the ceo magazine, employee management
Jeremy Kingsley, President, OneLife Leadership

The generation that by most definitions we call the Millennials are becoming well established in the workforce. They’ve paved the way for their elders to become more accustomed to tattoos, more appreciative of diversity, and less insistent on spending office hours in an actual office. So now it’s time to start preparing for the next round—the young people being dubbed “Generation Z.”

Following the most common definition of Gen Zers as being born after 1996 means they’re still in school, for the most part, but they’ll be arriving as part-time workers and interns before we know it, and it’s not too soon to start building some insight.

Even more than the Millennials, Gen Zers are, to use Mark Prensky’s term, digital natives who have grown up in a world of technology. If you’re old enough, you may remember joking about how a three or four-year-old helped you troubleshoot your network connections. These are those kids. They can’t remember a world without high-speed Internet, social media, iPads, smartphones, and they’re completely comfortable interacting, learning, and working online.

Partly because of technology, Gen Zers are born multitaskers. It may drive you crazy that they’re looking at something on their phone while you’re talking to them, but from their perspective it’s not rude but sensible to use the leftover parts of their brain on other tasks. Expect the line between company and personal time, already blurred by the Millennials, to become even more obscured.

Technology also means they’re comfortable in global diversity. They’re growing up with people, food, and entertainment derived from around the world. Where older people may be comforted by homogeneity, Gen Zers are mistrustful of its limits.

Again building on a trend begun by earlier generations, Gen Z is socially and environmentally aware. They’re attracted to organizations with initiatives in place for diversity, employee volunteerism and service, and environmental sustainability.

Finally, they’re entrepreneurial and flexible. They’ve grown up in a world where technology radically changed the way we live and do business, and the old familiar structures of the workplace are history as far as they’re concerned. They’re looking for innovation and independence.

Each new generation brings its own set of challenges and opportunities for growth. Whether you’re 25 or 85, whether you’ll be encountering Generation Z as employees, consumers, or clients, it’s your ability to bring together their new ideas with your own experience and hard-earned wisdom that will keep you on top and ready for Generation Z and whatever comes after Z.

About the Author

Jeremy Kingsley is a professional speaker, best-selling author and the President of OneLife Leadership. He is the author of four books, his latest is titled: Inspired People Produce Results (McGraw Hill 2013). 


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