There’s a 5th generation in the workplace wings. Sometimes when giving a talk I am asked about the generation following Gen Y/Millennials. What are they like? What do we call them?
So far there is no consensus on one name for this generation. Labels floating around are: Generation Z (coming after Gen X and Y); the Plurals (having a multitude of interests); and the Re Generation (as in do-overs). For simplicity I will refer to them as Gen Z. they are generally defined today as high school and young college students.
Below I summarize some useful observations and 12 tips and give my interpretation of comparisons with other generational cohorts and of some of the findings from research by Sparks & Honey as well as NPD Group, Millennial Branding and Martin-Wilbourne Partners and cited in an article by Business Insider. Since this very large cohort born after the mid-1990s is mostly not yet in the workplace except as interns and in retail, the early research findings on attitudes and behaviors are likely to be modified. However they are worth considering now as we prepare for an influx in four or five years so as not to be taken by surprise.
We have been hearing a lot about how Gen Y wants to change the world, but that is even more an aspiration or intention of Gen Z (60% vs. 39%). Already 25% of them volunteer for some cause. 72% of them want to be entrepreneurs – 61% of them soon after college. The Gen Zers are even more constantly connected digitally than the Yers. While they are collaborative, their preference is to work independently – more like Gen Xers than the Gen Y/Millenials. They are into self-help in whatever they want to do. I guess they think they can Google or otherwise search for anything online. This suggests that the freelance mentality is alive and well in this youngest generation, something employers have to think about in terms of restructuring how work gets done.
In communication, they seem to favor even fewer than 140 characters, going for images when possible – emoticons, photos, symbols. The rapid and imprecise messages can often be open to misinterpretation. With lack of concern for grammar and punctuation and multi-cultural influences, things can get confusing or annoying to older generations who had to learn grammar, spelling and punctuation.
Like Gen Yers, the Zers are generally close to their families and greatly influenced by them. Will “helicopter parenting” continue to infiltrate the workplace? This should not be surprising as the parents are most likely to be Gen Xers, who are quite family-focused because they might not have had that attention from their Traditionalist and older Boomer parents who were busy working hard without employer support for flexibility.
This is just a start on deciphering the attitudes and behaviors of the generation coming to your workplace in a few years if not sooner.
From what marketing agency Sparks & Honey recommends to effectively communicate with a Gen Zer (born after 1990), I have drafted a dozen tips for you:
- Communicate in short bursts with images, symbols and videos
- Take care in interpreting and respect their opinions on a wide variety of topics
- Feed their curiosity
- Help them build their expertise
- Don’t talk down to them; talk with them as adults
- Tap into their entrepreneurial spirit and industriousness
- Collaborate with them and build together
- Give them responsibility
- Talk with them about value – they are cost conscious
- Don’t expect brand loyalty
- Work with them on social causes or support theirs
- Show interest in sustainability of the earth, products and practices
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