In an industry where teams have been dominated by Millennials for several years, this may be the first time many of our colleagues have to deal with a new generation in the workplace. Proactive companies would do well to start planning ahead; how we train people, grow our future leaders and attract and retain employees will be shaped by the demands and concerns of this new workforce.
Preparing for Generation Z
Gen Z are a follow on from Millennials and, as such, will probably be similar in many ways. However, Gen Z are also the offspring of Gen X, and it’s clear to see how the attitudes of the parents have shaped Gen Z.
Gen Z will be the first generation to never have known a world without smartphones and social media. Access to technology will be taken for granted by many people in this age group. Platforms such as Facebook are being ditched in favour of Instagram and Snapchat and the rise of “finsta” (fake or friends only) and “rinsta” (real) accounts shows that users understand the possible long-term ramifications of social media. Not only might your parents find out what you have been doing but, in years to come you might miss out on that varsity place or get denied your chosen job based on posts made years before.
The way we consume information continues to evolve with Gen Z; attention spans continue to diminish it seems, so information delivery and interaction with systems need to be bite-sized, quick and to the point. Micro-apps, which offer targeted interaction to do certain tasks, are coming to the fore and these reinforce the bite-sized culture.
Moving forwards, employees will not want to engage with large enterprise systems through one app interface that is complex to learn. Instead, highly focused interaction points will let people do what they need with minimum friction.
Education and culture shift
My opinion is that this approach will spill over into education, where I feel the value of traditional three- or four-year degrees will be put under even more pressure in the next 10 to 20 years. In IT especially, the speed of change means that developers are frequently asked to cross-skill into new areas. Learning is becoming a career-long reality for developers and is something employers need to embrace fully.
With Gen X parents, who have engaged with their children in a mature fashion, we’ll be faced with new colleagues who will be confident and independent. Leadership of Gen Z-ers must focus on collaboration and mutual respect. Hierarchy does not work; this generation firmly believes that they have something to offer and that even people with more experience can still learn from them.
Generation Z accounts for nearly a third of the world’s population, with the majority of them living in underdeveloped or developing countries. From a South African perspective, it is likely that our workforce will ultimately carry a greater percentage of Gen Z-ers than many of the developed Western economies.
As the first complete generation to be ‘born-free’, Gen Z in South Africa will be the most culturally diverse generation we have seen. It’s difficult to find research into the attitudes of black Gen Z software developers in South Africa; however, my feeling is that, as the most globally connected generation yet – and with IT skills in short supply in many countries across the globe – the possibility is that the current ‘brain drain’ of software developers once they have a little experience is likely to continue into the next generation unless things change radically here in South Africa.
I’ve worked for Entelect for over three years now and, being at the top end of the age profile, I can see how Entelect works hard to support social initiatives, provide clear career paths, incorporate and make use of social media and adopt flexible working practices.
Ultimately, we aim to cater for people on an individual basis and we take work-life balance very seriously. The fact that these efforts are all squarely aligned with stereotypical Millennial requirements is partly due to who we want to attract but also driven by who we already are.
Our current approach puts us in a good position to attract Generation Z workers as they, too, will want to work for a company that looks past simply making a profit to working somewhere that contributes to the wider society, working to be the best that we can and having fun while we do it.