First there were Baby Boomers, then Generation X, and then Millennials. But now a new generation is entering the workforce and shaking things up by changing the way we look at employees and work in general. Gen Z arbitrarily applies to people born between 1995 and 2005, but it actually means more than that. As more generations come into the workforce, the focus is starting to shift from the year they were born to the characteristics they deliver.
"If you're alive, you can be Gen Z," says Dan Keldsen, author of The Gen Z Effect. Although Gen Z members typically have never experienced a world without digital video recorders, the Internet, or cell phones, they are defined by more than just their age. Gen Z pushes aside generational labels and leads a charge to work together for great success. If Millennials were the beta testers of technology, Gen Z is the group that takes it to the next level by using new technology, hyperconnectivity, and collaboration to drive innovation and change. Any employee who exhibits these characteristics can fall into the Gen Z category, no matter if they are 22 or 52. As Keldsen says, it's time to stop the negative stereotypes of generations and instead focus on the positive and how each new group can lead the future of work; Gen Z might just be the group to make that happen.
Generation Z is at the center of the future of work and has more power than any previous generation to re-define how we work. With Gen Z leading the charge in coming years, all industries could see a major shift in how things look and operate. According to Keldsen, there are six main forces from Gen Z shaping the future of business:
- Breaking generations. Instead of putting employees into generational boxes for the years they were born, we should start to take the good characteristics of each generation and bring them together for a cohesive team environment.
- Hyperconnecting. With the power of the Internet, everyone has access to the same information, meaning anyone can learn and develop skills. With such a robust resource, we are almost always connected and have to make a conscious effort to not be online. The test for the future is harnessing that into something positive for employees and organizations.
- Shifting from affluence to influence. It used to be that money was power, but these days the most powerful form of influence is a strong personal brand. By developing your skills and knowledge, you can influence others without relying on your resume or pedigree.
- Lifehacking. In today's workforce, you can hack through just about anything, which means you can change the rules and break tradition to achieve great results. An example of this is the huge popularity of crowdfunding--instead of going the traditional venture capital route, you can now go straight to potential customers to build relationships and raise money.
- Slingshoting. Modern technology makes it possible for practically anyone to adopt new practices and gadgets at any time. Although some people jump on new technology as soon as it is introduced, most people wait for the device to be proven and be cheaper. Even if someone waits to adopt new technology, they can still learn it fairly quickly and painlessly, allowing them to slingshot over pain and frustration.
- Adopting the world as our classroom. The vast amount of information available today, from online university classes to open-source websites, means that is has never been easier or cheaper to gain knowledge. The future of work will harness that knowledge and teach people how to learn.
Although Gen Z isn't the only thing changing in the workforce, it definitely is leading the charge, and it would do organizations well to recognize the potential of this new generation and wave of thinking. With an age-less Gen Z and new thinking and technology, the opportunities seem endless.