Move over, millennials – gen Z is here

Move over, millennials – gen Z is here

In 2015, millennials overtook both baby boomers and Generation X, becoming the largest share of the US workforce. But who is the new generation after the millennials and what can we expect from it?

Generation Z is typically defined as those born between 1995 and 2009, and we are already discovering that as businesses we may need to alter our approach to recruit, lead and market to this new generation. Generation Zers outnumber their millennial predecessors and they will likely not have just one career, but instead alternate between different careers, transiently. Money is often not the main object but instead the human and social connection, where they get to work with an empire of young people doing cool stuff. For Generation Z, it’s Snapchat, Instagram and Whisper rather than Facebook, Twitter and selfies that characterized millennials. “We absorb information instantaneously and lose interest just as fast”, reports a soon to be graduate. She is very concerned about her brand and more importantly her privacy having seen her older sibling be overly generous in how much he “posts on Facebook”. This is why she prefers Snapchat where images disappear as fast as they arrive.

Children of a post 9/11 world

So, what are the major differences between the millennials and Generation Z? Generation Z’s outlook is shaped differently, they have grown up in a post 9/11 world and in an era of economic volatility. Single sex marriage is now legal. The UK is on its second female prime minister and the US has had its first African American president and all of this is taken for granted. Without overgeneralizing they seem to be more conscientious, hardworking and mindful of the future world. They were raised by Generation Xers, who also experienced times of equal volatility and who value safety more highly. A Sparks and Honey trend report asserts that, as a cohort, this new generation appears more “mature and in control”. What do businesses need to be aware of in their approach to recruiting Generation Zers that may be subtlety different compared to previous years? “Subtle” is the key word here, as many of the elements below are not necessarily at odds with what we know of our millennials.

  • Even more technology driven. Our Generation Zers have different expectations of a workplace, fully enabled by technology.
  • Even more global. All businesses have the capacity to be global with virtual teams that create new levels of workforce flexibility. Despite Brexit and the US presidential election having us believe in the rise of nationalism, our Generation Zers will value diversity and inclusion as vital elements for growing businesses and societies.
  • Entrepreneurial. This generation is “multi-potential” and therefore contributing to our growing gig economy – which may pose problems for corporate culture creation as we look to distinguish our businesses from others in the growing war for talent.
  • Prudence and pragmatism. Growing up in global recessions with increased student debt, this generation is aware of the need to develop relevant skills that businesses will value in the workplace and in return they expect structure, professional development, mentorship and career advancement – and fast!
  • Communication. Over 50 percent of our Generation Zers value face to face communication over other forms. This is in sharp contrast to the millennials so perhaps as employers we will see an increased capability in this area.
  • Disruption. In a world where hackers are respected, they see the word “disruptive” as a more positive characteristic that should be encouraged.
  • Less focused and split-tasking. Shorter attention spans will likely disrupt current workflows. How work is allocated and completed in a multi device environment will need to be considered by businesses when designing future roles and defining business processes.

“Less self centered and entitled, and instead collaborative, accountable and eager to learn.”

I am constantly impressed at how graduates seek to make a difference and assume ownership of ambitious projects. They are less self centered and entitled, and instead collaborative, accountable and eager to learn and contribute to the business agenda. Although some future aspects may be sharper in relation to Generation Z, there are many traits that they share with their predecessors. They both assimilate information and networks much quicker than previous generations, they care deeply about ethical leadership in relation to the environment and society.