Blog Post

Ready or Not, Here Comes Generation Z

Ira S. Wolfe

President, Success Performance Solutions

For managers still trying to figure out the Millennials, I have some disturbing news.

Generation Z is already knocking on HR’s doorstep. With this addition to the workforce, we now have 18-year-olds and 80-somethings and all ages in-between seeking employment. This is unprecedented. Are businesses ready?

Apparently not, according to a recent report published by Randstad Workmonitor. When asked if they felt their employer was prepared to meet the demands of Gen Z, just 55 percent of the respondents said yes. Based on my interaction with clients and business audiences, that number seems wildly optimistic. Employers still seem puzzled about how to manage the simultaneous and often divergent wants and needs of the Millennials, Baby Boomers and Gen X.

Generation Who?

Before I introduce Generation Z’s impact and implications, allow me to take a step back for a minute and introduce its members.

This generation includes those young adults (and children) born between 1996 and 2010. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, there are an estimated 57 million Gen Zers in the U.S. (roughly 30 percent smaller than Baby Boomers and Millennials and about 20 percent larger than Gen X). School shootings, global terrorism, the Great Recession and climate change are just a few of the events that have indelibly marked and abruptly influenced their young minds.

Generation Z was born into a new family era in which one out of seven stay-at-home parents is a father. Compare that to the Baby Boomers, who largely grew up with one wage-earner per family and a stay-at-home mom. And Gen Xers are products of dual-career parents.

This is also the first generation with parents from three generations (Boomers, Xers and Millennials). Thanks to an epidemic of Baby Boomer divorces and remarriages, delayed marriages of Generation X and a proliferation of unmarried couples and single parents, this is a generation whose familiarity with the traditional nuclear family is ensconced almost exclusively in history.

The families of Generation Z come in all colors and sizes. This is the first generation growing up in a time when alternative lifestyles are not admonished or tolerated but widely accepted. While Millennials grew up with friends from a diverse group of race, color and ethnicity, Gen Zers have parents, family and friends whose sexual preferences are often blurred. Multi-racial children are the fastest growing youth group in the U.S.

Born at or close to the birth of the modern-day Internet, Gen Z does not know a world without technology embedded into all aspects of life. They are technologically astute and comfortable communicating at lightning speed.

Many of Gen Zers' parents have lived through multiple recessions, acquired a lifetime of debt, experienced career disruptions and sustained periods of high unemployment. In response, Generation Z is becoming the realistic generation. If nothing else, Gen Zers are learning coping skills and the power of resourcefulness. They have been taught and coached to be practical and pursue their specific strengths (unlike Millennials, who were led to believe that anything and everything was possible).

What Does This Mean for Business?

Here's how managers can build relationships with and prepare their workforces for the youngest generation approaching employment:

1. Think globally. Gen Z is the most socially connected, global-minded generation ever to live on this planet. They will use their connectedness to change the world. Businesses need to provide ways for Gen Z to get involved in the community (local and global) and charity.

2. Do not underestimate their power. Just because their faces and fingers are often glued to screens does not mean they are not networking. Given the opportunity, they will tap their networks to influence brands and events to their liking. What took decades for the Baby Boomers to do and undo, Gen Z can revolutionize in weeks, if not days or hours.

3. Be ready to teach and train them. Traditionally young adults gained work experience through after-school and summer jobs. But due to automation, high unemployment and Baby Boomers reluctant to retire, Gen Z is being shut out of these early life experiences. Employers will need to teach Gen Zers basic work ethic — not because they lack it, but they simply have little to no actual experience.

4. Accept their technology. To Gen Z, technology is not just a tool; it's part of their identity. Their devices, gadgets and social profiles are extensions of themselves. Try to shut them down and your business may be shut out, too.

We are just beginning to understand Generation Z. Stay tuned.

Photo: Can Stock

Related Resources

Want to keep learning? Explore our products, customer stories, and the latest industry insights.

Pioneering the future of work with spatial learning


Pioneering the future of work with spatial learning

Schedule a personalized 1:1

Talk to a Cornerstone expert about how we can help with your organization’s unique people management needs.

© Cornerstone 2024