For all the talk about Millennials shaping the way we live and work, the next generation--Generation Z--is now ascendant and threatening to remake society in its own image in even more dramatic ways.

Bestselling author and licensed family therapist Hal Runkel has been keeping tabs on the next generation that's about to enter the workforce for years now and he thinks Gen Z is different than all previous generations of workers. Besides the obvious, like having never known a time without Internet and carrying no first-hand memories of major events still reverberating today like 9/11, Runkel says we may be surprised by how competitive this generation will be.

"Particularly first-borns in the family," Runkel told me via e-mail. "They've had to compete more than any modern generation for a spot in the elite colleges, and they'll carry that mindset into the job hunt."

The full impact of Gen Z in the workplace will be felt a little further into the future, though. Runkel, author of "Choose Your Own Adulthood: A Small Book About the Small Choices that Make the Biggest Difference" thinks their hyper-connected nature could change the fundamental landscape of business itself.

He points out that Zers will be the most virtually mobile generation, but the least physically mobile, a combination that might eliminate offices altogether.

"A small, but growing social media marketing company in Atlanta, Somedia, is completely virtual for all its employees," Runkel says.

When the shutdown of I-85 in Atlanta caused huge traffic problems earlier this year, the company was unaffected.

But going fully virtual isn't quite the revolutionary idea it was twenty years ago; in many sectors it's more like a foregone conclusion. However, Runkel thinks Gen Z might really shake things up by throwing out the internal hierarchical structures businesses have been using to get things for centuries.

"They've grown up working in teams, as independent agents, who can talk directly to the President at any hour online, so top-down command protocols don't make much sense."

Will Generation Z usher in a new era of companies harmonically building a consensus among everyone on the team and then executing the plan virtually from all corners of the world.

It's easy to scoff at the notion of today's graduates turning the world on its head, but then again, twenty years ago the dominant generation of workers would have smirked at the idea that I'd be publishing these words for instantaneous worldwide distribution from a balcony with a sweeping view of the Aegean Sea.

Yet that revolution has arrived and it has paved the way for the next.

Published on: Jun 13, 2017
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