As 2016 winds down, I can only guess at the number of surveys I’ve seen that are connected in some fashion to the subject of millennials. Let’s just say, for argument’s sake, the figure has to be in the hundreds.
For now, I’ll just leave that question hanging. But we’ve already seen a fair share of Gen Z predictions and reports over past 12 months, with the latest coming from 8×8 Inc., a provider of SaaS-based enterprise communication tools.
That study, titled “Rogue One: How Generation Z is Going to Bring Balance to the (Work)Force,” surveyed 1,000 full- and part-time Gen Z, millennial and Gen X workers, and found that the work preferences of Gen Zers may, in many ways, align more closely with Gen Xers than millennials. More precisely, the findings suggest that Gen Zers are less tech-dependent than millennials and more similar to Gen X when it comes to adopting high-tech devices and apps in their personal lives. Millennials, the study revealed, are more likely to use wearables (39 percent), connected appliances (35 percent) and virtual reality (24 percent) than Gen Z or Gen X.
What’s more, Gen Zers (200 of the respondents were classified as such) value face-to-face communication more than any other generation, with an emphasis on effectiveness over convenience—a major shift from how millennials prefer to work.
As 8×8 Inc. CMO Enzo Signore explains …
“We found that while millennials have encouraged the workplace to become more technologically advanced and remote-work friendly, Gen Z will bring more balance to the workplace through face-to-face communication and tools that will help them communicate more effectively. We believe this will start to have an impact over the next 12 months.”
That conclusion certainly appears to run somewhat counter to the images of teenagers who can’t seem to take their eyes off of their smartphones.
Most of us, of course, are just beginning to ponder the question: What can we expect from this next wave of workers? So to deepen my own understanding (and hopefully yours as well), I figured who better to ask than Bruce Tulgan, founder of consultancy RainmakerThinking Inc. and an expert on generational diversity issues.
Tulgan says he prefers to define Generation Z as those born between 1990 and 2000 and in the “second wave” of the great millennial cohort. As he explains …
“Gen Zers were small children on 9/11/01. They graduated from high school and [maybe] went through college or university during the deepest and most protracted global recession since the Great Depression. They are entering the workforce in a ‘new normal’ of permanently constrained resources, increased requirements placed on workers and fewer promised rewards for nearly everyone.”
As a whole, he adds, millennials embody a continuation—and Gen Z, perhaps the culmination—of the larger historical forces driving the transformation in the workplace and the workforce since the early ’90s: globalization, constantly advancing technology, the painfully slow death of the myth of job security, the accelerating pace of everything and more.
In many ways, Tulgan says, Gen Zers represent a whole new breed of worker. “Advances in information technology have made them the first generation of true ‘digital natives,’ ” he explains. “They learned to think, learn and communicate in an environment defined by wireless Internet ubiquity, wholesale technology integration, infinite content and immediacy. They are totally plugged in—through social media, search engines and instant messaging—to each other as well as anyone and everyone, and an infinite array of answers to any question at any time.
This second-wave millennials, Gen Zers, will usher in the final stages of the great generational shift.
So what can we expect from this second wave when it comes to institutions?
Tuglan predicts that Gen Zers will never see established institutions as their anchors of success and security. Instead, he says, they will be most likely to turn to their most reliable anchors growing up: hand-held super-computers, proximately powerful grown-ups, and the ability to construct a unique identity—a personal brand—that they can wield in public (mostly on social media) and revel in privately.
The latest study’s findings about Gen Zers being more “balanced” than, say, millennials, “certainly [underscores] the case that interpersonal relationships and in-person communication play very important role[s] for [them],” says Tulgan.
Guess we’ll begin to find out soon enough if these predictions come to pass in today’s (and tomorrow’s) workplace.