Who They Are That Generation Z?
You know, when you read media publications about the next features of the next generation of young people, it begins to seem that the world is heading into the abyss. All these phrases about young people who can’t work, do not recognize authorities and will soon ruin the world, with the freshness of their thoughts they recall the clay tablets from the time of Hammurabi.
Nonsense. Meet Generation Z. They will soon become your colleagues, subordinates, and even bosses. They are ordinary people who just got a smartphone before they learned to read. Clever, purposeful, educated. Yes, they did not burn rags on an abandoned construction site and did not eat ants in the sandbox, but many of them had already managed to assemble their first school project on Arduino and were mastering 3D printing.
This topic is increasingly annoying recruiters who still do not quite understand how to hire them correctly, and managers who are not sure that they can get along with this generation. It’s not so scary. I want to tell a little more about the sociological aspects of generations. We’ll also try to understand why it is so difficult to work with centenials, and how to direct their creative nature for the benefit of the company.
I relate to generation X. Like most millennials, I remember how the Internet and the warm tube sound of a connecting modem were born. I registered my account on gmail when it was still in a closed beta test and only on invites.
Why did they become the network generation? We grew up in an era when big business was just starting to develop the Network, and the first social networks that appeared became just another convenient tool for us. Or did not. And the Z generation was not initially accustomed to sharing itself and its virtual image. For them, the social connections built on the Web are just as real and significant.
Plus, the second key breakthrough that turned society around was mobile phones. Occasional evening Internet access from the desktop gave way to continuous online. The phone became almost part of their body, which eventually formed features such as the inability to navigate the terrain without GPS and the habit of replacing many fundamental knowledge with an always-available search on Google.
Recently, an awesome speaker, Ekaterina Shulman, spoke at our place with a chic report on changes in consumer behavior. Somewhere in the middle, I realized that I was an engineer in a sweater, quietly becoming the grumbling representative of the “past generation”. I came home, was saddened a little on the topic “it used to be better”, and decided to delve deeper into how the worldview of people changes with the change of generations.
Intern-Z: what to do?
We recently trained a young student girl. I habitually threw her links to general topics and left alone for several days. The girl honestly read about the OSI network model, the “3-2-1” rule in backup and the like basic documentation needed for any engineer. We begin to talk – complete misunderstanding. The approximate reason why the material did not enter is “many letters”.
I carefully ignored the stereotype of the blonde girl and changed the format. To begin with, I gave her Mikrotik, details for connecting to a VPN somewhere in the Czech Republic and instructed her to organize a tunnel so that she could conveniently climb onto some innocently blocked fashion site. Surprisingly, she managed it in a day and pretty well understood the details. Then there was the task of organizing the backup of home photos and documents. A threat model was described, including a NAS dog biting the cable and other little things. As a result, the girl not only sorted her data into criticality categories, but also painted an approximate estimate of the cost for the local NAS, remote cloud, and other parameters.
The internship in the end went just fine. The girl is smart. And I realized that traditional approaches work with the new generation much worse. Therefore, I will try to formulate a few subjective recommendations.
For generation Z, the image of a company with a long history is not too attractive. When choosing a job, they will definitely be guided by the image of the company on the Web. If suddenly one of them cannot find you on Instagram or Facebook, then he will simply decide that you have left the market.
- If you want to be popular among the new employees of this generation – take care of the appropriate PR.
- Growing companies working with new technologies are much more attractive than bureaucratic monsters frozen in the past. Centennials will be much more interested in working in businesses that create complex ecosystems for their consumers, surrounding them with various services in everyday life.
In the firebox formalism. Communication is very important.
In theory, centenials most often cannot tolerate formalism, bureaucracy, and the classical hierarchy in a company. It is much easier for them to organize themselves into small work groups with numerous horizontal connections within the company. If one of them needs information to solve the problem, then he will simply call the right person without wasting time on the usual formalities.
They also consider e-mail an anachronism. This generation as a whole is used to the fact that anyone can be reached in real time. Therefore, working groups in Telegram or Slack is a very convenient solution.
And do not strain too much if they will use emoji in business correspondence and ignore all these formal “Dear Colleagues”, “Regards …”. They intuitively feel that all this formalism only adds information noise. And they hate him. For them, the emotional coloring of communications is very important.
- Do not torture them with a dress code. For them, this is especially painful given the strong desire to stand out and be individual.
- Try to make the connections between them as easy as possible. The fewer conditional intermediate managers, the better.
- Messengers and real-time communication in most cases are better than email. Leave mail for some formal consolidation of subtotals, and not for the current working correspondence.
- Give them the opportunity to meet directly with the leader or make Skype calls if a face-to-face meeting is not possible.
Emoji is okay.
Remember that if it is important for you to maintain normal relations with them, do it in their field, that is, in instant messengers. But explain to them that for those with whom they want to maintain normal relations, communication channels are often important. And a letter or a call can be more convenient for the customer, and this is just an interface for working with him. If you explain logically – they will understand about someone else’s convenience too.
Salary and tasks
Baby boomers are very kind to the classical distance between boss and subordinate, they love a strict hierarchy. At the same time, salary expectations for them are secondary to the prestigious place of work and stability. The classic version of “born, studied, worked and died at the same factory” is about them.
Generation Z is much more pragmatic, salary has become for them the main factor in choosing a job. However, another interesting trend has been outlined. Starting from the millenials, the need for creative self-realization and development began to grow for them. For young generations, it became important not only to make good money, but also to constantly solve interesting creative tasks. They quickly navigate the labor market and go for higher salaries and interesting projects. If we talk about payment, then they are characterized by a very fast saturation. After a certain level of salary, new increases no longer give a big effect in terms of motivation. At this stage, interesting tasks and the opportunity for self-development begin to play a key role.
- The centrals can change the team if they feel that they are underpaid. However, the meaning of the work and involvement in an interesting and significant project is still more important for them than salary.
- Do not expect long and hard monotonous work from them. This is necessary, but you need to make sure that such tasks are interspersed with interesting and creative.
If in the era of industrial society the same interchangeable workers were required, now the key trend is the search for optimal tasks for everyone, taking into account its features. The new generation is very personalized and is trying to find its own unique niche in the company, where they will be most effective. Therefore, if you got a job paranoid, send him to tasks on information security, where he will be happy. A person with mild OCD can safely be sent to test products, where he will scrupulously find and document even the smallest bug.
Consider individuality. Gray identical employees are rapidly becoming a thing of the past. At the same time, models like holocracy were criticized several times for turning people into cogs under the guise of individualization. So don’t worry if you have a hierarchical management model: it’s still a framework where you can build something.
This generation has grown up among the ocean of accessible information. Coursera, Codecademy and Udemy are a familiar and understandable tool for self-education for them. They are individualists. They were terribly annoyed by the static school and university program, crowded with outdated disciplines. They devoted much of the conditional 150 hours of philosophy to the study of the key areas for their future profession. They can also return to philosophy. If you suddenly decide that they need it.
- Encourage self-education. Courses on Coursera and similar resources must somehow be rewarded. Not necessarily materially. For them, this is an important indicator of success.
- Ask the employee to draw up an individual training plan to understand in which direction he wants to develop.
- Try inviting experienced staff to organize some internal lectures. The transfer of competencies within the team is very important.
- Form training courses in the form of practical mini-projects. The mentor should only guide the group and not give traditional dry lectures.
The desire to assemble something with your own hands is an integral feature of the Z generation. This also manifests itself in the work. They grew up in a world where you can learn how to tile, bake bread, and learn Spanish through YouTube videos. Centennials are characterized not only by self-education, but also by love for their own projects, which sometimes develop into their own commercial projects. This can be a problem in millennial teams that are used to working in large teams. Nevertheless, this can also be turned to the benefit of the company, if you give them a little time to develop their own initiatives.
- Spend a few hours a week on their own projects. Let them do what they are interested in. Very often, such initiative hobby projects can grow into something useful for the company.
Visible career progress
Remember how Carroll wrote? “You need to run as fast just to stay in place, but to get somewhere, you must run at least twice as fast!”
This is about them. Growing up of this generation was in the crisis of 2009. Most often, parents told them about the importance of personal success, about how important it is to become a cool and rare specialist. More than anything else, they are afraid to stop in personal and career development. Therefore, the traditional model of sitting for three or four years and then, possibly, getting promoted does not work with them. They need immediate results and quick returns. If the representative of generation Z feels stagnant, then he will very likely begin to look for a new job. Therefore, the traditional model of vertical promotion here works worse.
Organize them the possibility of horizontal growth, where they will feel their growth as a specialist and where it is not necessary to leave for managerial positions. Remember the classic RPG with different branches of development – here this approach works great. Several gradations of the positions of engineer, expert, analyst with the corresponding salary grades will give that tangible sense of progress that they need.
- To tell the representative of generation Z that promotion is possible only after a year of work in this position is absolutely pointless. He is interested in immediate returns if he has mastered the necessary competencies to increase.
- Consider, if possible, individual career paths for these employees.
Consider clip thinking
It’s just incredible to me that annoys them. They consider a couple of paragraphs of the text longrid, it is difficult for them to focus on one task for a long time. They are much easier to slip into procrastination if they are bored. A generation of snack media and short tweets.
From all sides we are flooded with tons of semi-useful information about how Jerusalem artichoke is grown, how many nipples a wombat has, and which highlighter is best for creating the effect of wet makeup. The human psyche is not rubbery and begins to create many filters to immediately discard information if it seems unnecessary. As a result, a habit is formed of continuous switching between information flows and a drop of everything that will require more than five minutes to study.
This is an awesome problem in terms of employee training. In fact, most of them delegate part of their thought processes to conditional Google. You no longer need to remember the reference data, the main thing is to be able to quickly find them among the information noise. This is partly advisable, but in general, such employees often suffer from the lack of fundamental knowledge. Stories about copy-paste encoders with Stackoverflow have come about for a reason. But you can live with that too.
- Lead the internal Wiki. Try to bring up a brief summary, and disclose the details on separate pages. In my experience, many employees, at the sight of a manual longer than a page, at best, scroll through it superficially.
- Try to cut tasks into thin slices. So you will give them a sense of visible progress from closing a series of subtasks and facilitate the perception of the task. Long missions with distant results oppress them.
Why is this so, why is the Z generation so different?
Judging by the sources in which I rummaged, not all sociologists agree with the rigid division of people into age groups. The environment in which we grew up gives similarities to people born at about the same time. And the key here will be precisely the social environment, and not the date of birth. A child raised in a poor family is unlikely to be similar in his worldview to the child of wealthy parents. Trying to confidently describe a person born in a certain year, without taking into account other factors, is the destiny of horoscopes, not sociology. There is already the Barnum effect in full growth, which is regularly remembered.
Generational change is still not just past the conditional 25 years, but radical changes in the behavior and worldview of people due to the fact that they grew and formed in a different context. Moreover, there is a feeling that social changes are happening faster, and conditional generations are replaced more often. The technological singularity and acceleration of progress here promise special fun in the coming years.
From goods to services
Previously, 90% of people were engaged in the continuous cultivation of food between trying not to die from another outbreak of the plague. He got up in the morning before dawn, mowed the grass, fed the cattle, cleaned the stable, dug up the beds, redid a lot of work – and you can go back to bed. There is no free time, the main task is not to die of hunger.
Children grew up and joined this endless marathon. The purchase of new things was limited to a pair of boots for the next 10 years. There were almost no services as such. The most interesting thing is that there was no formal generational change; each subsequent one repeated the life of the previous ones, as in Groundhog Day.
Here comes the scientific and technological revolution, and the whole population is rapidly starting to concentrate in cities. In fact, the first cities were large factories and related infrastructure.
People began to actively buy goods. You just bought yourself a new factory-made shirt, and did not pass on the old, hand-sewn from generation to generation. The service industry was starting to emerge, but it was a very small fraction.
Further there were conveyors, automation, robots and modern technologies. Labor productivity has grown simply incredible. One person can now control a dozen automatic harvesters that drive across the fields using GPS and sensors. The population is constantly growing, hunger is no longer a threat, and more free time. Refrigerator purchased, the car is in the garage. Boring. But man is an inventive creature: he begins to master new niches and forms an incredible scope of services. As a result, weird, but nonetheless sought-after professions appear:
- Ant-catcher, who selects the best specimens to create decorative ant farms.
- A wardrobe consultant who will throw away half of your clothes and tell you which ankle scarves are fashionable this season.
- The fumelier is the person who selects the perfect cigar for your dinner tonight.
- Thousands of varieties of consultants who will in every way teach you to eat right, go shopping or watch the sunset.
That is, we have a clear pattern. Labor productivity is growing, people’s well-being is growing. According to Engel’s law, at first the most basic need is closed – food. Then people begin to gradually grow into household appliances, cars and gadgets. At the final round of wealth growth is an increase in the consumption of services.
Depreciation of things
This model describes the difference between Generation Z very well. A harsh childhood with gum liners and the joy of owning a single transformer to the entire yard is not about them. Mass production of Chinese factories will easily flood us with tons of affordable plastic toys. As a result, due to its mass character, physical things almost completely lost their attractiveness as an indicator of status.
Compare with the generation of baby boomers, who are now over 60. Then the top of the aspirations were the Polish kosobokaya furniture wall and carpet on the wall. Your wealth was especially emphasized by the collection of crystal glassware, for which there was never enough reason to put it on the table. Even for us millennials, things were important. I remember how cool it was in childhood to have a computer or, for example, a CD-ROM writer.
The current generation Z, born in the middle of the zero, does not particularly value material values. Dear jeans, a real computer at home or an MP3 player are no longer a symbol of wealth for them. For them, the measure of success is the Steam profile level, the number of Instagram followers, and their own rare skills like knowing the Japanese language. Things, however, they also appreciate. But usually only in cases where they are individual: a t-shirt with a custom print, jeans tailored to their own design, jewelry printed according to a modified 3D model from Thingiverse.
The new generation is just another, and we need to learn to negotiate with it.
He has a bunch of positive features: Z-people are motivated, monitor their health, spend time on self-education. You just need to take into account their features and give them the opportunity to maximize their fulfillment. And also try to keep up with ourselves. The competition will be very fierce. And you need to be prepared for it as much as possible!