As a 25 year-old Millennial who remembers the excitement of Myspace and MSN, never have I felt so old when writing an article. My heydays are gone, my expiry date has passed. Prepare my bed Satan, I’m coming home.
No sooner have I entered the big wide world through a post-university haze, I now have to contend with these young upstarts, waging war on my self-acclaimed youth. But who exactly are Generation Z and why is it crucial that businesses understand what makes them tick?
Dial-up internet connections. Aerials on mobile phones. Keeping your Tamagotchi alive. These are all things Generation Z will never experience. Their first phones probably had apps and 12 megapixel cameras, and the notion of anywhere without Wi-Fi sparks utter disbelief and revolt. They could be called the first, fully-immersed, technology natives.
The effect this has on the future of hiring and graduate recruitment is huge.
So what makes Generation Z so different from Millennials?
Due to the inevitable exposure to technology from a young age, Gen Z tend to be renowned as more efficient and knowledgeable when it comes to using computers.
While this statement could seem patronising to others, it’s hard to disagree that their timing (Gen Z were born between 1995 and 2000) does pose a significant advantage when it comes to being tech-savvy. From an employment perspective, they are virtually future-proof.
Furthermore, being immersed in technology from such a young age stimulates and promotes personality traits and abilities that previous generations may lack. According to Leonid Bershidsky of Bloomberg, Generation Z are able to multi-task (yes, even guys too) more effectively – so sending emails, editing photos and writing reports can be completed simultaneously. This ability is a huge advantage in many industries, as companies strive to stay in touch with the constant conveyor belt of new media channels.
Another distinct feature of Gen Z candidates is that they tend to be very social creatures. It would be a thing of amazement to find one that isn’t on Facebook, LinkedIn or Twitter. From a marketing and networking perspective this is great for companies, as it opens potential avenues for new customers and brand-building.
Two more advantages that Generation Z bring with them are an enhanced scepticism and problem-solving. Due to the nature of the internet now, it is bred into these youngsters to question everything and be very inquisitive by nature. Was that picture a product of Photoshop? Was that prank video staged? Is that article telling lies?
Being such sceptics means that they will ensure your company has every angle covered when it comes to the operation and implementation of new tasks. This tends to make Gen Z more meticulous and calculative when it comes to problem-solving.
More so than previous generations, apparently the Z candidate is more self-sufficient, should they encounter a computer-based problem. Their ability to independently assess a situation is heightened by the readily available resources online – such as YouTube tutorials, help forums and learning resources (such as Lynda, for example).
All of these luxuries were previously unavailable or very limited to the millennial generation, who therefore had to rely on other, more collaborative solutions.
Okay I want me some Z workers! Hold on a moment
I’m sure you’ll agree that, so far at least, the new generation brings with them all of the verve, know-how and charisma companies need to move forward. But as with every predecessor, the Z candidate does have some weaknesses which are, ironically, byproducts of their strengths.
Concentration is their first problem.
As a direct result of their adeptness with tech, the Gen Z worker could be super-productive and on-task when, all of a sudden, they are overcome with the impulse to pop over to Instagram and upload their concert photo from the night before. Then they spend 5 minutes deciding whether Ludwig or XX Pro II are a better filter, which hashtags will get them the most likes, and how many followers they’ve gained since last Tuesday.
Granted, they can do all of this very efficiently, as it’s almost second nature to them, but it does pose a unique problem which is absent from other generations. This is no better summarised than in the words of Hannah Payne, an 18-year-old U.C.L.A student and lifestyle blogger, who refers to her generation as being able to “take in information instantaneously and lose interest just as fast.”
This isn’t the only disadvantage either. Remember when I said Gen Z are a social bunch? Well I lied.
While they do have the irrepressible impulse to peruse social media, they lack the more traditional skills of face-to-face interaction that previous generations have. The inability to simply click ‘like’ or type ‘lol’ in a business meeting could prove an issue, as they’ll be forced to physically smile and laugh (let’s be honest, we don’t actually laugh out loud when we type lol, do we?).
Generation Z are generally more comfortable conversing by email and tweets than by phone calls and meetings – which takes away a crucial dimension within the business environment.
Lastly, and probably most controversially, Z candidates could be considered lazier than previous generations (I guess the more politically correct term would be less productive). There is a very good reason for this however, so let me explain what I mean before a gang of beard-sporting hipsters turn up on my doorstep with Apple watches and pitchforks.
As a direct result of the automation that technology offers, Gen Z can complete certain tasks effortlessly. Template emails, editing tools and computer-generated content can make completing (what used to be) a complex task relatively easy.
Although this is great and means that more tasks can be done is less time, it does make the whole process more detached than ever before. Instead of being creators of things, Generation Z are collaborators of the pre-created. So when a report needs writing or a graphic needs designing, quotes and research can easily be copy and pasted, images can be purchased and graphs instantly generated.
I should stress I don’t mean that Gen Z are less creative than anyone else, but their creative scope is assisted by many wonderful inventions made possible through technology. It is only inevitable for such technology to be taken for granted – I’m sure we all lose our patience if the internet takes longer than 10 seconds to load 756 million search results.
Measures businesses should take for Gen Z workers
Just like every generation before them, businesses will have to adapt to (and understand) how the ‘new wave’ work and how best to capitalise on their strengths. In recognition of their relatively short attention span and suggested work rate problems, many companies now utilise a variety of productivity management tools.
From project organisation software like Trello, to minute-by-minute tracking like RescueTime, businesses recognise that this generation need trackable incentives and goals in order to maximise their ability.
Put simply, there is no stopping a hard-working, Generation Z candidate if you give them the right environment and resources to work with. Just ask the 14-year-old software developer, Robert Nay.