We’ve all heard the labels: Baby Boomers, Generation X, Milliennials. While your social feed is full of articles about millennials, the recently labeled Generation Z, or Gen Z, are next on the horizon. Born between approximately 1997 and 2010, the oldest members of Gen Z have graduated from high school, maybe college, and are just starting to enter the workforce. What does this mean for your work force and office?
Whether you put a lot of faith in generational generalizations or not, the times we are born in and live through shape us to some degree. No person is going to fit into any generational mold perfectly, especially when you remember that the divisions are arbitrary and the influences are individual. Nevertheless, we humans are pattern seekers and we often appreciate the patterns found in generational cohorts.
A few basic things to keep in mind about Gen Z:
- There are a lot of them. By 2020, they will make up 40% of the workforce.
- Most, if not all, of their lives have taken place after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. They have never known a world without tighter security, yet they may not appreciate or understand the reasons behind those restrictions as much as folks older do.
- They were born or came of age during the Great Recession. They watched their parents struggle with job and financial insecurity. As such, they are more likely to worry about paying back college debt and expect to be promoted quickly.
- Technology is second nature to them, with first cell phones and then smart phones playing key roles in their lives. Yet in spite of Twitter and other social media, they crave and value in-person communication and their own personal privacy.
- They are mindful of the world and its needs. Many volunteer, hope to work in non-profit organizations, and donate to causes, even at a young age.
Gen Z at Work
Now that the oldest members of Generation Z are entering the workforce, some of their quirks are making for interesting experiences. Prospective employers and managers are going to be shifting gears somewhat as they figure out how to best communicate and work with this new wave of employees.
- They are entrepreneurs at heart. They have watched startups and YouTubers making it big early in life and are much less excited about traditional entry-level jobs, like fast food, retail and even junior office jobs. This spirit means employers would do well to give them interesting problems to solve on their own, and at least some independence to do so.
- In spite of their entrepreneurial spirit, Gen Z also craves job security and work-life balance. Stable work and flexible hours are important to them.
- In the age of the internet and social media, they are accustomed to instant information. Transparency in communication and understanding why they are being asked to do a task will go a long way.
- They are used to a level of personalization that was unheard of, and impossible to deliver, before their time. Gen Z has been able to customize their clothing, their social media timelines, their music playlists, television streams and even their college degrees. Traditional organizations might have a hard time allowing for and expecting personalization of resumes and job duties, but things like video resumes/interviews allows Gen Z to shine.
Gen Z and Coworking: A Match Made in Heaven
Think coworking is just a fad? While our crystal ball is hazy, it seems the flex workspace is an even better fit for the workforce's next major segment. It is a perfect fit for Generation Z’s apparent contradiction in values between entrepreneurship, job security and work-life balance.
- Interestingly enough, the seemingly conflicting desires to start their own businesses but to also have financial security makes them more likely to have a side hustle in order to make a little extra money and to have a safety net in case the “real” job falls through. And with the rise of the gig economy, more and more young people may find themselves being their own bosses by default.
- Because of their desire for face-to-face communication, a modern office with other like-minded people is likely to be more appealing than working on their own from home.
- Generation Z is also quite used to paying for access to resources – like streaming music or movies – instead of owning them outright. Paying rent to a coworking organization as opposed to buying an office or expensive equipment is second nature.
- They are also immersed in the world of accomplishing things using apps, so accessing their office using coworking space software fits into their idea of instant communication and instant access.
Summary - Gen Z and the Future of Work
Generation Z is just the latest generation trying to figure out how they fit within the current world of work. And progressive managers are trying to figure out how to appeal to them.
Like their predecessors, Gen Z will both adapt themselves to their environments and adapt their environments to meet their needs. With their desire to be financial stable, but to make individual contributions of their own creation, Gen Z is likely to continue to expand the coworking trend. The ultra-personalization of their world means that their work will be as individual as they are.