In case you have not heard the news, the workforce is changing.
Generation Z workers are just graduating from college. The age range is typically
described as 3 to about 23, and there are 73 million people in this generation. I've touched on it before, but the most important thing to know about Gen-Z versus Millennials is that the younger generation grew up with easy access to the internet, apps, and smartphones. They are digital natives, whereas Millennials probably all remember a time before the internet and particularly before Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.
Beyond their tech-savvy ways, Gen-Z is also quite different in terms of its outlook on life. I work with some of them and two of my kids are Gen-Z, but more important, I've been mentoring some Gen-Z(ers) for the past few years.
Here's what I've learned.
1. They don't like to commit.
This is not meant as a put-down. Gen-Z workers don't like to commit until they know something is rock solid. They are noncommittal by nature (growing up with a barrage of information does that to you), which means they are going to analyze things first, decide if the situation makes sense, and drag their feet if there is any ambiguity. From what I've seen, this is because they grew up in the age of memes and internet hoaxes, of troll behavior on Twitter, and constant badgering in video games. They are performance-oriented, so they like to evaluate every possible scenario before being asked to perform.
2. They hate making phone calls.
Another clear difference between Gen-Z and Millennials has to do with the phone. Millennials remember corded phones, or at least cordless phones. They were taught at a young age that making phone calls is important--say, to apologize to a friend or to discuss something with a family member. Gen-Z grew up with texting, but they also grew up with a texting mentality. First contacts are always by text or direct message. They do not do cold calls, and they do not like being awkward.
3. Time is relative.
The emerging workforce--some just graduating from college--have a flexible view of time. They grew up with YouTube videos, Netflix movies, and Dish Hoppers that allow you to access videos from any time period and fast forward through them at will. We all know about instant access to information, but most of us had to adjust to it a little. It's all they know. Watch them use a smartphone and you'll see that they are constantly flipping from one thing to the next, and are bored easily by videos. Because of that, they perceive time differently--an entire day of watching YouTube videos goes by fast.
4. They are not kids.
Most of us are used to viewing Gen-Z as elementary-age kids, or at the very least high-school age. That's not true anymore. Millions of Gen-Z workers are now looking for jobs, and they are hungry and eager to start careers. They have been driving cars, in some cases for years. They likely worked while in college. Seeing them as kids is too easy and means ignoring their abilities. It also overlooks the fact they are bright thinkers with adult-size ideas ready to be implemented.
5. Overachieving stresses them out.
Some of the Gen-Z workers I know are serious overachievers, but when they really crank out a lot of work over a long period, they sometimes get burned out. This is true of any generation, but because Gen Z are so new to working in the real world, they sometimes don't know how to throttle their efforts. They want to conquer the world, but they don't quite know how big the world is yet. They don't know about all the typical roadblocks to success. (Sadly, older workers only see the roadblocks.)
6. They are really random.
Another trait that separates Gen-Z from Millennials is that younger workers can be way more random. Again, they grew up using a smartphone and texting. Millennials have very specific tastes but Gen-Z workers tend to like everything and change their minds constantly--they are not as loyal. This is going to have a major impact on social media. While Millennials have loved Instagram and (to some extent) Twitter and Facebook for many years, Gen-Z might pick a platform (say, TikTok) for only a few months and move on to something else. They are hard to pin down about anything.