As pundits analyze Millennials to death, Gen Z is growing up under our noses. In fact, in the next four years 30% of Generation Z is expected to be employed. As they trickle into the workforce, it's wise to begin discussing what unique traits, skills and values they will contribute to the workforce.
Gen Z's name is also sometimes in question. This generation can be referred to as iGen or @generation due to their status as full digital natives, or as the Pluralist Generation due to their larger than ever ethnic diversity.
When examining Gen Z characteristics, it's interesting to note that their parents are mostly from Generation X. Generation X (born between 1965 and 1980) grew up as latchkey kids due to high divorce rates, saw the Challenger explosion, and witnessed Watergate. Because of these events and more, they often feel they can't trust the government, the corporate world, or their families from disintegrating before their eyes, a belief that leaves them self-sufficient and pragmatic. They are also distrustful of hierarchy.
As parents, they are older, more likely to be divorced, and work outside the home. In addition, there are more same-sex parents than ever before, families are smaller, and women are more often the family breadwinners. Here's one thing that'll make employers cheer: they don't agree with the parenting style where everybody wins!
Check out this chart from The First Generation of the Twenty-First Century*, by Magid Generational Strategies, which shows some major differences between Baby Boomer and Gen X parenting, which will influence Gen Z as they develop into adults.
In addition to their parents, world events are shaping who they are. Gen Z has been growing up in a post-9/11 world of terror alerts, warnings about Global Warming, an economic crisis, and instant access to limitless information due to technology. How will all of these factors influence Gen Z?
Let's take a look at five things unique to Generation Z and how that might affect our future workforce.
1. Gen Z Is More Diverse Than Any Generation
Though the U.S. is still lagging behind on eliminating bias in the workplace, Gen Z is poised to instigate change. They celebrate diversity and will be far less tolerant of a workplace where only 21 people of color are CEOs in Fortune 500 companies. If organizations want longevity with Gen Z employees, they need to address any bias and discrimination in their workplace culture now.
2. Financial Stability Is Important to Gen Z
With Gen Z focused on financial stability, we can surmise that they will differ from Millennials when it comes to taking long stretches of time between jobs to travel. However, this doesn't mean that they will be reverting back to the good old nine-to-five life.
3. Gen Z Will Work Differently
4. Gen Z Is the Most Information Intensive Generation of All Time
There is even a scientific theory behind this ability. In New York magazine, Sam Anderson describes how the brain is designed to change based on experience, a phenomenon called neuroplasticity. He cites how in London, taxi drivers have enlarged hippocampi, which is a neural reward for paying attention to the city's many winding streets.
It's hypothesized that as we become more skilled in moving through bits of information rapidly (as Gen Z is), the wiring of our brains will inevitably change to be more effective with more information. Neuroscientist Gary Small speculates that the human brain might be changing faster today than ever before (besides maybe when we discovered tools!).
5. Gen Z Will Be Educated Differently
This generation has access to massive open online courses (MOOCs), and can therefore take classes from Ivy League institutions in their living room, at absolutely no cost. With the amount of information Gen Z has access to and the willingness of their parents to look into alternative education models, this generation will lead by example in showing that brick-and-mortar schools aren't always necessary for personal success.
This diverse generation may show up without traditional degrees, but they will be armed with massive amounts of information. With much of Gen Z still being extremely young, more trends will likely develop before the entirety of the generation reaches working age. However, regardless of when and how they join the workforce, Gen Z is bound to shake things up.
Check out *"The First Generation of the Twenty-First Century," by Magid Generational Strategies here.
Anne Loehr is a sought after keynote speaker, writer, consultant and trainer. She helps leaders in large organizations connect their everyday decisions today to the future workplace. Her end goal is to help organizations retain their top talent and not only survive, but thrive. To learn more about Anne, check out Anneloehr.com or follow her on Twitter.