlement”; frankly they see a future full of success and according to many experts expect lots of support along the way to find it. That has caused us to rethink how we manage, develop and equip them. Time in the footlights can be fleeting though; Millennials are already faced with the daunting reality that the next generation will soon make its way into the workplace: “Generation Z”. What a cool name—finally a generation made for the 21stCentury. Like others before it, this generation will cause businesses to reassess what it takes to nurture, recruit, develop and retain them. It will cause the fainthearted to wilt before it. It is a force.
Workforce consultant Ruth Bernstein sees one obvious advantage for Gen Z’ers over their Millennial contemporaries; they are the first born into—rather than adapting to—a “digital world”. They are digital natives. Where Millennials may see their place in the world being to shake up the status quo a bit from within the mainstream, Bernstein sees Gen Z as the technology savvy innovators with a completely different mindset. They are entrepreneurial, innovative and never challenged by technology. In fact, they may well swim far outside the mainstream of their post-degree hosts if those businesses don’t adapt to develop and support their entrepreneurial spirit.
They will nearly certainly be disruptive.
We are in the process of modifying how we develop talent to accommodate the Millennials. Or perhaps we are just reaching an evolutionary milestone on the path to the coming generation. Gamification, social recruiting, consumerization; we have seen great advances. But harnessing the power in Gen Z may mean that our focus shifts from merely accommodating workers with step changes to processes and technologies, to one of empowering and enabling workers who want to innovate entirely new businesses. And it’s not too soon to think outside the box and get ready.
Adopting the notion of a business as “incubator” for the entrepreneurial innovators it hosts–and then acting like on–is surely one tactic that smart executives will bring to the party as Gen Z introduces an entrepreneurial spirit and desire to innovate into industry. Enabling communities of innovators, modifying rewards systems with incentives for innovation, and evolving the role of a business from employer to venture partner are starts. Starts.
Millennial Branding, and Randstad, a leading HR services and staffing company, recently conducted a study of 1,000 employees from 10 countries to “help employers motivate, drive, and inspire, the newest generation for recruitment and retention.”
The findings of the study helped paint the picture of Generation Z a little more clearly.
- 17% of Gen Z’rs vs. 11% of Millennials said they want to start their own business and hire others.
- They aren’t motivated by money quite as much as the Millennials. Only 28% said money would motivate them to work harder or stay with an employer longer.
- 53% of Generation Z’rs prefer face to face communication; perhaps surprising given their status as digital natives. They actually find instant messaging to be one of the largest negative influences on productivity in the workplace.
You’ll have to be creative rather than a money dispenser to keep this generation happy.
Gen Z seems more grounded in reality than the generation immediately preceding it. Dan Schawbel, founder of Millennial Branding, attributes these preferences to the economic climate into which they were born. Jim Link, Chief Human Resource Officer at Randstad agrees; “They witnessed homes being foreclosed, so they’re going to be savers, realistic about how things get done and how hard they’re going to have to work to get them done, which will make them more open to new ideas and new ways of doing things.”
They are savvy to the realities of life.
Interestingly, by the time the Gen Z hits the workforce at scale, Millennials will be in management positions. That will yield opportunities for collaboration between two innovative generations but also brings with it the possibility of turmoil beyond what we’ve seen before. The Millennials, with their expectations of success and perhaps idealistic view of their place entered the workplace with hoopla and buzz not really trumpeted for other generations; and frankly may have trouble delivering against it. By contrast Gen Z actually feels more like a blend of Boomer values but born into a digital age. We might even go out on a limb and say that where recent generations may have been more “self-absorbed”, Gen Z may be more “self aware” with an entrepreneurial bend. That’s a powerful combination of realist and dreamer.
If the pundits assessing Gen Z are right it is this unique blend of technology savvy, entrepreneurial spirit, and a realist’s viewpoint on the world that could make this generation the one that reshapes how businesses view themselves and exploit a rich catalyst for change. At the very least, this generation has workforce planners rubbing their hands in glee as they fall asleep at night with visions of redesigned processes, culture studies and transformation programs dancing in their heads.
Someone once said the only constant is change.
Apparently, that was the wisest person ever born.