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Forget Millennials, What Makes Gen Z Tick?

Move over Millennials, there’s a new generation in the workforce. These youngsters are so fresh, they haven’t quite settled on a name yet. They’re called everything from iGen, Centennials, Founders and Post-Millennials but, most commonly, they’re known as Generation Z (or Gen Z). The oldest among the Gen Z generation were born around 1996 and are just entering the professional workforce now. In fact, it’s said that within five years, this newest generation will constitute a fifth of the workforce.

Now, before you assume Gen Z is something like Millennials on steroids, think again.

“The generation after Millennials is very different from Millennials,” says Jason Dorsey, co-founder and Millennials and Gen Z researcher at The Center for Generational Kinetics. “This new generation…is poised to change everything and will be the driver of growth for the coming decades.”

So how different are these two groups when it comes to the workplace? According to The Center for Generational Kinetics, many Gen Z types are:

  • Better at multi-tasking: They are truly the first generation that has been using technology like mobile devices as long as they can remember. This skill makes them inherently good at multi-tasking. They use technology with inherent precision, unlike Millennials who are tech dependent but not necessarily tech savvy. This approach will challenge many organizations that don’t embrace change with an eye on better productivity and collaboration.
  • More entrepreneurial and agile: As The Center for Generational Kinetics puts it, Millennials are reaching an age where they’re finally buying houses, cars, and starting families, so having a steady and reliable job is more attractive to them than taking a risk. Gen Z is still young enough to take that risk. What’s more, working from home and flex hours make inherent sense to them. They will not remember a time when assignments weren’t researched and submitted from the home laptop or PC or discussions (with anyone from grandparents to managers) can’t be done face-to-face remotely.
  • Ready and willing to work: As children, Gen Z have watched Millennials struggle to find jobs after college due to the Great Recession. They understand they will need to pay their dues in a work environment, and are hungry to do so. What’s more, Dorsey has found that Gen Z is growing up to look more like their practical Gen X parents than their wide-eyed Millennial predecessors; their experiences so far have taught them life isn’t going to be fair. They won’t get a ribbon just for showing up.
  • At ease with diversity: Gen Z is said to be the most diverse generation in U.S. history. In fact, says Dorsey, “They are so diverse, they do not see diversity unless it’s absent.” Many in this generation will not remember a time before there was an African-American President or before same-sex marriage was generally accepted. For HR managers, this is a huge shift in how inherent diversity will be expected in the workforce.

Research is showing Gen Z is driven, talented, ambitious and willing to work hard. They also have high expectations for the organizations and managers with whom they choose to work. Have you started hiring Gen Z and, if so, what differences are you seeing in this newest generation? For more insights from Dorsey about Gen Z, watch his popular TEDx video or visit his site.


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