Let’s talk about Generation Z

March 15, 2017
Let’s talk about Generation Z

Image by Rawpixel.com / Shutterstock, Inc
Millennials have been the topic of so many discussions in HR recently. If you’re still trying to learn about the millennials – who they are, why they’re important, and how they behave – then here are three articles I recommend reading as soon as possible:

  1. Millennials are rising up the ranks
  2. How to retain more millennials
  3. 14 misconceptions about millennials

But I’m about to throw a spanner in the works. I’m about to tell you that, after all this hard work you’ve done getting to know the millennial generation, there’s a new kid on the block. Generation Z.

Who are generation Z?

We have been giving names to generations of people born from 1890 onwards. For example, we have “The Lost Generation” (1890-1915); or the “Baby Boomers” (1946-1964).

The Millennials (1980-1995) have had a lot of attention recently, because they have been rapidly filling up the workplace, as older generations have been retiring. But the most recent generation, is Generation Z. This covers people born from 1996 onwards. So why are they suddenly so relevant to HR and people management?

Well, in case you haven’t done the maths already, people born in 1996 will now be roughly 19 years old. In other words, people from Generation Z are now beginning to enter our workforce thick and fast. And if you care about the future of your company, you’re going to want to know what makes these people different, and how you might need to adapt your people management style to make the most of their skills and perspectives on life.

What we know about generation Z already

You don’t need to overhaul your entire organisation to suit a single generation. We’ve learned already that we can encourage a positive co-working atmosphere across different generations. But if you want to be adaptable to a changing generation of wants and needs, then it pays to learn about the people you’re going to be employing very soon.

So here’s a few things we already know:

  1. Generation Z are hooked on smartphones. So you’ll need to embrace this technology within your organisation. When smartphones first began to emerge, many businesses reacted by trying to ban them from being used at work, because they were considered a distraction. But for people in Generation Z, leaving their smartphone at home, or even locking it away in a draw, is unthinkable. For people in Generation Z, smartphones really are a fact of life. They are hooked! It’s one of the reasons Generation Z has already been nicknamed “iGen”.
  2. Social media dictates how Gen Z sees themselves. Social media has a massive impact on people from all generations. But according to GenHQ, a massive 42% of people from Gen Z feel that social media directly impacts how they feel about themselves. This is a huge statistic to digest. If you want a healthy, happy and confident workforce, then you might have to think about the role social media plays in your organisation going forward.
  3. Early job experience is lower than previous generations. I’m not sure what this statistic might mean in practical terms, yet. But research already tells us that teenage summer employment is at a historical low. We might have to work harder to help people from Generation Z to settle into the world of work?

There isn’t a whole wealth of research available yet about Generation Z. Maybe this is because we are still trying to figure out Millennials… and maybe it is because Generation Z is still very young, and we’re waiting for them to find their feet.

How to plan a learning and development strategy for Generation Z

We might not fully understand how “iGen” prefers to work yet, but we can certainly start to understand how they learn. After all, everybody in Generation Z is either still studying, or has only recently left education.

According to research by Barnes & Noble College, here’s a basic breakdown of how well people from Generation Z respond to different ways of learning:

  1. 51% learn by doing. For example, by working through examples.
  2. 38% learn by seeing. For example, by reading training materials.
  3. 12% learn by listening. For example, a classroom lecture.

Perhaps now is the time to start thinking how you can move training and development away from the traditional “classroom” environment.

Generation Z are already running successful companies

Before I go, I want to make sure you fully understand how close we are to seeing Generation Z take over the workforce.

Thomas Suarez was only 12 years old when he landed his first spot on TED Talks. He still hasn’t reached full adulthood, yet is already the founder and CEO of a successful company, Carrot Corp. He builds mobile apps and designs 3D printing technology.

If the people from Generation Z are already running successful companies, and making an international splash through technology, then isn’t it time we did something to prepare ourselves for the incoming wave?

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