My buddy called recently and I could hear the consternation in his voice.
“I thought I had figured out how to hire and work with millennials,” he said, referring to those born between the early 1980s and the mid- to late-1900s, who are also known as Generation Y. “And now after spending all day interviewing potential interns and summer students I need to rethink what I thought I knew about hiring and working with younger workers."
My skeptical colleague, a true Gen X’er (born 1966-76) if ever there was such a thing, was discovering what the budding research in this area is telling employers — the cohort just breaking into the labour market is similar to Gen Y but more connected, diligent and collaborative than the supposedly tolerant, entitled, narcissistic and overconfident millennials who came before them.
Author and generational expert Don Tapscott has famously said we are not talking generation gap but “generation lap” where this generation is so industrious and technologically astute, raised on smart phones, constant connectivity and social media they are lapping their parents and their newly found workplace colleagues and bosses.
The emerging and as yet limited data suggests they are more entrepreneurial, less motivated by money and more socially conscious than millennials. Craig Kielburger, co-founder of Free the Children who works extensively with this cohort, speaks of it being more of a “We Generation” than a “Me Generation.”
Some warn of the impact of being raised on multiple screens, arguing a lack of social skills and the impact of an oversaturation of the world’s problems from terrorism to economic instability and climate change. Some like futurist and scholar Sanjay Khanna contend the emotional well-being of this highly educated and sophisticated generation will require due care and attention by those who lead them academically and in the workplace. He has referred to this group as “GenStressed,” arguing their tech skills will not compensate or prepare them adequately.
So what does this mean for my buddy who is hiring and wanting to work effectively with this cohort? The good news is there seems to be increased loyalty. New evidence suggests this cohort expects to have four employers in a lifetime rather than the oft reported five that Gen Y research reported and they do have a more conservative streak in their behaviours. To many an employer’s delight the pendulum may be swinging on privacy and confidentiality as this cohort has embraced technologies that are slightly more private — think Snapchat where a digital presence disappears without a trace in seconds.
My pal will probably develop even more flexibility and adapt as is the advice for all multi-generational workplace issues. He will likely heed the emerging advice from the hugely impactful Sparks & Honey work on Gen Z that tells him to communicate more often in bite-sized chunks, let Gen Z employees work alone and often talk about value as they reportedly care about the cost of things.
He will presumably learn to do more internet searches before engaging them because they do the same. He will help them be entrepreneurial as this is their nature and help them develop the expertise they crave as well as enable them to build things.
Most importantly he should help them change things and remind himself and others of how they contribute to the greater good because they seemingly want to change the world more than any other generation that came before them. And one more thing, he probably won’t even bother giving the new interns voicemail and he may want to reconsider ever sending them an email.