How to work with Gen Z

The latest buzzworthy cohort is about to start entering the workforce. The media has dubbed this newest generation “Gen Z” and has already started applying all sorts of labels to them before they even get out into the real world. Most research groups mark this generation as starting around the early to mid 2000s which means that the oldest of this group will soon be leaving high school with the majority of them pursuing a post-secondary education. That means that by the end of the decade companies should expect to see many of them applying for jobs.

But is this “new” generation really any different from anything we have seen in the past? Quite a lot of what shapes a person is defined in their teenage years so lets take a look at what we have seen in the last decade that might define this generation and how it might affect their work style.

Social media has been a dominant feature of the last decade. Facebook launched in 2004 and myriad other services have sprung up and become widely popular in their own right. Combine this with the launch and success of the always connected smart phone in 2007 and you have a generation who’s entire teenage life is connected to the internet and sharing and displaying every aspect of their life for the world to see. This has led many to speculate that this new workforce will lack interpersonal and conflict resolution skills having spent their whole life communicating via bite sized tweet length text messages.

Being constantly connected provides infinite distractions. Teenagers can be checking Facebook and effortlessly switch to their twitter feed to read the latest tweet from a friend when their phone chimes with a new snapchat alert then go back to an article they were reading from the New York Times shared via Reddit. Will this make Gen Z the ultimate multitasker? There are countless studies that provide evidence that you do worse while multitasking than if you focus on a single task.

How do we deal with this super connected generation in the work place? As a manager are we supposed to conduct meetings via 140 character interactions? Should IT be locking down hard on social media and internet sites to avoid distractions? Maybe work places need to provide “quiet zones” free of office chatter and cell phones to allow this new workforce to focus free of distractions.

It seems that the technological changes of the last decade have the power to fundamentally alter the way new employees interact and react in the workplace. What are you doing to prepare?