Digital Transformation Meets Generation Z

May 30, 2018

Digital Transformation Meets Generation Z

“At its most fundamental level, digital transformation is about the ability of organizations—and their leaders and employees—to adapt to the rapid changes created by evolving digital technologies,” explains Gerald C. Kane, professor of information systems at the Carroll School of Management at Boston College. “The challenge is that the gap between what is possible technologically and what companies are actually doing is growing wider,” says Kane. Can a new generation that is truly a technologically digital native close the gap? Are we ready for Generation Z?

Workforce Stereotypes

Here is a quick look at today’s workforce based on generation. The Gen Z folks are just turning 22 and are anxious to change the world. Traditionalists, those 73 and older, are looking back at their time in the workforce and may be scratching their heads at the incredible and transformational changes that have occurred since they first “punched in” some fifty years ago.

Generation Z: born 1996 and after
Millennials: born 1977 to 1995
Generation X: born 1965 to 1976
Baby Boomers: born 1946 to 1964
Traditionalists: born 1945 and before.

Most people’s perception is that the generations appear to be different when it comes to values and work ethic. There has also been some debate on which generation works or have worked the hardest. According to David Costanza, associate professor of psychology and organizational sciences at George Washington University, all of the generations are about the same. “If you look back 20, 40 or 60 years, the same pattern of differences shows up again and again,” says Costanza, who co-authored an influential study on generational differences in 2015. “The youngest generation is always the least dedicated, the least satisfied and the most mobile. Twenty years ago, that was Generation X. Forty years ago, it was the boomers. Now it’s the Millennials.”

Enter Generation Z

So what can we expect the stereotype to be when we encounter this next wave of workers? What are they like, and what do they want? Some answers can be found in a Forbes story by Deep Patel, who writes on the eight characteristics of this new generation compared to millennials.

1. Gen Z Is Motivated By Security

While millennials are often seen as more idealistic and more motivated by purpose than a paycheck, Generation Z may lean more toward security and money.

2. Gen Z May Be More Competitive

As a cohort, millennials are said to be collaborative. Gen Z, on the other hand, is defined by its competitiveness. They want to work on their own and be judged on their own merits rather than those of their team.

3. Gen Z Wants Independence

Gen Z-ers’ generally like to work alone. Many of them prefer to have office space to themselves, rather than an open, collaborative workspace.

4. Gen Z Will Multitask (More Than Millennials)

Switching between different tasks and paying simultaneous attention to a wide range of stimuli comes naturally to them.

5. Gen Z Is More Entrepreneurial

Generation Z is 55% more likely to want to start a business than millennials. They are highly motivated and willing to work hard to achieve their dreams.

6. Gen Z Wants To Communicate Face To Face

Generation Z likes to talk face to face. Fifty-three percent of Generation Z said they prefer in-person discussion over instant messaging or email.

7. Gen Z Are True Digital Natives

They easily flit between platforms and technologies and pick up new software quickly. Their relationship with technology may be even more instinctual than that of a millennial in their late 30s.

8. Gen Z Wants To Be Catered To

Gen Z-ers expect the workplace to conform to their needs. They are similar to millennials in this way, and are actually fairly similar to boomers as well.

Of course, everybody is still an individual, and it’s important not to generalize too much. That said, the addition of Generation Z will have an impact for sure.

For a quicker comparison take a look at the chart below which was prepared by Colorado State University.

Your People Become Your Brand

If you’re working in the professional services sector, you are selling knowledge and expertise, so your brand is only as good as your people. When mixing generations in your firm, especially in a time where being a digital savant pays dividends, it’s important to be able to offer a blended services team so the client can get the benefit of the young technocrats as well as the more seasoned Gen X and Baby Boomers. “In a world being transformed by digital technologies, increasing transparency and the rising demand for talented professionals and workers with fast-changing skills, employee experience will become an increasingly important dimension of competing for and engaging your workforce,” says Deloitte University Press in a 2017 report on human capital trends. And finally from Forbes Insights, a whitepaper on The New Culture of Work, they state: “Employee brand and reputation—the story that employees tell about their experience—will be a critical differentiator. Creating an inviting and productive experience will be just as important for contractors, contingent workers and gig workers.” The generational differences will merge into a single branded identity.

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