When millennials first came into the talent sphere, they were derided with negative stereotypes. From their tendency to job-hop to underwhelming communication abilities, many felt their entrance into the workforce spelled its doom.
This was clearly not the case as this cohort now accounts for the largest generation of employees, surpassing both Boomers and Gen X. Additionally, 83% of today’s managers are millennials. Rather than destroying it, these young, dynamic, casually dressed, tech-obsessed professionals brought a new kind of energy to their work environments that is propelling the workplace in to the future.
Yet, just as older generations are getting the hang of working with their millennial colleagues, there is a new generation of employees on the scene: Generation Z. These pivotal youths will once again change the workplace dichotomy, for better or for worse (but most likely better). To understand the impact of Gen Z on the workplace and how their presence will affect millennial workers, I spoke with Jeff Corbin, CEO & Founder of APPrise Mobile, a mobile employee communications and engagement solution platform.
Jeff Fromm: How does a millennial’s viewpoint of Gen Z in the workplace differ from other generations surveyed?
Jeff Corbin: According to our survey, millennials believe Gen Z will be as easy to manage as they were. This is not the case with the more senior and, oftentimes, experienced managers due to the proverbial generation gap. Historically, older generations have looked upon the next class of workers with a certain amount of skepticism and nervousness. As our survey demonstrated, this has not changed with respect to the different generations in the current workplace. It is therefore not surprising that millennial managers are less threatened than their senior counterparts since they are more closely aligned in work ethic, philosophy and values given their closeness in age.
Fromm: According to your report, most managers believe that millennials will be harder workers than Gen Z (27% vs. 16%). Any insight into why?
Corbin: Instantaneous gratification. Gen Z grew up with a mobile device in their hand and, as a result, there is a tendency and expectation for everything to be available immediately. In addition, their world has been about tweets and sound bites of information rather than carefully crafted sentences and deliberate presentations. While it seems that mobile technology has been around for a long time, the reality is that the proliferation of mobile has only taken place over the past several years. The vast majority of millennials do recall a day without an iPhone or Android device. When they were starting out in the workplace, it wasn’t so easy to hide behind 140 characters (which has now increased to a whopping 280). I believe therefore the managers responding to our survey are now more confident with the millennials and their work ethic than the incoming Gen Z. But I think it is also safe to say that managers will eventually learn to adapt and discover the value of these new employees.
Fromm: Your report revealed that millennial managers appear to be the most worried about company culture – 1/5 of respondents in that demographic stated they believed Gen Z will worsen culture. What are the habits of Gen Z that would contribute to this opinion?
Corbin: There has been a lot in the news recently about how the combination of mobile devices and social media has a big impact on human behavior. For Gen Z, this has been the reality for most of their lives (the iPhone was launched in 2007, Facebook was founded in 2004), so the habits that differentiate their working style, above and beyond being green, are inextricably tied to these factors – a desire for quick, accessible answers (rather than a drive to think through problems) and informality in communications (both written and verbal). It is these laidback communications styles that most likely are the reason for the concerns expressed by the millennial managers in our survey.
Fromm: What could millennials learn from this incoming Gen Z workforce and vis-versa?
Corbin: I think both generations can help each other in adapting to what is a challenge for all workers and organizations: the adoption of the digital workplace as a strategy for business success. The digital workplace isn’t just about individuals using mobile devices, social media or messaging apps in their work. It is a new way of thinking about the work we do and how we need to change considering mobile devices, social media and other communications and engagement technologies.
This is where it is important that both generations empathize and learn from each other. Gen Z can help millennials by teaching adaptability in the face of change and how to embrace new communications and collaboration tools. A plethora of new tools is invading the workplace, many more suited to a mobile device than a desktop. The workplace needs to change to accommodate the fact that members of Gen Z expect that information will be made available to them and consumable through the small screens of Apple and Android devices and may make them more effective and efficient in their work.
At the same time, millennials and the older generations can impart their wisdom to ensure that being thoughtful and deliberate in one’s presentation is not compromised and rendered unimportant, just because Gen Z would like everything to be short and simple. A successful digital workplace will continue to require the professional skills and instincts that have served older generations well, such as critical thinking, a desire to solve problems and a thirst for constructive feedback. If anything, as machines replace more and more rote work, employees will need to demonstrate critical thinking and independent thought to add value. New college grads are not likely to come into the workplace with these skills fine-tuned and should look to their millennial and more experienced mentors for this guidance.
Fromm: What advice on how to best manage an incoming Gen Z worker would you give a millennial manager?
Corbin: Be patient. Be excited. Embrace them. Learn from them. At the same time, be prepared to teach them. Ignore stereotypes. Remember that there once was an older generation that viewed you with the same concerns. And, be open to learning from everyone, younger and older.
This article was originally published on November 27th, 2017: https://www.forbes.com/sites/jefffromm/2017/11/27/what-you-need-to-know-about-gen-z-in-the-workplace/#463045166e1d