Generation Z: They’re Here, and They’re About to Change the Workforce Forever: Part 1
Generation Z has arrived, and they’re bigger, more diverse, and more tech savvy than their millennial predecessors.
First things first: who exactly is a member of Gen Z (also known as iGen, Generation Edge, post-millennials, and centennials)? Everyone has a different definition. Pew Research Center defines them as anyone born from 1997 onward. Deloitte defines them as being born after 1995. The New York Times defines them as born in 1995 onwards. It’s safe to assume that most experts agree that Gen Z was born in the mid-to-late 1990s onwards, making the oldest Gen Zs around 20-23 years old.
As Gen Zs move into the workforce, here are some important things for executives and managers to keep in mind.
They are even more tech savvy than millennials, but there are some caveats.
Unlike millennials, Gen Zs don’t remember a time before technology. By 2000, more than half of households in the United States had one or more computers. At this point in history, the oldest Gen Zs would have been around five years old. Technology is all that Gen Z has ever known.
However, there is a perhaps unsurprising caveat: Gen Zs lack experience with traditional office communication tools. Some Gen Zs view email as an old medium used by parents and for school assignments. As they enter the workforce for their first internships or jobs, they get to partake in a new rite of passage: mastering the art of a professional email. Gen Zs prefer email to be short and to the point, similar to texting, Snapchat, or Instagram interactions. Since email isn’t going away any time soon, it is important to keep this in mind as companies hire and train the first rounds of Gen Z.
Another caveat is interpersonal skills. Gen Zs tech savviness does not equate to social aptitude. Dr. Jean Twenge, professor of psychology at San Diego State University, wrote in the Atlantic that “the impact of smartphones has not been fully appreciated and goes far beyond the usual concerns about curtailed attention spans.” Gen Z’s social life is lived on their devices. They do not need to leave home to spend time with their friends. According to Dr. Twenge, the number of teens who get together with their friends nearly every day dropped by more than 40% from 2000 to 2015; the decline has been especially steep recently.
Interestingly, Gen Zs are quite self-aware of their communication skills (or lack thereof). A BridgeWorks 3G Report found that 74% of Gen Z said that in-person communication is the most challenging form of communication at work. According to Deloitte, technology has impacted the development of cognitive skills, including intellectual curiosity, among the next generation, creating the risk of skill gaps when they enter the workforce. A shortfall in highly cognitive social skills, such as problem-solving, critical thinking, and communication, could be particularly evident.
Since Gen Z only recently started entering the workforce, there is very limited research on how they perform in a professional environment. However, it’s safe to assume that there might be unique challenges ahead for the “smartphone generation” as they begin their careers and start moving up the corporate ladder.
Next week, we will dive into what is needed to recruit and retain Gen Z talent.