We’ve all read countless blog posts, articles, and other content over the last decade talking about Millennials in the workforce, and how they’ve helped change the way that we do business. Now that they have been settled in the workforce for years, we should be shifting our attention to Generation Z (or Gen Z), born between 1995 and 2012, who are now at an age where they are entering the workforce with very different experiences with technology compared to their elders, the Millennials. Gen Z’ers haven’t witnessed the digital transformation of the workplace – but they will be the digital transformation for industries that have incorporated Millennials without having yet adopted technology into its world.
Gen Z has grown up with technology in virtually every aspect of their lives. They simply don’t know a world where the internet or social media didn’t exist, and are accustomed to having information at their fingertips at all times. Everything they have done from childhood until now – whether it’s online gaming, Netflix, social media, or e-learning – has leveraged technology to make information more accessible, and to allow them to function in different areas of their lives. They don’t need to evolve and adapt when it comes to technology; technology, for Gen Z’ers, has been described as “an extension of themselves”. They are constantly connected, and unplugging doesn’t seem necessary when tech isn’t viewed as an addiction, but instead as part of who they are.
So what happens when this tech-embedded generation makes its way into the workforce?
That might depend on what industry you’re in, and how pervasive the use of technology has become for you in the last decade. A company whose day-to-day operations, processes, and check points depend entirely on technology will have Gen Z employees join them who can easily understand the connectivity, efficiency, and accessibility of information that the tech can provide. On the other hand, working in an industry that is ripe for disruption and innovation may appeal to a Gen Z job seeker in a very different way – as more of a challenge, and an opportunity to impact change by leveraging technology.
Even if you aren’t “there” yet and haven’t fully embraced technology in your day-to-day operations, you have the chance today to prepare for the opportunity ahead — starting with acknowledging the need for innovation. Gen Z’ers can (and will) be part of the solution – but you need to be willing to let it happen when the time comes.
There may come a day where traditionally conservative industries may not have a choice about adopting new technologies into their everyday practices, as both Gen Z employees and potential customers will come to expect a level of efficiency and automation that comes with tech. The Gen Z demographic is just beginning its foray into the workforce, already making up 24% of the global workforce in 2020 – a number that will only continue to rise.
There is no doubt that the insurgence of Millennials into the workforce, along with the pervasiveness of technology in businesses, has already changed the way that we interact, share information, and deliver products and services. While the impact of Gen Z, a generation that doesn’t remember a time without cell phones or computers, isn’t fully known, they will likely continue to push us all into a tech-infused world at work, even in industries that haven’t yet made a big shift. Be ready for change – and hang on tight, because they’re just getting started!