It would be a boring cliché to point out that the workplace is constantly changing, so we’ll start with that. There’s nothing quite like the passing of time to change things, even though we often don’t notice how much time has passed. Perhaps one statistic to highlight this is that many still think of GenY, the Millennials, as the hot new guns arriving in town. In fact the older ones are staring down the barrel of being 40 years old, and 47% of them are already parents.
How did that happen? But while we weren’t noticing that, it left time and space for the next generation to ride into town, GenZ. And they are the hot new guns. Some are reaching a quarter century, and more and more of them are arriving fast. So is it ‘here’s the new generation, same as the old generation’, to misquote The Who?
Yes, according to the 2019 Deloitte Global Millennial Survey, which saw so many similarities it called them the MillZ. And it’s certainly the case that GenZ have taken some of the Millennial ideas and run with them, such as businesses having a moral purpose, living life online and making fewer poor-choice decisions, thus a drop in teen pregnancies, under-age drinking and so on.
The Millennials, already reaching into middle management if not middle age, did shake things up, but it’s worth remembering that, for all their proclaimed love of everything from avocados to minority groups, they’re one of the most unhealthy generations of all time, both mentally and physically. (1)
The GenZers are not looking to emulate that. Where Millennials, as Ernst & Young put it, are ‘self-centred’ GenZ are ‘self-aware’. Millennials like the mantra ‘There’s no“I” in team’, GenZ note that there’s no ‘team’ in ‘I’.
GenZ want responsibility, the chance to shine, and they’ll own it. They’re not looking to go on team-building exercises since they’d probably agree more with the irascible old entrepreneur,Felix Dennis who said: ‘Team spirit is for losers…it’s the glue that binds the losers together’. (2)
And GenZers are well equipped to take on the world. Millennials have a solid grip on technology since it’s been around for most of their lives. But GenZ are the first generation to have been born with the internet, with technology, with instant, constant communication and data. They’ve known how to access and use it since they could walk.
This makes them formidable, since they can use that technology better than anyone, with intuitive speed, to do everything from finding out about your organisation – does it really live up to the PR and HR hype? – to researching a problem and working through it. They’ll work hard, long into the night, if they’re on the scent of something good, just don’t expect them to see the point of automatically being in the office 9-5. And if they’re not don’t bother phoning them and leaving a message– they never listen to voicemail.
The irony of course is that it’s the Millennials who are now entering middle management in their droves, and it’s them who are having to learn how to work with GenZ to get the best out of them. They’ll see some of themselves in the new arrivals, but they’ll also see a generation anxious to get on, to learn, be better. If organisations can get the best from GenZ then it really will be the best we’ve seen for a long time.
(1) 2019 study conducted by BlueCross Blue Shield, a federation of 36 US health insurance companies.
(2) How To Get Rich by Felix Dennis; 2006; Random House