Beyond Millennials: the rise of Gen Z

As the most digitally native cohort in human history, Gen Z is already the driving force behind a wave of digital business models. Centennials (Gen Z) are even more digitally oriented than Millennials and are set to impart this impact onto the wider business world. 2017 will see the first Gen Z graduates enter the workforce and by 2020 Gen Z will experience a surge of spending power as they comprise roughly 25 percent of the global workforce[i].

gen z work

For organisations struggling to connect with Gen Y workers, the rise of Gen Z will complicate matters. Research from INSEAD suggests some key differences with Gen Y; there is less of a need for constant feedback for example, but their emergence in the workplace highlights three major issues confronting business. Like Gen Y , purpose at work is cited as a key motivator, but beyond that, the state of back-end technology and the provision of learning opportunities stand out. Such changes require organisational change that will require different thinking from business-as-usual or applying veneers.

Gen Z are not only digitally comfortable, there is an argument suggesting they are digitally dependent.  Thanks to technology, 76 percent of them believe they can turn their hobbies into a full-time career. Many consider becoming a social media influencer – something still not fully understood by many companies – to be ‘…a career path as realistic as going to college and working for a big company[ii].’ Crafting technological structures capable of attracting Gen Z talent could led to integration issues, requiring a clear development and integration strategy for both technology and employees. This is perhaps especially important for Generation Z which INSEAD notes is likely to be more helpless than previous generations in a non-digital world[iii]. Aligning corporate provision with expectations is key. For example, while ‘…only three percent of working professionals currently use any kind of virtual reality (VR) applications in their workplaces, 42 percent of Gen Z expect it to make a big impact on their working lives when they enter the workforce[iv].’ Their expectations would not appear unrealistic since Goldman Sachs forecasts the combined VR and AR market to be worth some $80 billion by 2025 as the segment expands beyond entertainment and into the wider world of work[v]. How many companies have a strategic vision of how to use such technologies?

Not only must technological infrastructures modernise, so too must management and the processes undertaken internally. Millennials and Generation Z more readily grasp the reality of rapid and discontinuous change in products, services and ways of working making life-long learning is a critical element of the workplace. Deloitte notes that for millennial professionals, ongoing development support trumps all other benefits[vi], a position likely to be strengthened by the incoming Gen Z. Without strategically aligning tech and internal processes like learning to their offerings, companies may struggle to reach the best Gen Z has to offer.

[i] Source: Ernst & Young, 2016 https://betterworkingworld.ey.com/better-questions/generation-z-millennial

[ii] https://www.forbes.com/sites/deeppatel/2017/04/18/how-gen-z-will-shape-the-future-of-business/2/#236bc9635037

[iii] https://knowledge.insead.edu/leadership-organisations/what-generations-x-y-and-z-want-from-work-technology-5356

[iv] https://knowledge.insead.edu/leadership-organisations/what-generations-x-y-and-z-want-from-work-technology-5356

[v] https://knowledge.insead.edu/leadership-organisations/what-generations-x-y-and-z-want-from-work-technology-5356

[vi] https://hbr.org/2016/10/how-learning-and-development-are-becoming-more-agile?webSyncID=39938744-e905-949b-a952-32a1edc72745&sessionGUID=814bb317-0e57-55a4-29ba-1d040a08c07b

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