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Generation Z – Digital Natives

Born between 1995 and 2012, Generation Z are preparing to enter the work-place, bringing with them a distinct world view, supreme technological sophistication, and communication habits that are significantly different to all previous generations. Their characteristics are set to have a profound effect on their expectations at work, and therefore on the way they are recruited and managed, as they begin their careers.


Non-drinkers and non-smokers

If Millennials, otherwise known as Generation Y, are seen as the first super tech-literate generation, complete with unrealistic expectations and a sense of entitlement, then Generation Z are truly different. Where Millennials recklessly revealed all on Facebook, and suffered the consequences, Generation Z are cautious about sharing information, have a predilection for face-to-face comms, valuing trust and honesty, above all else.

They are more likely to be savers than previous generations and much more likely to be non-drinkers and non-smokers than preceding groupings. With a world view that has been shaped by recession and terrorism, Generation Z are career focused and financially conservative. This has led some observers to compare Generation Z to their great-grandparents who lived in the shadow of World War 2 and experienced frugality, first hand.


Moral compasses

So, what are the implications for companies seeking to recruit this complex group, who average 3 hours a day on line, across multiple devices, but are guided by moral compasses and attitudes redolent of the 1930s?

Generation Z expect flexibility, a good work life balance and prefer working in small groups, though not necessarily working from home. Many are eager to start work early, rather than attending university, and want their work to have value beyond providing an income.

In assessing their options, Generation Z will prioritise job offers with the potential for personal development, and those companies who value their ideas. They are not job hoppers and will favour organisations who support social causes and charities – checking out that any such claims are genuine.


Unable to conceive of a world without the internet

Generation Z were born ‘digital natives’, device in hand, unable to conceive of a world without the internet or smart phones, and with a level of digital prowess that pervades everything they do. They are able to absorb and adapt to the changing tech and mobile driven environment so readily that they are virtually future proof as employees. 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.

By this assessment Generation Z sound almost too good to be true. A cohort of serious, abstemious and ambitious individuals who value trust and have learnt to mistrust Facebook and other “open” social media, display a preference to work in small groups, and have re-discovered the art of face to face communication.

Well not quite. Whilst all of this is undeniably true, this group also have limited attention spans, panic if they are not on-line, have a totally different view of the protocols surrounding use of mobile phones, speak fluent “emoji” at the expense of using actual words and are totally beyond the reach of anything resembling traditional, analogue or real- time broadcast media.


The work/life blend

As if that isn’t challenging enough Generation Z have advanced the concept of work/life balance to coin a new phrase – the work life blend – which recognises that to be “on-line is to be at work” and that dividing work and leisure along traditional conventions of time and place is decidedly old fashioned and, in no way rad!

It may be a few years until the full impact of Generation Z’s proclivities impact the work place. But employers,recruiters and marketers will soon need to prepare for this generation, who whilst eager to work, will almost certainly expect it to be on their terms!


(This piece was originally written for Woodrow Mercer)

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