Who is Generation Z?This group represents 18% of the world population. Born since 1990 – majority today are teenagers having been born after 1994 – they are the first totally technologically savvy generation. They have not only grown up with the internet but they are social media junkies. They would rather text than talk on the telephone. They are the ones with not one but two technology gadgets, a cell phone and one other – iPad, Playbook, or another smartphone. They may even use a Kobo or a Kindle. And they will have accounts on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and other social media sites. They have grown up during the consumer market boom created by the internet. They are used to instant action and results, so prefer to search online for products – selection and pricing – before they make a purchase. They even shop online for friends. They are the consumer-oriented generation.They are called the silent, quiet or Igeneration because they tend to live in the virtual world. They have grown up with Yahoo and Google, their world is the internet, search engines, cell phones and now smartphones. They communicate through technology, primarily on social media sites. And their network of friends is large, much larger than any other generation. As ‘digital natives’, they are comfortable sharing their personal lives and private thoughts with a large network of people, many of whom they have not met face to face. They are not focused on developing relationships but rather on the immediate and present, getting immediate responses to their requests. Chatting online or texting are the communication mediums most preferred.Their society lives primarily on the internet where they can speak out and give their opinion on whatever topic they choose. Since they continually communicate with large numbers of people, they tend to be group-oriented, highly collaborative and creative. They multitask, handling several media at once, not prone to give focused, undivided attention to any one task at any one time.What are the implications for the future of the workplace?By the time Generation Z enters the workforce in large numbers, in approximately ten years, large numbers of the Baby Boomers will have left the workforce. Members of Generation X and Generation Y will be the leaders, the business owners, the business managers. So what will the working world look like as these ‘digital natives’ enter it? And what will leaders and business owners need to have in place to accommodate these ‘digital natives’ whom will have spent a good part of their life communicating through technology, spending a considerable amount of time on their own, being raised by helicopter parents? What will they need to have in place – work environment, working structure, working styles – to engage Generation Z?The working environment will need to support various forms of technology including the use of personal gadgets and personal social media site participation. These new employees will not differentiate between their personal and business lives when it comes to social media use. They will seek out organizations with a large social media presence and understanding of how to use it, creatively, to build and market products and services. They will want to work with others, in the virtual world, so will want to be members of virtual teams utilizing webcam, webinar and live virtual technology to share ideas, create products, and service customers. They will look for employers who can provide them with self-directed training environments including collaborative conversation online tools where they can learn by asking questions, dialoguing with others, and getting coaching from colleagues, peers, and supervisors online.The dichotomy faced by future business leaders and owners is providing an environment that supports collaboration and creativity for these employees while recognizing their need to work on their own. Their dependency on technology is high and attention spans and ability to focus may be low. Their interpersonal skills may be challenged and they will most likely be focused on themselves and their communities in the virtual world, rather than the individuals working beside them. Those open environments that drove Boomers and Generation X to distraction (too noisy, not enough privacy and had them longing for the private office) will actually be perfect for this generation of office workers, if they work on site. Many will telecommute, much more so than today, and work in more global online employer communities creating and building products and services that will be marketed to online customers.Previous generations were very concerned with education and building a career path, this might not be so with Generation Z. Today, they have access to a tremendous amount of information on any topic, many courses are online, and they are able to educate themselves at a much younger age. Educational institutions, along with business organizations, not for profits, governments, and any other company desiring to sell services to this generation will need to continually offer their services online – on the internet but more importantly, through social networks – if they want to become the providers of choice for this next generation of employees, customers, and consumers.
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