If you’re one of the 18% of the population that claims membership to Gen Z, and are on the cusp of entering the workforce, walking around an office today probably feels as stuffy, archaic, and inflexible as Millennials once believed cubicles were. In fact, you’re probably not even reading this — but your future managers are, and they’re in for a surprise.
Leaders of now and of someday, listen up: the generation Z worker will not be the same as the Millennials now dominating your personnel base. Millennials (which you may even be yourself) are incredibly tech-savvy and mobile, and demand high levels of integration across the platforms and products they use. And while they’re known for being highly independent and self-sufficient, they work most effectively in environments where collaboration, brainstorming, transparency, and asking questions are all encouraged. They also need a lot of positive reinforcement to stay inspired. Incoming Zs? They want virtually none of that, and wait for nothing to get started on building their careers the way they want them — not even adulthood.
Not Your Typical Entry-Level Worker
For businesses with internship programs, there’s an expectation that the interns you hire will be green in a lot of ways. But you may have noticed that lately, the resumes they present seem a little bit unbelievable. You may wonder where their maturity came from when they can’t legally buy a beer, or why they have such a deep understanding of business economics when they have yet to finish school. Or even weirder, why they appear to have the money to buy just-released gadgets when your own memories of that age involve a whole lot of eating microwaved ramen.
But it’s not a mirage. IBM pulled together some incredible data on what even the youngest of the Gen Z innovators are up to, and the findings are pretty baffling. From an 8-year-old who makes $1.3M a year reviewing toys on YouTube to the 13-year-old programmer who invented an app and sold it for $30M at the age of 18, this generation won’t just make up the future workforce. They’re making up the future work, and they’re doing it right now without any company to back them up or funding to motivate their actions. What future leaders of this hyper-innovative group have to remember is that they’re the first generation to be born into a world run almost completely by rapid advancements in technology. The first to grow up with social media, streaming video, infinite access to information, GPS, and endless insight into the successes and failures of others. Because of this, they will never make the same choices or mistakes that past generations have made; they will never feel lost or disconnected, be forced to wait for help, or have to find alternative methods of acquiring information. They don’t interpret patience in the same way that other age groups do, because mass variety and instant gratification are built into their operational fabric.
Most importantly, though, especially for businesses that will soon adopt them and their workstyles: Gen Z doesn’t want your help. They don’t want your directives on how to do things, and they have zero tolerance for tools and technologies that don’t work the way they should. In fact, over 60% of them won’t bother with apps, tools, or websites that they deem too slow or difficult to navigate. That same attitude will apply with business-oriented activities, like meetings, tasks, review and feedback sessions, and platforms that are expected to be adopted company-wide. If they believe there’s a more efficient, higher-value way of doing something, they will be adamant about using it — and if they’re unable to get support, they’ll simply pick up and move on to a company that is willing to mold to their ways.
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The Tools and Approaches That Work (and Why)
All of this probably sounds upsetting. After all, the Millennial generation has long been accused of having expectations that far outstrip what businesses believed sufficient. Companies have spent huge amounts of time and money worrying that they aren’t creating internal cultures and brand messages that effectively cater to them, and whether that’s your experience or not, the last thing companies want to have to reconfigure for are the even more intense expectations of an impending group of workers.
Gen Z is expected to cause the last of the struggling hierarchies to crumble, and that could drastically increase the risk and rate of turnover. But before you panic or start judging, know this: the approaches and tools that will help you get the highest output from what could be the most innovative, efficient, adaptive, and globally influential generation the world has ever seen already exist. But it’s up to today’s leaders to recognize their value now, rather than when they’re knee deep in youths that have been coding, designing, and inventing since they could sing the alphabet.
The approach your business takes to integrating the youngest of workforces will be largely informed by how you intend to tap them, but it should no doubt be built around understanding how independent they really are. Unlike those that came before, Zs are a lot less likely to conform to what you want. You can bet they’ll be happy to search for a company and culture that fits them from ethics to interests and everything in between, rather than the other way around — and without a willingness to sacrifice much of anything. A key step to welcoming these folks will be in adopting tools that allow self-sufficiency, direct access to information of their choosing, and that’s highly engaging.
Tools like Prezi Business, which, far from being just another presentation platform, is a high-powered, super-customizable way to capture and share information that the person using it wants to access. No fluff, no set of chronological steps to follow before you find out what you want, no outdated designs, and no need to follow anyone else’s rules but your own. In other words, a perfect platform to share information with people who will have a wildly different idea of how business should be done.
Get to know the future of your workforce even better in the below Prezi from the team at IBM, and start preparing your business now by checking out conversational presenting. After all, Gen Z certainly isn’t going to wait around for you to catch up.