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Gen Z: Is Your Business Prepared for the Future?

Understanding what the next generation will bring to the workplace


Remarkably health-conscious, radically inclusive, highly entrepreneurial and competitive. These are just a few of the words used to describe Generation Z, which includes individuals born after 1995. These characteristics are important to recognize when considering Gen Z’s overall impact on the workforce, but it’s also important to consider what other traits they exhibit that could jolt an organization.

This generation is already larger in number than millennials, and therefore is truly the future of the global economy, an economy that is already at our doorstep. Is your business prepared to attract, retain, develop and engage them? What makes this population so unique, and what does this mean for your company?

Generation Z is the purest of pure digital natives. They can’t fathom a world without technology because they’ve never lived without it. Rather than seeing separate worlds as many others do (the “digital” world versus the “real” world), they see a new integrated world where technology, life and work meld together to construct an entirely new reality.

Having lived in an atmosphere with Wi-Fi, iPhones and apps for as long as they can recall, these “native speakers” of the digital language can learn new platforms and trends at the drop of a hat, and 92 percent of them already have some sort of digital footprint. According to a recent article, their relationship to technology may be “even more instinctual than that of a millennial in their late 30s,” as over one-third state that they use technology as frequently as possible, are eager adopters of wearable technology and aren’t the slightest bit intimated by job automation and artificial intelligence.

The impact? If they don’t want to fall behind, companies will be forced to adapt to a more “pragmatic, tech-savvy generation that isn’t easily wowed or won over,” according to VisionCritical. This group’s shrewdness in the digital sphere is certainly something organizations need to consider and embrace if they want to engage and retain this generation.

Sources note that because this group is so technically competent, they’re able to “pick up on some aspects of the job more quickly than their counterparts,” which could be a major benefit. This can be a double-edged sword, however, as they may also be “ill-equipped for jobs requiring high customer interactions and may require more training in this area,” due to that saturation in the digital world.

Garret Gatlin, leadership psychology and life design expert, says that this group of individuals has a “dramatically different world view than previous generations, as they have been able to construct multidimensional identities and pursue self-directed and broad-ranging experiences.” Their world no longer operates under limitations and boundaries, and consequently, employers need to “re-imagine opportunities and structures” that support a diverse set of career experiences.

“Where baby boomers, Gen X and millennials to some extent entered the workforce with traditional pyramid structures, modern organizations are moving toward inverted pyramids with fewer and fewer opportunity for entry-level jobs,” Gatlin says.

This shift is deeply impacted by technology advancement and automation, and employers must reimagine what is possible for entry-level work to create experiences that secure the future talent pipeline.

“While Gen Z are the most equipped to lead into a disrupted technological future, there are skill gaps that will need to be addressed, such as social and emotional intelligence, fluency and originality of ideas and complex problem-solving,” Gatlin says. According to a recent study, more than 90 percent of Gen Z and HR leaders view these social and emotional skills as a pressing area for development.

Knowing how to develop Generation Z is important, but how do you get them in the door? A recent article suggests that showing commitment to a social ethos, developing a culture of entrepreneurship and having a mental health support system to combat their technology tether can be major incentives.

Gatlin’s top tip for attracting and retaining Gen Z is having the creativity and courage to rethink the traditional paradigm of talent and work. He recommends shifting from careers to experiences such as stretch assignments, gigs, job rotations and learning assignments. By focusing on broad experiences, he says, you “speak Gen Z’s world without boundaries, and in the process, prepare the future professional with knowledge and skills to be adaptive in a disrupted future.”

Sarah K. Erickson is the Public Relations Specialist for the University of Colorado South Denver, overseeing the institution’s strategic communications, media relations and content marketing initiatives. Erickson joined CU South Denver as a Digital Communications Assistant in March 2018 and was appointed to PR Specialist in May 2018. 
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