It seems like we’ve just gotten used to the concept of Millennials, or the people who came to adulthood around the year 2000. But if you haven’t figured out how to incorporate those people into your workplace, you’d better get on the ball. Not only is your competition way ahead of you, but the generation after the Millennials is already beginning to enter the workforce.  Are you ready for Gen Z? This episode features an interview with George Beall, Gen Z consultant.


 

Podcast Transcript

Heather Taylor

Welcome. You’re listening to the Simplicity 2.0 podcast, devoted to exploring how executives can tap some of today’s most disruptive technologies to gain a competitive edge. In this episode, we’re going to talk about the newest generation, Gen Z.

It seems like we’ve just gotten used to the concept of millennials, or the people who came to adulthood around the year 2000. But if you haven’t figured out how to incorporate those people into your workplace, you better get on the ball now.

Not only is your competition way ahead of you, but the generation after the millennials is already beginning to enter the workforce. Are you ready for Gen Z?

Simplicity 2.0 is brought to you by Laserfiche, the world’s leading enterprise content management software, which manages and controls information so you empower employees to work smarter, faster, and better.

[Music]

We’re here today with George Beall, a consultant on Gen Z, who is also a Gen Z-er himself. George, welcome to the show.

George Beall

Hi, thanks for having me.

Heather Taylor

So, let’s start with the basics. What is Generation Z? And what are some of their key characteristics?

George Beall

So Gen Z, more or less, is those born 1996 and onwards so roughly 20 and under right now. And their major characteristic was they’re the people who grew up during the Great Recession and sort of the rise of social media.

And what that has sort of made is a group of young people who are extremely over stimulated because they’re pretty much addicted to technology. About half of them spend more than ten hours a day onscreen.

And they’re extremely authentic because they’ve been sorting through so much online content. And then, they’re also very worried about being cool and having personal self-expression because again, they’re trying to stand out in social media and be different than the constant newsfeed of stuff that they’re seeing online.

Heather Taylor

So then, this is going to be really interesting, as they move more into the workforce. So, we’ll have five generations working together by 2020. So, how do see this Gen Z group, you know, being similar or different in the workplace from those other four generations?

I think we have millennials, Gen X, baby boomers, and traditionalists.

George Beall

Yeah. So, they’re obviously most similar to millennials in the fact that those are the two cohorts that are most tech savvy. And so, Gen Z and millennials are both in love with technology, really early adopters for new innovative solutions.

And so, that’s one comparison they have. But then, they’re different from millennials in that millennials are more likely to pursue the idea of, like, a unicorn company. And they’re more worried about trying to be some great hero for society, whereas Gen Z is a little bit more realistic because of their Great Recession upbringing.

And, you know, they had to sort of think about the hard truth. And they’re also very similar to Gen X in that Gen X sort of grew up during the Cold War, the Nixon Era. There was a lot of trouble in society, similar to sort of the trouble of the Great Recession.

So, you see comparisons of Gen Z and Gen X both being a bit more realistic, both pursuing a bit more tastemaker and influential careers. And they’re both sort of dubbed as artist archetypes.

Heather Taylor

No, that makes sense. So, what do companies need to do to attract these Gen Z workers? And particularly, you know, in the IT field or anything technologically based.

George Beall

So, I think some of the most important characteristics for a good Gen Z workplace is, number one, it has to be a cool place to work. So you see, you know, a lot of companies like Google, where they’ll have sushi bars and lounge chairs and nap stations. I mean, all sorts of weird perks that help differentiate the workplace, make it a fun and interesting place to work.

Now obviously, not all companies have budgets or resources to do that type of stuff. But overall, taking the little bit of extra effort to not just make it a cubicle farm and offer some unique, interesting opportunities within the workplace to make people enjoy coming to work each day.

Additionally, digital integration is really important. So, you know, people are constantly on their phones if they’re Gen Z-ers. So allowing them to be on their phones, be on their computers, doing things over the internet and through devices, rather than, you know, using a fax machine and very outdated solutions.

And then lastly, there’s been a really big rise of sort of this digital nomad lifestyle, particularly with young people, where you’re able to do all sorts of work through your computer. And so, you can now travel the world and still have a career, as long as you have your laptop with you.

And so I think also, just getting rid of sort of this stereotype that you have to come in for a 9:00 to 5:00 and be more willing to work with people as remote workers and let them travel and, you know, have a fun life while also getting stuff done because of sort of all of the advantages of technology.

Heather Taylor

And so, why is it so important for workplaces to really be thinking about Gen Z now? And what happens to these companies that don’t get it right?

George Beall

Yes. I mean, companies, ultimately, are really made of the workers and of the people. And so, the companies with the best workers are the ones that will win in the long run. So, you know, a lot of companies might say like, “Oh, you know, like we’re doing okay right now. And we don’t really need to change with the times.”

But ultimately, if you don’t have the best employees, you’re going to fall by the wayside. And, you know, that’s particularly what we’re seeing with Twitter right now, where Twitter can’t attract the best tech talent.

And so, they’re not innovating as quickly as companies like Facebook, Google, and Apple. And so, I think if companies want to succeed long-term, they need to really embrace the younger generations and try to get the best workers.

Heather Taylor

So, you’ve written that Generation Z was born into a world where technology is hailed as revolutionary. So mobile phones, for instance, were the default. So, what technology beyond phones does Gen Z expect now in the office?

And where should businesses be investing?

George Beall

Yeah. So, one of the most important characteristics of Gen Z, particularly differentiating them from millennials, is that Gen Z grew up with very sophisticated user interfaces, whereas, you know, my oldest brother, who is a millennial, you know, he remembers Microsoft or Windows 96 and, you know, the really old computers that were a little bit clunky.

Young people nowadays are used to the very sleek design of Apple, of Facebook, and great user interfaces. So, companies should really be investing and trying to do things through very nice interfaces.

One great example would be, you know, rather than having some internal messaging system or, you know, walking around the office to talk to people or what not, using platforms, such as Slack to have a great interface that lets people communicate, and trying to find a lot of other interfaces to solve problems within the company.

That’s one great opportunity to improve, overall, the company.

Heather Taylor

So, you know, I think you might know this because I feel like we heard everyday that businesses in the business world like to gripe about millennials. But I feel that there’s this idea that, especially if you’re in IT, there’s a lot to learn from these digital disruptors.

So, is there a strategy companies can put in place that, you know, regardless of the next generation – so whether it’s millennials, Gen Z, or whatever is next – that everyone can get along and learn for the newest arrivals?

George Beall

Yeah. I think this is, you know, definitely a really important problem for company culture, as a whole. And I think the companies that have the best feedback loops within their organizations and are the most meritocratic, are the ones that really can move pass these problems.

So, you know, taking the time to have routine sessions with managers and employees. Potentially even, you know, teammates to sit down and have just very open, no-consequences conversations about, you know, what’s working, what isn’t, and ideas for moving forward.

That really lets ideas to flow and floor teams to work well together. And then additionally, while a lot of organizations like to say that they’re meritocratic, you know, if Nancy has been with a company for ten years and Jane has been with a company for two years but Jane’s putting out better work, if she gets the promotion, a lot of people will still be mad because, you know, they think it’s Nancy’s turn.

Heather Taylor

Right.

George Beall: And so, you know, really setting just clear expectations that those that are the best performers get the promotion and, you know, get rewarded. That’s how you can really, you know, get rid of sort of these stereotypes of, you know, young or old, tech savvy or not, and really prioritize the success of the organization, as a whole.

Heather Taylor

Fantastic. That’s actually great advice. So, I just want to say thank you to you, George Beall, for speaking with us today.

George Beall

Exactly, thanks for making it happen.

Heather Taylor

No, of course. And so, for everyone listening, don’t forget to add Simplicity 2.0 to your RSS Feed or iTunes. Thanks to Laserfiche for sponsoring today’s episode. So, learn more about Laserfiche at laserfiche.com/simplicity or follow on Twitter @laserfiche.

Until next time. This is Heather Taylor for Simplicity 2.0, ready for what’s next on the horizon.

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